Boxing has long been a sport in which its biggest attractions come to being after an extended period of "marinating." Sometimes time and circumstances prevent such matches from happening while others, such as Saul Alvarez's victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Floyd Mayweather's decisive win over Manny Pacquiao, end up spoiled because too much time has passed. But it appears the super fight between Gennady Golovkin and Alvarez is happening at the correct time.
A year ago, GGG was such a favorite that the match wouldn't have made sense. A year later, and Golvokin may be too old -- or maybe no longer a champion. Now, it's a 50-50 fight. Both are at the peak of their popularity. Now that the stage is set, let's hope the fight lives up to its reputation.
Then and Now
Golovkin's bread-and-butter has long been his blend of high volume mix of jabs & power punches, high accuracy and underrated defensive skills, but, as of late it appears he's been easier to hit and his power punch output has dropped. Some may say that's a product of his confidence, for at times he willingly let opponents hit him to hasten their discouragement. Others will say it's a manifestation of Father Time and the wear produced by a combined 387 pro and amateur fights. Where does the truth lie? The numbers may offer answers.
Looking closely at Golovkin's last two fights (Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs) in comparison to the previous 11 (Rosado through Wade) several trends are apparent. First, GGG's output has gone down dramatically (54.1 per round in last 2 & 68.6 per round in prev. 11). Second, his power punch output has dropped from 16.7 landed/36.5 thrown (45.8%) to 11.9 landed/26.5 thrown (44.9%-- a drop off of 10 thrown per round). Finally, on defense, Jacobs & Brook landed 38.5% of their power punches compared to just 33.2% for his previous 11 opponents. At 26.5 power thrown per round vs. Jacobs and Brook, Golovkin threw just three more power shots per round than Canelo did in his last nine fights. Even with the drop-off, GGG still threw nine more jabs per round than Canelo.
Better Against Attackers
Alvarez's biggest struggles have come against stylists who put defense above offense such as Floyd Mayweather Jr., Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto (at least for that night), Austin Trout and Amir Khan. In those bouts, Alvarez threw eight fewer punches per round (37.5 vs. 45.5), landed fewer jabs (2.6 vs. 6.1) and connected on fewer total punches (10.3 vs. 12.4). While his output was down, his accuracy allowed him to hang in (he led 27.5%-27.3% overall and 39%-35% power). But against aggressors, Canelo has shined, especially against fighters like Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. Those fighters' defensive deficiencies magnify Alvarez's boxing skill and accuracy. Liam Smith, while defensively better than Angulo and Kirkland (who isn't?), and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (who tried to box instead of slug) still paid the price with Alvarez's precision bombs.
In these four fights against non-stylists, Alvarez's performance is markedly better. He averaged 12.2 more punches per round (49.7 vs. 37.5 vs. the stylists), jabbed much better (6.9 connects per round to 2.6), more than doubled his total connects per round (22.6 vs. 10.3) and created tremendous percentage gaps (46%-20% overall, 34%-12% jabs, 53%-26% power). Will Alvarez's positive history against aggressors hold up here?
Where GGG and Canelo Stand Among CompuBox Categorical Leaders
GGG landed 40.1% of his total punches, tops among active fighters, and he's the only fighter to land 40% or higher with his power punches now that Mayweather is re-retired. GGG landed 10.6 jabs per round (first) and 34.1% of his jabs (also first). Like Canelo, GGG landed 46% of his power punches- 9% higher than the middleweight avg. GGG averaged 65.4 punches thrown per round to just 42.2 for Canelo- 8th fewest among active fighters. Canelo's low rate of opponent connects reflect his selective punch output and underrated defense, as they landed just 11.4 punches per round (middle avg.: 16.7) and just 6.7 power shots per round (middle avg.: 11.9).
Yes and no. Yes, Alvarez will land his share of punches against GGG because he is an elite talent but Golovkin, even at 35, is still very skilled and will be motivated to mind his P's and Q's on defense. Two factors may provide separation between the two. The first is foot speed. Golovkin uses his foot speed to cut off the ring and to set up his punching angles. Meanwhile, the stylists proved that Alvarez has below-average movement, though against the even slower Chavez Jr. he looked like Mercury reincarnated.
The second is activity level. While Golovkin's work rate has declined overall in his last two fights, he is still capable of generating big output (he threw 71, 60, 65 and 67 in rounds four, eight, nine and 12 against Jacobs). Not only that, Golovkin exceeded 20 total connects per round seven times against Jacobs, including each of the final five rounds. Conversely, Alvarez has long been a methodically paced fighter, for even while he had his way against Chavez Jr. he reached 60 punches in a round only once (60 in round two) while he mostly remained in the high 40s and 50s). He averaged 50.5 punches per round in the Chavez fight, 46.9 against Smith, just 28.3 vs. Khan and 40.3 against Cotto, meaning that he is most comfortable when given time to think.
Golovkin may force Alvarez to fight harder and longer than he has in years, and, because he would be fighting outside his envelope, openings that otherwise wouldn't have developed will be created. While this will be more of a boxing match than people may anticipate, the amount of action should not disappoint. Golovkin by close decision in a highly competitive fight that could spawn a rematch.