Mutual contempt (Part One): Gennady Golovkin yearns for great fight in Canelo Alvarez rematch
The rivalry between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin wasn’t always so bitter. When their initial fight was first made public, Alvarez even called Golovkin his friend, to end a post-fight interview and cue the lights to shine at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, prompting a pro-wrestling style announcement of their fight, as Golovkin made his way to the ring with walk-out music. They stood face-to-face to end what felt like an expensive commercial after Canelo’s one-sided mismatch against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO Pay-Per-View, in May of last year, but not even that could get in the way of making the fight we all wanted. Both teams shared a stage for a post-fight press conference that night and eventually took part in a three-city press tour (London, New York and Los Angeles) just to announce the biggest fight boxing had to offer.
It was billed as a throwback, harkening to the era when the best fought the best, which, of course, created the most memorable fights in the history of the sport. They even profiled that idea in a short-film, “I Am Boxing,” celebrating Canelo vs. Golovkin I being made. Forgotten was the time Canelo teased Golovkin by inviting him to the ring after the former wiped out Amir Khan in another PPV mismatch, only to vacate the WBC middleweight title later that summer and avoid a mandatory obligation to face GGG. “Like we say in Mexico, we don’t fuck around,” Alvarez said then, which first started the rivalry a year-and-a-half before they met in the ring. Golovkin even had some choice words in light of his wait but there was still a mutual respect for each other. It also helped sell a fight that ultimately generated a reported 1.3 million PPV buys.
On Sunday afternoon at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California – 20 days away from September 15 – the first official press event for the rematch took place. Technically that’s not entirely true, considering there was a joint teleconference streamed on Facebook, in which both camps were seemingly held captive in their gyms. That and the fact that the rematch had already been made earlier this year before it was canceled in the wake of Alvarez’s two failed VADA drug tests and the six-month suspension levied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that followed. There was a big announcement for the rematch in downtown L.A., where both sides argued on stage for a half-hour but it ended up being a waste, once it Alvarez’s positives for clenbuterol were revealed one week later. Golovkin didn’t have much to say in that first announcement of the anticipated rematch but plenty has changed since.
“I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel respect for this team, not only for Canelo,” Golovkin said, when asked if this the first time fighting with real dislike toward someone. “I’ve known Canelo a long time. He’s still like a young guy; you know. He listens to his promotions; he listens to his team. It’s his problem. Really he has big problem. He has scandal with doping. He still work with these people who bring this situation. This is very terrible for him, just my point. And I feel very comfortable because I have my team. I respect my team. I respect my people. I respect people who support me because this is true guy. If you fake, of course you support Canelo. If you real guy, you support me. Like white and black: That’s it.”
Golovkin, 38-0-1 (34), spoke English for the entire time during a round table with select press before heading outside for a public workout that drew around 4,000 fans. In that awkward stream, two months ago, Golovkin spoke only in Kazakh and seemed as put off by the occasion as everyone else watching. Golovkin, 36, even showed displeasure with the media a few weeks ago and was asked to explain how he felt on this day.
“Today I feel great and I’m not upset,” Golovkin answered. “I come to training and open my eyes and everybody’s coming. For what? Watch my training? Why nobody tell me or nobody not tell my coach Abel Sanchez? This was a surprise for me because I have a big plan and everybody comes and just destroyed my plan. I need my training – ‘No, just forget your training and I want to talk with you’ – C’mon, I’m a boxer. I’m not a talking man.
“Seriously I feel very comfortable because I understand I had a good experience from first fight. I have a good experience in my life, maybe a little bit older. Just look; I bring my regular t-shirt, not like a huge brand or famous guy. Really, I’m a boxer. I wanted this fight and I want to beat him. I want to show all my fans, all my people, who is real guy.”
On September 16 of last year, Golovkin went 12 competitive rounds with Canelo in a fight that ended in a split draw. The result wasn’t exactly a farce but one score for Alvarez – 118-110 from Adalaide Byrd – was the story after a fight that simply wasn’t great enough to overcome the stench. Most observers saw Golovkin edging it out as the aggressor but you’d be remiss not to mention his struggles that night. Still the boos were too loud to not notice the dissatisfaction, given the anti-climactic ending. Golovkin claims to have only watched the fight once and, if you ask him about it, he won’t exactly admit he’s proud of a fight he thought he won, describing it as not a real fight but a terrible one and even accepting the draw, only now that time has passed.
With the September 15 rematch (HBO PPV; 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT) happening in the same venue as the first bout, the officials have been announced well in advance and Team GGG clarified it was happy with those who were selected: Benjy Esteves Jr. will be the referee and Dave Moretti, Glenn Feldman and Steve Weisfeld, the judges.
“Of course I like this,” Golovkin said when asked how he felt about most fans thinking he won. “Yeah, everybody says, ‘Oh G, you won’ – maybe 80 percent, 90 percent of people said – This is people. This is not me. I say draw. I said I want a second fight. I said I want to show more bigger drama show.”
Much of Golovkin’s disappointment in the first fight was in how Canelo, 49-1-2 (34), fought. Golovkin expected more, as if they were contractually obligated to disregard defense and give the fans what they paid for. After all, it’s what they were sold. He failed to force the action fight he sought, however, and there were things missing from Golovkin’s performance that were part of almost every one of his fights, since his American debut in September of 2012. Particularly any semblance of the body attack Golovkin used to break down opponents or the keen footwork that would cut the ring off easily against many others. Golovkin had no problem admitting Canelo was indeed the toughest opponent he’s faced, citing his speed, quickness and boxing IQ, and that he’s very happy preparing for such a challenge on this level but not without referring back to his original angst.
“I remember first fight. I remember a couple shots like a slap,” Golovkin said about Alvarez’s power. “I don’t feel the real power. I don’t know why. Maybe I feel different and I have more adrenalines for biggest fight. Maybe he lose a lot of power for first couple rounds. Same situation for him, he doesn’t feel my power; you know? Really first fight is not 100 percent for him or for me. I believe right now, we had good experience from first fight and we change a little bit for second fight. Right now it’s a different story.”
Golovkin still holds hope of helping create a great fight and doesn’t think the first will have much to do with the second. “One hundred percent, this is different,” he said. “We have different mental, different performance before for fight. A lot of emotion. This is not only boxing fight, not only a business fight, right now, like a true war.” When asked what he thought when Alvarez said he’d be more aggressive in the rematch, Golovkin welcomed the idea but was still bullish. “No way. Really?,” he reacted. “This is good. He talked too much before first fight; he talk too much before second fight and, if he brings more attack, more interest, give more to fans and to boxing, it’s a really huge fight for us.” However when asked if he’d do more things he could control – like going to the body more – Golovkin replied, “If he give me chance, yeah. First fight was not 100 percent from me.”
“Absolutely,” Golovkin replied, when asked if he will be more aggressive next month. “I’m working hard everyday not for a decision fight, for my lucky punch.”
Canelo’s failed drug tests and subsequent suspension were the last straw for Golovkin but the Mexican superstar was already toeing the line during the first 12 rounds of the rivalry. Over the course of his career, Golovkin sold himself to boxing fans with a self-proclaimed “Mexican Style” of fighting and, along with a few other taglines of broken English, it’s worked, for the most part. There was even a card billed “Mexican Style” and it was Golovkin’s first step in trying to force a fight with Canelo, when he wiped out Marco Antonio Rubio for an interim WBC middleweight trinket in October of 2014. Perhaps everything else that has come with trying to fight Alvarez twice has built up the animosity. Golovkin wiped out Vanes Martirosyan in the same place he faced Rubio last May, the StubHub Center, and, aside from making a few sponsors happy in saving the Cinco de Mayo date – the one on which the rematch with Canelo was first scheduled – it was yet another kicking of the can toward an Alvarez fight. As a consequence of facing Martirosyan – a soft-touch moving up in weight and coming off a two-year layoff – Golovkin was later stripped of the IBF middleweight title by not fighting his mandatory contender, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, in the allotted time given. Had there been a rematch in May, perhaps the IBF belt would still be unified but there’s no hiding the fact that Golovkin was forced to play it safe and become the businessman he originally refused to be. Golovkin even won on the negotiating table for the rematch, sticking to a hardline offer of 45 percent he thought he was worth, in the aftermath of Canelo’s scandal – and getting it.
“Right now I feel a little bit different. Not only sport, not only business: It’s special. I want to bring my true Ideas and my true situation because his team, his promotion doesn’t respect boxing people,” Golovkin said. Asked why he didn’t think either one was at 100 percent in the first fight, Golovkin replied, “Maybe a big point, he said too much before first fight. He want to beat me, knock me down; you know? Stay close distance like big Mexican style because I’m a true Mexican guy. He talk so much before first fight. I said, ‘OK, just show me. Show me your Mexican style. Show me you’re Mexican, real, like genetics; you know? Blood. He moved too much.”
This seems to be where the bitterness truly began for Golovkin but, as implied in GGG’s first quote in this article, the distaste has a lot to do with Canelo’s entire team, including Golden Boy Promotions. The feeling is mutual on the other side, of course, and it’s gotten so bad that the two combatants won’t even be found in the same room with each other. Really the entire promotion has been this odd and there’s a sense that everyone just wants to get it over with. Jaime Munguia, the WBO junior middleweight titleholder, who fights on the HBO PPV undercard, was featured in the schedule of Sunday’s proceedings but was pretty much used as a buffer to ensure Golovkin and Canelo don’t see each other. Munguia, who looks to make his second defense of the belt against Brandon Cook, fielded questions from the media, who were waiting for Canelo to follow, but was interrupted by Oscar De La Hoya, who recently signed a co-promotional deal with the Mexican power-puncher.
“Le digo que palea como Mexicano siempre,” De La Hoya said, with a smile, while shaking Munguia’s hand. Translated in English, De La Hoya said, “I tell him to fight like a Mexican always.”
Part Two of “Mutual Contempt” to follow, with quotes from Canelo Alvarez.