What a difference a year makes.
The buildup to last September's first fight between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez was, for the most part, respectful, and the fight, while good, left a sour taste thanks to questionable judging by Don Trella (at least in round seven) and Adalaide Byrd (whose 118-110 score for Alvarez has irreparably tarnished her reputation). Dave Moretti, the lone judge whose card reflected conventional wisdom (he had GGG up 115-113), returns to the judging panel for the rematch, but everything else about the encounter has changed.
Because of Alvarez's two failed drug tests this past February, the scheduled May 5 rematch was scuttled and Golovkin opted to fight third-choice opponent Vanes Martirosyan instead. Even before Golovkin destroyed Martirosyan in two rounds, the fury between the fighters and their promoters has escalated exponentially, so much so that it has grown into a genuine grudge match. Will these ill feelings translate to extra dollars? And, more importantly for observers, will they translate into an even better fight?
GGG-Canelo I produced several intriguing numbers. First, Golovkin out-landed Alvarez 218-169 overall because he was the far more effective jabber (30.1 attempts/9.0 connects per round to 19.4/4.6 for Alvarez) but Alvarez hung tough because he landed more power shots (114-110) and was the more accurate hitter overall (34%-31%) as well as in power shots (42%-32%).
Second, the round-by-round breakdowns — instructive because that's how judges score every fight — saw that Golovkin was ahead 10-1-1 in overall connects and 9-1-2 in jabs but Alvarez was up 7-5 in power connects, including each of the last three rounds (which saw Alvarez out-land GGG 44-32 in that category). This dynamic might explain why Trella and Moretti scored the fight close but it certainly adds justified ammunition for those who decry Byrd's lopsided scoring for Alvarez.
Finally, the numbers confirm a consensus criticism of Golovkin -- his lack of body punching. While Alvarez landed 44 body shots among his 169 total connects (a 26% ratio that is a bit above the CompuBox average of 24.3%), Golovkin landed just 8body shots among his 218 total connects -- an astonishingly anemic 3.8% ratio.
That shouldn't have been so surprising, for body connects accounted for just 14 of his 233 total connects against Daniel Jacobs (6%), 17 of his 133 connects against Kell Brook (12.8%), 10 of his 54 connects against Dominic Wade (18.5%), 16 of his 280 connects against David Lemieux (5.7%) and 25 of his 133 connects versus Willie Monroe Jr. (18.8%). The last time in which body shots accounted for more than 20% of Golovkin's total connects came against Martin Murray (63 of 292, 21.6%) — more than three-and-a-half years ago. (Against Martirosyan, by the way, Golovkin landed just one body shot among his 36 total connects. Will that trend change in the Alvarez rematch?)
A New GGG Approach?
Could the lack of body shots be just a subset to an overall narrative which states that GGG has adopted a more cautious approach as he has aged, or he simply can't pull the trigger as he once was able to? It certainly sounds like it; after all, body punching exposes one's chin to his opponents. At his peak, GGG's bread-and-butter had been high volume combined with extraordinary accuracy.
In his eleven fights against Rosado thru Wade, Golovkin averaged 68.6 punches per round (middle avg.: 55.1), of which 32.1 were jabs and 36.5 were power shots. He landed 40.1% overall, 34% jabs and 45.8% power as opposed to 24.9%, 15.4% and 33.2% for his opponents. But in his last four fights (Kell Brook, Daniel Jacobs, Saul Alvarez I and Vanes Martirosyan), Golovkin's average output plummeted to 55 per round (still at the middle avg.) and his punch distribution has been 28.5 jabs per round, 26.5 power punches per round.
The drop off is reflected in his power punch output- 10.6 of 26.5 in last 4 compared to 16.7 of 36.5 in previous 11. He also got hit with a higher pct of power punches (39.3%) in last four compared to 33.2% in previous 11. We must also factor in that Canelo & Jacobs were two of his best opponents.
Among the categorical leaders, Golovkin (last 15 fights) is fourth in total punches landed per round (25), second in total connect percentage (39.1%), first in landed jabs per round (10.4- he landed 9 per round vs. Canelo I) and jab connect percentage (33.7%) and seventh in terms of the highest percentage of jabs landed in relation to total punches landed (41.6%). Upon seeing these numbers, Golovkin and his team would have reason to stay the course, but if he wants to make a statement — while also getting his pound of flesh — GGG may have to revert to the assassin of yore.
As for Canelo (last 10 fights), his 42.2 punches thrown per round ranks #9 fewest and 12.9 fewer per round than middle. avg. Canelo landed 45.7% of his power shots, 8.6% higher than the middle. avg. GGG landed 44.1% of his power shots, so both are extremely accurate in that department.
Canelo Versus Aggressors
Alvarez has always performed better against opponents who attack him, and, as evidenced by the information presented by the first bullet point, the Golovkin fight was no exception. If one includes the first Golovkin fight with his bouts against Liam Smith, Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland and Julio Cesar Chavez, the numbers are impressive. While Alvarez averaged fewer punches per round (47.7 vs. 51.6), he produced huge gaps in connects per round in all phases (20.3 vs. 12 overall, 6.3 vs. 4.3 jabs, 14.1 vs. 7.7 power) as well as extraordinary percentage gulfs of 43%-23% overall, 32%-18% jabs and 51%-28% power.
Conversely, Alvarez's biggest struggles came 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). Could this be one reason why Golovkin opted to throttle down his aggression against Canelo in fight one? In most eyes, his approach was more than good enough to get the win, but, given the controversy of fight one, the perceived favoritism toward Canelo in Las Vegas and his own burning desire for vengeance might tempt Golovkin to go for more in fight two -- much more.
Golovkin did not fight his best in fight one (he landed just 32.2% of his power shots after landing 46% in his previous 13 fights) and he still was seen as the winner by most of the public. He also has engaged in a warm-up fight in the year since, which should work in his favor. He also has room for improvement in two aspects of his game: Cutting off the ring and attacking the body. Alvarez, on the other hand, has not fought in 364 days — the longest layoff of his career — and with 52 fights and 364 rounds in his nearly 13-year-career, he must be thought of as an older 28. In fact, he may well be at the tail end of his peak years.
Finally, he will, for the first time in who knows how long, be deemed a drug-free fighter. Will the absence of clenbuterol negatively affect his strength as well as his overall performance? Also, how much weight will be gain between the weigh-in and fight time? History suggests he will be north of 170 pounds when he steps inside the ring.
This will be an even better action fight than the first one, but every great aging champ has at least one last big effort in him and GGG will use his here. Canelo is a notoriously methodical worker even in the best of times and if Golovkin wakes up the echoes he might even score a TKO. A more convincing points win, however, is the official guess.