LAS VEGAS — Caleb Plant is gone, the 168-pound division has been cleaned out, and for Canelo Álvarez the next challenge is clear.
Beat Gennadiy Golovkin.
What’s that, you say? Álvarez has already beaten Golovkin? That’s true, of course. In 2018, the two traded haymakers for 12 rounds, with Álvarez squeezing out a close decision. But that win was far from decisive, and for the last three years two of boxing’s biggest stars have circled each other, flirting with the possibility of completing their trilogy.
The time for dancing around it is over.
It’s time for Canelo–Golovkin III.
Canelo’s knockout win over Plant on Saturday highlighted the dearth of real challenges for boxing’s pound-for-pound king. Plant came into the ring with a glossy record and box of physical tools, and for a few rounds he made Álvarez work. But by the middle rounds he was fighting exclusively off his back foot and after a pair of knockdowns in the 11th, he was finished, and Álvarez walked away as the undisputed super middleweight champion.
Plant’s 168-pound title earned him the fight—and a reported $10 million payday—but he didn’t really earn it. Plant beat journeyman José Uzcátegui to claim the IBF super middleweight title in 2019 and proceeded to defend it against the murderers' row of Mike Lee, Vincent Feigenbutz and Caleb Truax. He never sniffed an opponent as skilled as Álvarez, and it showed, with Álvarez walking straight through Plant’s jabs, his speed keeping Plant’s right hand holstered near his chin.
The boxing diehards, the BoxingScene readers, the Substack subscribers who gobble up podcasts and scream hot takes back at them will call for new challenges for Álvarez, but really, what is there? Jermall Charlo? The middleweight titleholder has sidestepped any real challenge over the last five years. David Benavidez? The ex-168-pound champion has skills, but outside the ring issues have kept him out of big fights. Dmitry Bivol? Talented, with the Q-rating of a Volkswagen.
Critics will point to Golovkin’s résumé since he dropped the rematch with Canelo, which is fair. Golovkin’s opponent list in the last three years—Steve Rolls, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Kamil Szeremeta, with a middleweight title unification fight against Ryota Murata to come in December—leaves much to be desired. But Golovkin has battled Álvarez the way few fighters have, going 24 grueling rounds, pushing Álvarez in ways no fighter since Floyd Mayweather has.
If Canelo–Golovkin doesn’t happen now, when will it? Golovkin will turn 40 next year. He will be a heavy favorite against Murata, who was elevated to a full titleholder after Álvarez vacated his 160-pound belt. A win will give Golovkin two pieces of the middleweight title. He will have momentum moving up in weight, where a Canelo–Golovkin clash for the undisputed super middleweight championship will add a new layer of intrigue to one of the last decade’s best rivalries.
Golovkin has shown he will stand and trade punches with Álvarez, something few, nay, no fighter has been willing to do since. Plant had some success when he stood toe-to-toe with Álvarez, but those moments were few and far between. In the seventh round, Álvarez, who had spent the previous six stalking Plant, leaned against the ropes, inviting Plant to engage with him. Plant declined, clearly understanding the consequences of that approach.
The hardcore fans know Álvarez will be a heavy favorite against Golovkin, know that the 31-year-old has grown as a fighter since beating Golovkin in 2018, while Golovkin has shown signs of slowing down, but really, who cares? More than two million fans, many of them casual, tuned into the first two Canelo–Golovkin fights, the kind of numbers boxing has not seen since. The purist may prefer Canelo–Benavidez. The average fan doesn’t know who Benavidez is.
Álvarez plans to sit out until May, to give his body, weary from four training camps in 11 months, time to recover. He says he will make a decision on his next fight in January, after Golovkin–Murata is settled. There will be tempting offers from PBC and Eddie Hearn, challenges at light heavyweight to explore. The bad blood between Álvarez and Golovkin is real, but so too is the big business the two would do in the ring.
There will be time for Canelo to burnish his resume.
Now is the time to settle the score.
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