Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez face off for the middleweight championship of the world in Las Vegas on Saturday.
In one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts in years, the pundits are split right down the middle with many labelling it a 50-50 fight.
Here we look at the keys to victory for both men.
WIN THE BATTLE OF THE FRONT HANDS
Triple G has the best jab in boxing. That’s not an opinion, it’s statistically proven by Compubox. Nobody across all of the weight divisions has a better connect percentage than the Kazakh.
Golovkin has many weapons but this is his most potent. It’s not a range-finder or token scoring shot, it’s an offensive weapon, a heavy punishing shot, a power-punch disguised as a jab.
He broke down David Lemieux with it, and it was chiefly responsible for his points win over Danny Jacobs last time out. Jabbing with spite and authority will be fundamental for Golovkin as he looks to back Canelo up.
BULLY CANELO AND STAY BUSY
Triple G’s ‘Mexican Style’ has been the foundation of his meteoric rise from obscurity. The approach was cooked up by coach Abel Sanchez and sees him blend his Eastern European fundamentals with a relentless, smothering offence.
He stalks, cuts off the ring and unleashes hell on the ropes. In the past he has shown an utter contempt for smaller foes and those he feels cannot hurt him.
Canelo is a physically powerful man and will likely be the heavier of the two on the night, but Golovkin is the naturally bigger fighter, a true middleweight and he must assert himself, back up Canelo and wear him down.
The critics point to a 20 per cent dip (68.6 to 54.1) in his punch output in his last two fights as proof of his decline. Get that number back up to where it had been previously and his chances increase significantly.
DON’T LEAVE ANY DOUBT
Scoring in Vegas is like everything else in Sin City, it follows the money. Canelo is the A-side, the cash cow, effectively fighting at home with a partisan Mexican crowd in town to support him.
There’s nothing to say that Triple G cannot win a decision, but the aforementioned factors have to be worth a couple of rounds to Alvarez.
Canelo tends to do well on the cards and two of the judges – Adalaide Byrd and Dave Moretti – have both scored overwhelmingly in his favour in the past.
Promoters Top Rank recently tried to have Byrd thrown off one of their shows, while Moretti has turned in more than a few questionable cards.
Moretti had him winning 11 rounds to one against Miguel Cotto (7-5 or 8-4 was more realistic), and also ludicrously had him losing 116-112 to Floyd Mayweather in a fight where he wasn’t even close to winning a round.
Golovkin may need a stoppage. At the very least he can’t afford for it to be close.
FEINT AND MORE FEINTS
If Canelo has one obvious weakness then it is his heavy feet. That rules out a game plan based on lateral movement like the one Jacobs employed against Golovkin. The Mexican is far more likely to stay at mid-range, slip and ride shots and fire back with counters.
While his feet aren’t the best, Canelo still boasts a superb defence based on head and upper body movement. Crucial to all of this will be his use of feints to keep Golovkin off balance and make him reset, while also using them to pry open gaps and set traps for his own shots.
The feints will be particularly crucial when he inevitably finds his back against the ropes. Few are better at fighting off the ropes than Canelo and he will need all of his skill on Saturday night.
PUNCHES IN BUNCHES
Canelo is expected to start well but find himself under increased pressure as the rounds progress. If Golovkin fights true to form then he usually starts to turn the screw in the middle rounds. That’s not to say Canelo cannot pinch rounds, but to do that he needs to make sure he is doing the eye-catching work.
The 27-year-old has a clear advantage in hand speed and he must make it count by firing back with twos and threes. It will stoke up the crowd and certainly strengthen his case with the judges.
The Golovkin camp has openly talked about his ‘slappy combinations off the ropes’, meaning they are all too aware of how important they could be in influencing the scoring.
Stunning combination punching by Canelo https://t.co/gVZT6E94ey— SabotageBoxing (@SabotageBoxing) September 3, 2016
WORK THE BODY
When asked about Canelo’s chances last week, Mayweather replied: “He will win, maybe even knock him out, if he goes to the body.”
The artist formerly known as ‘Pretty Boy’ hasn’t been the only one to make this point and many feel Jacobs’ body work was the real reason for Golovkin’s somewhat subdued display back in March.
Triple G has shown time and again that he has arguably the best chin in boxing, but he has never really come under a sustained body attack. That is largely because going to body carries an inherent risk and few are brave enough to trade up close with the Kazakh.
However, no previous opponent has had Canelo’s skill-set and should he find a route to Triple G’s torso then it could pay off big time.