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Can GGG secure redemption in his trilogy fight with Canelo Alvarez?

When Saul “Canelo” Alvarez had his hand raised in what was an incredibly close and hard-fought rematch with Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin at the T-Mobile Arena in 2018 – some believed that the Mexican had put their rivalry to bed.

However, provided the controversy that surrounded the pair of fights between the two middleweights, there were just as many who felt a draw and a loss for Golovkin wasn’t a true reflection of how he performed. With their trilogy bout scheduled to take place on September 17th in Las Vegas, read on as we look at their first two encounters and how they gave birth to one of the most gripping rivalries in all of sport.

GGG vs Canelo I – 2017

After more than two years of having their names linked, Alvarez and Golovkin were finally scheduled to meet in the squared circle in September of 2017. It was billed as the perfect clash of styles, with Golovkin’s proficient jab and ring generalship tipped to mesh well with Alvarez’s crisp counterpunching.

Golovkin entered the first fight as the online betting favourite, with his seven-year reign as a world middleweight champion making him one of the most feared pugilists on the planet. After devastating knockout victories over notable opponents Grzegorz Proksa, Matthew Macklin, Daniel Geale, David Lemieux and Kell Brook – the calls for Alvarez to fight the three-belt Kazakh champion grew louder and louder.

However, given Canelo had predominately campaigned at junior middleweight up until that point in his career, there were concerns that a contest between the two wouldn’t materialise as the Mexican had only fought at the 160 lb limit on two previous occasions. Additionally, his minimal experience in the higher weight class happened to be with smaller opponents Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan –putting him at a considerable disadvantage against a true middleweight like Golovkin.

Alvarez defied the critics and fought GGG at the T-Mobile Arena over Mexico’s Independence Day holiday weekend. It was being touted as the second coming of Hagler vs Hearns – and both men justified the pre-fight hype as they put on a middleweight clash for the ages.

Alvarez started well, utilising movement and his accurate counterpunching to gain the ascendency in the early rounds. Golovkin hadn’t previously fought someone as slick as Canelo, and that was evident in the opening stanza of the fight. However, once GGG found his rhythm and his opponent began to tire, he managed to grasp the momentum and proceeded to dominate the middle rounds.

Although Alvarez came back stronger in the championship rounds, the general consensus amongst fans and pundits alike was that the Kazakh did enough to be declared the winner. That wasn’t to be the case however, as it was deemed a split-decision draw.

There was a particularly strong backlash regarding the scorecards, with judge Adelaide Byrd scoring it 118-110 in favour of Alvarez – once again putting boxing in the international media spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

GGG vs Canelo 2 – 2018

After their first fight ended in a draw, GGG and Canelo’s rematch was initially scheduled to take place in May of 2018. That was until Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance, clenbuterol. As a result of the positive test, the Mexican was suspended for six months, thus pushing the fight back until later in the year. Alvarez’s suspension angered Golovkin, and what followed was a war of words between the two that added a level of venom to the contest that previously hadn’t existed.

There was a mutual respect in the build-up to the first fight – however – that respect had eroded over the subsequent 12 months. They visibly didn’t like each other – which set the stage for one of the most intriguing match-ups in boxing’s recent history.

As they entered the ring in September of 2018, it was crucial for both men to come away with the win. For Golovkin, his legacy as one of the greatest middleweights of the modern era was dependent on tasting victory against someone of Canelo’s calibre. While the Kazakh’s resume was impressive, it lacked one or two big names.

For Alvarez, a win would solidify his legacy as one of the generation’s pound-for-pound greats. While victories over the likes of Cotto, Khan, Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara are to be respected – having your hand raised against someone as feared and formidable as Golovkin would be career-defining.

As the bell rang to signal the start of the fight – to many people’s surprise – it was Canelo who was the aggressor. The red-headed Mexican managed to push his opponent back throughout the first half of the fight, using his supreme timing and well-disguised attack to bamboozle Golovkin. It seemed as though GGG was confused by Canelo’s tactics – and by round six – he was well and truly down on the scorecards.

To Golovkin’s credit, he showed the heart and will of a true champion, coming back over the remaining six rounds to dominate the second half of the fight. His uppercut and overhand right found a home through rounds 8-12, so much so, it appeared as though he hurt Alvarez in the tenth.

They continued to throw leather right up until the twelfth round, and once that final bell rang, you could be forgiven for thinking another draw was on the horizon. It was an extremely close fight, and the scorecards reflected that. Canelo got the nod by majority decision – making him a unified middleweight champion.

Since their rematch, Canelo has moved up in weight and gone on to become the undisputed super middleweight champion (168 lb) and WBO light heavyweight champion (175 lb), before losing in May to Dmitry Bivol by unanimous decision. Golovkin on the other hand has been more inactive, finding himself in fights that haven’t quite garnered the attention of the casual sports fan. While his most recent performance was impressive against then-middleweight champion Ryota Murata – at 40 years of age – father time appears to be impacting him somewhat.

Given his age and the fact he has to move up to 168 lb for their trilogy fight, many people are writing Golovkin off. Although the majority of fans and pundits are favouring Canelo, GGG is one champion you can’t count out. For those interested in placing some online betting tips, Alvarez is the red-hot favourite at 1/6, while Golovkin is the outsider at 10/3. The odds for a draw are a lot wider at 25/1.