- Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin failed to produce epic clashes in their first two fight. Should they really go through with a trilogy?
NEW YORK — You wanted to hear him say it.
It was just before 11:30 pm when Gennadiy Golovkin finished off Steve Rolls, an expected outcome that came courtesy of a savage, over the top Golovkin left hand. The punch wobbled Rolls, and moments later a crushing left cross from a rarely seen southpaw stance finished him, dropping Rolls face first to the canvas.
And you wanted to hear him say it.
In the days before the fight, Rolls viability was enhanced, thanks to Andy Ruiz’s shocking upset of Anthony Joshua in the same arena weeks before. Suddenly, Rolls' body punching was a topic. His athleticism was a topic. Golovkin’s age, 37, was a topic. The possibility we could see a landscape changing upset two weeks in a row suddenly seemed possible.
And Rolls acquitted himself well early. After a slow first round, Rolls came on in the second, landing a clean jab that snapped Golovkin’s head back and pushing him back with combinations. After one, Rolls’ promoter, Lou DiBella, leaped out of his ringside seat, perhaps believing history could be made in the same month twice.
Then came the fourth round, when Golovkin’s power proved to be too much to handle.
And you wanted to hear him say it.
For some, there is Canelo-Golovkin fatigue. There was heavy anticipation for the first fight, with Oscar De La Hoya, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s promoter, carefully building anticipation for it. There was a catchweight middleweight title fight against Miguel Cotto. Another against Amir Khan. Then there was a super middleweight fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. By the time Canelo-Golovkin I came around in 2017, Alvarez was physically ready for it and the public was begging for it.
There was equal anticipation for the rematch, after Golovkin appeared to be victimized by horrific judging, robbed of what appeared to be a clear win. The fight was juiced further by Alvarez testing positive for a banned substance, pushing the fight with Golovkin a few months down the road. And in a terrific, back-and-forth clash, Canelo did what no one had been able to do in Golovkin’s decorated, 12-year career: He handed Golovkin a loss.
And yet, among boxing insiders the appetite for a third fight is tepid. They were good fights but not great. They had plenty of action but no knockdowns. Canelo is in his prime while Golovkin is well past his. Indeed, among some hardcore fans there is more interest in Alvarez trying to unify the division against Demetrius Andrade or to test himself against the top fighter at super middleweight, Callum Smith.
It’s unfair to Golovkin, really. A third fight should be the rubber match. Adalaide Byrd submitted one of the worst scorecards in boxing history in the first fight while Don Trella scored a round for Canelo (the seventh) that even Byrd gave to Triple-G, a round that would have turned a draw into a Golovkin split decision win.
Besides—while marinating fights can be disastrous (hello, Joshua-Deontay Wilder) the other Canelo opponents appeal only to hardcore boxing fans. Callum Smith is a 168-pound destroyer who was introduced to a U.S. audience on the Joshua-Ruiz undercard. He could use a fight or two to burnish his credentials before a Canelo fight. Canelo, too, might need a little more time before moving up in weight to face super middleweight’s best.
And Andrade? There’s no question he wants the fight and Canelo has made it clear he wants Andrade’s belt, the last piece of the 160-pound title he doesn’t control. But while Andrade, who will defend his title on June 29 against Maciej Sulecki, is among the most skilled middleweights, he’s still developing a fan base. If Canelo-Golovkin III materializes, an Andrade title defense as the co-main event would be an ideal way to build toward a unification fight in 2020.
Besides—the public at large still wants more of Canelo-Golovkin. DAZN knows it. The subscription-based service had a third fight with Golovkin in mind when they inked Alvarez to an 11-fight deal that could be worth as much as $365 million last year. Likewise with Golovkin, who signed a lucrative, six-fight deal of his own earlier this year. As Golovkin’s longtime promoter, Tom Loeffler, said on Saturday, there are financial incentives for both fighters to make a third fight.
On Saturday, Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told SI.com that his team planned to meet with Alvarez this week, the first time they have held a face-to-face meeting with Alvarez to discuss opponents since his win over Daniel Jacobs last month. According to Gomez, there is no frontrunner. Internally, the focus at Golden Boy has been on three possible opponents, per industry sources: Golovkin, Smith and Sergey Kovalev, a light heavyweight titleholder Alvarez has expressed interest in fighting.
Still, with DAZN exerting pressure, it’s hard to see Canelo go in any direction but Golovkin. Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya upchucked on social media (again), suggesting Golovkin win a world title first, but he knows what the biggest fight is, too. There will be some sticking points; Golovkin has no interest in a return to Las Vegas, where he feels he did not get a fair shake. But Alvarez packed Madison Square Garden last December, against Rocky Fielding, making moving the fight to New York—where Golovkin is an established presence—a natural fit. Texas is another possibility, sources familiar with the situation told SI.com.
And why wouldn’t Canelo want a third fight? Golovkin showed he still had knockout power against Rolls, but Canelo has felt 24 rounds of it. And while Golovkin is still fearsome offensively, his defense was spotty, something Rolls, who doesn’t possess anything close to the power and hand speed of Canelo, was able to exploit.
“[Rolls] caught Triple-G with punches I didn’t like,” said Golovkin’s trainer, Johnathan Banks. “His offensive presence, everyone knows about. But everyone also knows his defensive presence is not too high. The goal is to allow him to increase his defense and not decrease his offense.
So Golovkin needs work. But does that mean he wants to wait for a third fight with Canelo?
You wanted to hear him say it.
Who do you want to fight next?
“Everybody knows!” Golovkin told me in the ring. “Of course, I’m ready for September, I’m ready for Canelo. Ask him. If you want a big drama show, tell him. Why not?
See you in September. We hope.
Chris Mannix is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and an on-air personality for DAZN.