By Kieran Mulvaney
LAS VEGAS - Even as the cheers for Canelo Alvarez echoed through the T-Mobile Arena following his victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Alvarez and rival Gennady Golovkin promptly sent the crowd into further paroxysms of delight with confirmation that the world’s two best middleweights will clash on September 16.
“Golovkin, you are next, my friend,” said Alvarez, after Golovkin entered the ring in a WWE-style response when HBO’s Max Kellerman asked Canelo who he planned to fight now that he had defeated Chavez.
The announcement came in the same ring where, one year previously, Alvarez knocked Britain’s Amir Khan out cold and promptly declared of Golovkin, who had been sitting ringside, that, “I fear no one in this sport. I'll fight him right now. Let's put the gloves on and get in there with him.” That raised hopes that the two would square off later in 2016; instead, Canelo faced England’s Liam Smith last September before signing to take on Chavez, and Golovkin flew to London to take on another Briton, Kell Brook, prior to scoring a close decision win over Daniel Jacobs in March.
In recent weeks, however, all the cards fell into place to make the matchup possible. After insisting throughout 2016 that he needed to build himself into a full middleweight, having campaigned primarily at or around the junior middleweight limit, Canelo’s readiness to bulk up to 164.5 pounds – four and a half pounds above the middleweight division – established definitively that he was now more than ready to take the step up. Golovkin elected not to go ahead with a mooted June bout against Billy Joe Saunders in his native Kazakhstan – a date that Canelo promoter Oscar De La Hoya had warned would be an impediment to negotiations. And not that Alvarez would admit as much, but the fact that Golovkin looked less than his usual seemingly-invincible self against Jacobs likely made the prospect of facing him more attractive than when he was squashing the likes of David Lemieux and Marco Antonio Rubio while barely breaking a sweat.
Whatever the thought processes and business discussions that have led both camps to this point, and notwithstanding boxing fans’ tendency to fixate on and fret over backroom machinations, the important thing is that a fight that has been germinating for at least 18 months is now about to bear fruit. It’s a fight that pits Alvarez, who became lineal middleweight champion by defeating Miguel Cotto in November 2015, against the man who for several years now has been widely hailed as the people’s middleweight champ. For much of that time, Golovkin has been plaintively calling out for a truly meaningful and lucrative fight. Now, he has one. Canelo does too, and fans have four months to look forward to a mouth-watering clash to crown the best middleweight in the world.