Photos by Ed Mulholland
LAS VEGAS - Finally, after years of waiting and months of build-up, the fight is almost upon us. In front of a loud crowd of 9,461 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin each tipped the scales at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, faced off, and went their separate ways. The next time they see each other will be in the ring on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena. As referee Kenny Bayless gives them final instructions, they will stare into each other’s souls once more, and then the ring will empty of all the cornermen and hangers-on, the bell will sound and they will march toward each other and fight for the middleweight championship of the world.
And yet, as great a prize as that is, as exalted a position as it holds in the sport, they will also be fighting for much more. There have been plenty of middleweight championship fights in recent years, many of them exciting affairs featuring quality fighters; but arguably not since Bernard Hopkins took apart Felix Trinidad in September 2001 has one generated so much excitement and anticipation.
Much of that is a result of the two men’s crowd-pleasing fighting styles, and of their exemplary professional records. Much also is the result of the two men’s respective and passionate fan bases: Canelo’s almost bestowed upon him at a young age as the anointed bearer of the Mexican boxing torch; Golovkin’s earned by fighting and fighting and fighting again until an ever-widening audience not only learned of his existence but fell in love with his knockout power and his clean-cut charm. And it is the result of the fight being genuinely difficult to call, the fact that each man seems to play to the other’s strengths, that a young and ever-improving champion is facing a veteran, undefeated one.
And it is also, to the credit of all involved, the result of this being a clash that has marinated for just long enough for the odds to shorten and the enmity, while not exactly overflowing, to build.
Asked what he thought about Canelo’s claims that he would knock him out, Golovkin smiled and said simply, “See you tomorrow! I’ve been champion a long time.”
Reminded that, following earlier broken promises to make the bout, Golovkin had derided Alvarez as being afraid, Canelo also laughed and looked ahead 24 hours.
“We are only a day away. I’ll show him who the real Canelo is.”
Asked what the crowd should expect on fight night, Golovkin offered that it would be, “A gift for the people.”
It’s a gift that is destined to leave one set of partisans disappointed. But for the rest, it’s the greatest gift that boxing can bestow: the very best fighting the very best with just about everything at stake. This is what boxing is – or should be – all about. And it’s hard to see, sky-high as expectations are, Golovkin and Canelo fail to meet them.
Saturday night, ladies and gentlemen, we have a fight, the kind that doesn’t come around too often. Seriously, you do not want to miss this one.
Weights from Las Vegas:
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez: 160.0 lbs.
Gennady Golovkin: 160.0 lbs.