"Another Damned Close Fight": HBO Writers Pick Canelo-Golovkin 2

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Though Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s initial bout was ruled a controversial draw, many of the experts agreed that regardless of who you believed performed best: the fight was close. Accordingly, the HBO Boxing Insiders were just about split down the middle on their predictions for the rematch.

Springs Toledo: Golovkin late KO/TKO

Canelo is a good counterpuncher with a good defense, and he has to be, because he fights on a budget. He has stamina issues and always has which is why he fights in spurts, picks his shots, and gives himself extended rests that he disguises with good-looking slips and slides. GGG is looking more and more like Marvin Hagler did against Sugar Ray Leonard -slow to react, wide looping shots. I think his timing is going too. Canelo will not force a war, but he will try to draw GGG out, counter him, and move so GGG misses and looks bad enough for Canelo to steal a decision.

Abel Sanchez knows what to do. Watch for GGG to resist headhunting this time, go hard to the body, and throw better combinations including those chopping shots over the guard that are very old school. Most importantly, he will pressure Canelo right from the start, thereby forcing Canelo to fight when he doesn't want to and depleting his reserves -- sap him, then stop him. Canelo will try to change things with a right uppercut-left hook but I see GGG stopping him late.

Gordon Marino: Golovkin TKO 9

GGG threw away the first two rounds in the first fight. He knows his opponent now and won't do that again. He will put on relentless pressure and go to the body more. I think Canelo will be more aggressive in this fight but he is not going to be able to make GGG backup. However, I think Gennady is going to be in trouble if it goes to the scorecards.

Hamilton Nolan: Golovkin SD 12

This is a VERY closely matched fight, only because Golovkin is on the very gentle downhill slope of his career while Canelo is entering his real prime. Golovkin is a better and more complete fighter, and a bigger true puncher. But Canelo is brutally strong physically with good boxing skills (on the top half of his body), explosive punching, and has never been hurt by a punch, including Golovkin's.

I had the first fight 7-5 Golovkin, being nice to Canelo. It could have easily been 8-4. It was a robbery. I'll pick Golovkin by a narrow decision this time, because he has a slightly higher work rate. Assuming the judging is legit, unlike last time.

Lee Groves: Golovkin UD 12

Golovkin didn't fight at his best in fight one, yet he was still considered the winner by most observers. In terms of strategy, he has more areas which he can improve such as hitting more to the body and cutting off the ring better. GGG also has the benefit of having fought in the year since fight one — though it was a two-round blowout over a third-choice opponent in Vanes Martirosyan — while Canelo hasn't fought in a year. Finally, although GGG is 36, Canelo, at 28, is about to engage in his 53rd fight and his pro career started six months before Golovkin's. Is he an "old" 28? Both men will be motivated to bring their best, but I think Golovkin's best will be better.

Nat Gottlieb: Golovkin KO 5

Everything about this rematch has changed since their first go around. Gone are the pleasantries, handshakes, replaced with trash talking and disagreements from everything from glove choice to National Anthems. Golovkin is trying to goad Canelo into a street fight, and although that may come back to haunt him, I believe his plan will work, and after a few barn-burning rounds, GGG will KO Canelo in the fifth round.

Evan Rutkowski: Golovkin UD 12

I think GGG will win by a close UD, which quite frankly he should have won last time. As the cliché goes, usually the better pure boxer wins the rematch. Most people left the first fight thinking Canelo was the better pure boxer, but I think it’s actually GGG. Canelo is the better counter puncher and has faster hands, but GGG’s jab is better and if he adapts his strategy better than he did last time, I think he’ll win 7 or 8 rounds clearly. Canelo’s rust will be a factor, but he’ll keep it close enough that it will be a good fight all the way through.

Kieran Mulvaney: Golovkin UD 12

I see Canelo moving more than he did last time, firing off rapid-fire combinations and sliding out of the way. But this time, Golovkin commits more to the body and begins to slow Canelo down, trap him against the ropes and overhaul him for a close decision, setting up the third fight in May.

Bob Canobbio: Canelo SD 12

I see the rematch as a near carbon copy of the first fight. GGG will be the busier fighter, but this time Canelo will let his hands go more, (he threw just 42 punches per round in first fight) which will sway two of the three judges his way. GGG's a year older too.  GGG landed just 32% of his power punches in the first fight after landing 46% in his previous 13 fights- a testament to Canelo's underrated defense.

Carlos Acevedo: Canelo MD 12

If you needed a blueprint for this rematch, the recent Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fights would serve as well as any. Like Ward against Kovalev, Alvarez appeared to lose to Golovkin, but en route seemed to have figured out the dangerous puzzle in front of him, even if the result was a (disputed) draw. But where Ward and Alvarez faced off in an immediate rematch without a hitch, Alvarez and Golovkin took a scandalous detour that delayed this fight by months.  That may be a key factor in determining the winner. After all, while Golovkin managed to squeeze in a knockover session against Vanes Martiroysan in May, Alvarez has remained idle since last September.

When the opening bell rings, Alvarez can be either at his physical peak or gym stale. But even at his best, Alvarez has demonstrated limited stamina. He seemed gassed by the mid-rounds—shocking for an elite professional—in the first fight and thereafter faded in the final two-thirds of every round.  And to outwork Golovkin, Alvarez will have to be far more consistent than he was last year. If Alvarez can work at a quicker tempo, he may be able to potshot a pressuring Golovkin. The guess here, in another 50-50 fight difficult to forecast, is that Alvarez does enough to squeak by via majority decision.

Diego Morilla: Canelo UD 12

The first fight produced some of the wildest scoring I have ever witnessed among the ringside press. The clash of styles was evident from the first round, but it was not what everyone expected, and most fellow writers and fans could not shake off the notion that Canelo is destined to be a Mexican fighter who pushes forward all the time, and seemed to punish excessively for his more defensive approach. Granted, I did have GGG ahead for a point or two at the end anyway, but I still feel that Canelo is the only one of the pair who has some room for improvement and growth in this particular matchup, and if he does make the adjustments he needs, this fight will be very different from the first one. I expect Canelo to be less cautious this time, without sacrificing his vastly improved defense, and score often and convincingly enough to grab a close but unanimous decision

Eric Raskin: Canelo 12

There are countless variables in play in this rematch, so there are few scenarios I'd rule out, but the most likely one is another damned close fight. I watched their first fight three times —live from ringside, on TV a week later, and then again a week ago — and every time, I've scored it 114-114. GGG and Canelo are tremendously evenly matched at this point in their respective careers. And when it's close, the smart money is on Canelo getting the better of it on the scorecards.

Michael Gluckstadt: Golovkin KO 11

The conventional wisdom for a rematch is that the result is the same as the first fight, just more extreme. In the case of last year's controversial draw between Canelo and GGG, that can be read two ways. Will the judges lean even more towards Canelo? Or will Golovkin's power carry the day? I'm inclined towards the latter. I try not put too much stock in personal animus affecting ring styles—it's the fighter's job to win, and with notable exceptions (like Cotto-Margarito II), any bad blood will be put aside to focus on strategy. In Golovkin's case, he's already seen that he can't rely on the judges. I expect him to come in more aggressively than the last fight, getting inside and mixing it up, in a close, phone-booth fight. And when both fighters taste each other's power, it will be Golovkin's strength (and his chin) that prevail.