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Boxing is no country for middle-aged men


Well, it finally came. And then it went, with barely a whimper. This third fight of the Canelo versus GGG trilogy will not go next to Leonard versus Duran III as the worst trilogy fight between two legends ever, but equally it was not exactly a remake of Ali versus Frazier III.

Instead of getting the old Golovkin, all that we got was an old Golovkin who was consistently beaten to the punch by Alvarez and who seemed to know it. His jab looked like it had lost some steam as the ravages of age and weight caught up with him.

He looked hesitant to follow up a dulled jab with any meaningful right hands. Put simply, it looked like a man entering middle age trying to cut it in a young man’s world.

Alvarez had in his arsenal a speed and comfort at 168 pounds that Golovkin simply did not understand and could not effectively combat. It was a force that was new to GGG. It seemed that he quickly came to realise that he just couldn’t quite go with this new and improved Canelo Alvarez, four years on from their last bout.

It reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, a movie about a man who simply could not grasp the banality of the evil he was chasing, no matter how close he got. The whole movie was a procession of Tommy Lee saying “I don’t know”. You get the sense that you’d get the same answer if you asked Golovkin what he could do differently next time to get a better result.

The fight started in a similar way to the second fight, with Alvarez as the aggressor pressuring GGG with a hard jab and aggressive footwork, if not overwhelming volume. What was evident though, was that Canelo was throwing with bad intentions. The dislike between the two men was evident in the way Canelo threw his punches. If it was possible to knock Gennadiy Golovkin out, Canelo was going to finding out.

Canelo GGG

(Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Golovkin didn’t do much in the first round, but I told myself, as a long-time fan of GGG, that he was “gathering intel” or “waiting for Canelo to gas out”. Lies that all fans have told themselves when their favourite fighter, looking for one last great performance, starts slowly.

Unfortunately, whatever intel he gathered was about as useful as the George Bush administration’s intel on Saddam Hussein ’s weapons of mass destruction. Anyway, no lasting issues from that little saga so we move on.

Canelo piled up the rounds in the early part of the fight, countering Golovkin incredibly effectively. Every time Golovkin went to throw a hook, Canelo beat him to it. There was a time where the old saying that you “don’t hook with a hooker” applied to Golovkin, most famously when he detached Daniel Geale from this dimension, but no longer.

Canelo was the hooker you daren’t hook with. It was more than just the hook though, Canelo was wound incredibly tight and ready to spring into action every time Golovkin threatened to open up. In this fight, both Canelo’s pressure and his counterpunching were too good for the ageing Golovkin who just did not have the answers.

At no point did Golovkin run, but one thing I thought that we could count on was that Golovkin’s punch output would be greater than Canelo’s. This did not come to fruition. Golovkin looked to take the centre of the ring but whenever he got there, he just could not do anything with it like the dog that finally catches its tail: confused and apparently a bit perturbed.

Even when he got Canelo on the ropes, Canelo was in control just waiting for Golovkin to commit so Canelo could brutally counter. Who knows if it was age, weight, or a bit of both but Golovkin simply looked slow of hand, foot and mind.

The fight did start to turn however as it ticked to round 7. Golovkin at this point was probably at least five rounds down, if not six, so he needed a miracle and he tried desperately to muster it. His still has the heart of a lion and the chin of an Easter Island statue, but his body just couldn’t click into fifth gear and even if the output lifted, at no point did Golovkin’s power trouble Canelo.

This I truly could not believe from a fighter whom Jim Lampley described as the consistently hardest puncher he had seen in his time covering boxing for HBO. Golovkin’s jab was like a mere mortal’s right hand when he was in his prime. In the first two fights, when Golovkin touched Canelo he got Canelo’s attention. He forced Canelo to shake his head when he got caught, which is boxing machismo speak for “nice shot”.

There was no head-shaking today from Canelo, no gamesmanship. It was all business, as he pressed forward. Two judges gave Golovkin each of the last four rounds to make it a very close fight on the cards, but this seemed to be a classic make up call for the bad decision Golovkin was on the end of for the first fight. This was not a close fight, this was a demolition, then an easing of the gas pedal.

The issue for Canelo remains his cardiovascular capacity. He faded down the stretch again and allowed a 40-year-old man to almost steal a decision from him. Admittedly it would have been truly one of the most egregious decisions since, well, the first fight between these two, but it still almost happened because Canelo let it.

However, that is to take nothing away from him. He was incredibly sharp defensively, he worked his jab more than he has in recent fights and seemed more active, less content to just sit and potshot his opponents. He walked forward, engaged, and looked to hurt Golovkin but was still able to sit and counterpunch when necessity dictated.

I am not sure what’s next for Canelo, but I hope it’s at 168 pounds. He should make himself a home there and just dominate the division, swatting away whatever challenger the boxing public talks themselves into next. Probably Benavidiez. I think Bivol is entirely the wrong style for Canelo and the weight is too much for a man who stands at 5’9 on the best possible day.

For Golovkin, I hope he retires. He is my favourite fighter of this generation, and his chin and heart are still well and truly intact, but those things lead to fighters ending sadly. His amateur pedigree and pure talent still is plain to see and he as a result he is still able to defend effectively and use genuine savvy to get through fights.

He would beat almost anyone else at 160 and probably even 168 pounds. But eventually that will go as well, and he will be the last to realise it.

He has made a lot of money in his career and does not appear irresponsible. I understand that if he were to continue it would not be for himself or his children, but for the Golovkin dynasty, but I plead with him – to quote Logan Roy – make them “build their own pile”.

He has inflicted and received enough damage for a lifetime and his power and run as the most avoided monster in the middleweight division will live on, but he is not the fighter he was and I just do not want to see another legend get hurt beyond repair.





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