The red mist descends: Canelo and Golovkin roll out super-fight
Red was the theme of Thursday afternoon’s press event in Hollywood for September 16’s middleweight championship showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.
Outside, the red carpet was rolled out on a summer day, seemingly dedicated to the rising mercury and the royal welcome led to a lounge upstairs at The Avalon near Hollywood and Vine. There, both fighters had a place to cool down with the boxing media to talk about the HBO Pay-Per-View event, set to be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Walking in first was the unified IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight champion. Donning a strikingly red blazer, Golovkin sat down on a long, plush sofa ready to discuss the monumental fight he had been seeking since coming to the Untied States.
“I remember. Yeah, it was a huge emotion for me,” Golovkin said about the moment his promoter Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, gave him the news. “Last year, I remember first situation Canelo (fought) Amir Khan, everyone said he’s ready. Canelo said he’s ready and I believe it’s possible. I’m asking every second day. Tom said it’s ready. Everybody is ready. It’s finished. I’m very happy – very happy.”
Golovkin, 37-0 (33), has had a middleweight trinket since 2010 and, since making his U.S. debut in 2012, he has gained plenty of fanfare, while racking up title defenses that have largely gone non-competitive. He’s simply been a promotional wonder, who has sold out arenas on both coasts of the U.S. while still managing to fight in Europe once a year over the past four years. Surprising for anyone, let alone a guy from Kazakhstan, but not so much, considering his knockout power, fan-friendly style and innocent smile.
“This is my story. This is my career,” Golovkin reflected on the big fight eluding him. “It’s not my fault, seriously. I remember my situation with Sergio Martinez, in Germany with Felix Sturm, Miguel Cotto, Canelo, (Julio Cesar) Chavez Jr. and, right now, I have real deal – a real fight. I’m very excited.”
Befittingly, “Supremacy” will be the name of the promotion and, in this tri-city press tour officially announcing the fight, a short film called, “I am Boxing” was premiered. Narrated by the dynamic duo of Don Chargin and Ice Cube, the film focused on what the middleweight division has meant to boxing history. From the days of Sugar Ray Robinson to the Four Horsemen of the 1980s (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns), it reflected on golden eras of the sport and put Canelo-GGG in the same light, when it comes to boxing’s future.
“It’s a special moment to boxing, for sport,” proclaimed Golovkin. “Right now, it’s new story. Canelo’s last couple fights was good, seriously. Everybody knows he’s a huge fighter. Now he comes to 160, to middleweight division. This is special for us. Everybody knows the middleweight division history. Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon – this is special. It’s a new step to history.”
Standing quietly in the room was one of the greatest middleweights of all-time, Bernard Hopkins, and his record of 20 consecutive title defenses in the division is being threatened by Golovkin. “I respect Bernard’s record,” said Golovkin, who looks to get his 18th win, since earning the WBA middleweight title. “Of course it’s huge but not for me – for sport, for young people. Everybody would want to beat the record.”
Golovkin says this is something only to reflect upon rather than look forward to. Besides, going for records like this aren’t the reason there were hundreds of boxing fans standing in the heat in order to get a mere glimpse at Canelo and GGG.
“I think the people respect class,” said Golovkin about the turn-out. “Boxing class, like first quality. This is a respect to sport. I’m a boxer. I’m a professional athlete – same as Canelo. People love this position, not because I’m ‘Triple-G’ – no, it’s different.”
Fighting a boxing superstar like Canelo is the difference. “Canelo – he’s a national hero,” Golovkin said. “Like a Zorro, like an Iron Man. This is a special situation.” Golovkin thought Alvarez looked great against Chavez but added, after the first round, it was like sparring. Of course, Golovkin was ringside for Canelo’s fight last May, knowing he’d be in the ring soon after to announce this bout.
“I feel 35, maybe younger. Ask my wife; I don’t know,” joked Golovkin, who celebrated his birthday in April. Alvarez, who turns 27 in July, has the advantage of youth but he remarkably doubles Golovkin’s 172 rounds in the pros with 353 in a career that started at 15-years-old. Golovkin had nearly 400 fights in an accomplished amateur career that ended with an Olympic silver medal, however, and, while their overall ring experience is comparable, their current physical states aren’t.
“This is life. I’m an athlete, a boxer. I know my situation and I understand my position,” said Golovkin as he awaits training camp. “Seriously, Canelo is a huge fighter. He’s a special guy. He’s not a regular guy. I don’t know who stays close with us (in the middleweight ratings) – I don’t know who’s number two, number three, number four – I don’t know. Right now, he comes to the middleweight division and it’s the biggest fight for boxing. If he beats me, he’s better. If I beat him, I am better.”
Soon Golovkin will head up to Big Bear, California for camp with longtime trainer Abel Sanchez. “I wait for my coach. He call me. I’m ready. He said, ‘Take your time,'” said Golovkin as the sit-down came to a close. There was a big groove on that plush couch once he stood up and moments later the exact same groove was filled by the man who got him there.
Canelo, the red-headed Mexican superstar, can command a room with just his presence, while defying the notion that speaking English is necessary to be successful in the United States. The Guadalajara, Jalisco, native understands it well, however, and rarely needed a translation before replying to questions in Spanish.
“I’m very happy. I’m very motivated. I’m very excited,” said Alvarez, through translator Robert Diaz. “The fight is finally here. It’s the fight that you all wanted, the fans wanted. Now it’s time to work hard, train, get ready and prepare to win this fight.”
The fight everyone wanted had been the lingering subject before and after every Canelo fight over the past year or so, especially since winning the WBC middleweight title in November 2015. In the summer of 2016, Alvarez vacated the belt with Golovkin as his mandatory but, in the same statement released announcing the news, he and Golden Boy Promotions promised the fight would take place this September.
“The fight arrives at its best moment. I’m more mature; I’m a better fighter and more experienced than I was, say, two years ago. It couldn’t come at a better time,” proclaimed Canelo, who won a title at junior middleweight and followed up with a 164.5 pound catchweight bout to get acclimated. “After the Liam Smith fight, I realized it was too much toll on my body and I realized I had to move up in weight.”
Canelo, 49-1-1 (34), said this is indeed a 50/50 fight and is treating it as his most dangerous to date.
“Yes, absolutely. It is one of the most dangerous but we’ve mentalized now, my team and I, that this summarized 14 years of hard work. We’re here and it’s a compromise that I have with my team too – to train hard, to get ready and to win this fight for all of us.”
That said, Alvarez sees flaws in Golovkin and pointed to his most recent fight as an example. “It was a good, competitive fight,” Canelo recalled about Golovkin’s bout with Daniel Jacobs last March. “I saw Jacobs winning by one or two points. If maybe he came out a little bit more aggressive and less respectful in the early rounds, maybe it would’ve been different but you gotta respect what the judges’ decision was…I think the weaknesses have always been there. We hadn’t seen them before because the opponents were perfect opponents that stood right there in front of (Golovkin) to be hit. Now he had an opponent that moved a little bit. It gave him problems and that’s why he struggled.”
Despite both taking jabs at their foes’ latest fights, Canelo and Golovkin were in agreement that trash-talking wasn’t necessary in the promotion. There are grounds for it, given their respective histories in post-fight interviews on HBO, and the fact that Alvarez found himself in the precarious position of vacating a title to push back the biggest fight in the sport. Other story lines exist as well, like both taking part in a sparring session seven years ago. The fighters were in agreement on that subject as well, citing both as completely different men today and that whatever happened on that day doesn’t matter.
“I’m a versatile fighter. I can do it all and I’ll change up. Whatever has to be done, I’ll be doing it. I’m always going to be a step ahead,” proclaimed Alvarez. “We’re honored to start from nothing and be where we are today. We had the vision to one day be here and here we are.”
After the meetings, the short film was shown to a full theater with fans and corporate sponsors packed in with both sides sitting in the first row. A quick Q&A proceeded it on stage and a stare down that riled the crowd. It was one last good look into the eyes for the fighters and, after a final handshake before breaking off to their respected camps, Alvarez excited the crowd with a quick one-two, while Golovkin smiled and winked. The excitement could already be felt nearly three months away from September 16 and, with the fight being introduced and billed under a historical sentiment, there’s only one way to find out if it will live up to those expectations. One thing is for sure, however: This super-fight is in the good hands of two consummate professionals who take the fight game seriously and don’t let red herrings get in their way.