LAS VEGAS — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was the picture of calm and quiet confidence at the MGM Grand Wednesday afternoon. You wouldn’t have known his boxing legacy is on the line Saturday night when he faces Gennady “Triple-G” Golovkin in a rematch for the middleweight championship.
Alvarez, 28, is one of the most successful boxers to come out of Mexico, having turned pro when he was 15. He has had 13 world title fights and won championships at 154 and 160 pounds. His record of 49-1-2 with 34 knockouts includes victories over Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Erislandry Lara, Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan, all world champions. His only loss was to Floyd Mayweather in September 2013.
But his Hall of Fame-bound career has hit a few speed bumps recently that can only be excused with a good showing against Golovkin in the HBO pay-per-view ($74.95) bout at T-Mobile Arena. First there was grumbling over Alvarez’s performance in the first fight held a year ago that ended in an unsatisfying draw. Some thought Alvarez shied away from a physical brawl with Golovkin that betrayed the warrior reputation that Mexican fighters and fans embrace. Then a scheduled rematch in May was canceled when Alvarez failed two voluntary Anti-Doping Association drug tests for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol.
Alvarez was ultimately suspended for six months by the Nevada Athletic Commission. It was the first positive test of his career, a setback he blamed on the consumption of tainted steak in his home country of Mexico.
He has been tested repeatedly in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s fight and insists, “I’ve turned the page,” on his positive test and suspension. But the only true validation comes with an epic performance against Golovkin, the reigning WBA, IBO and WBC champion. Should Alvarez be dominated or knocked out, it would raise suspicion about not only previous PED use but also where he truly ranks among this era’s great fighters.
“This fight means a lot to me because of all that has happened and all that has been said,” Alvarez said. “I will prove with my fists that I am the best and Golovkin will eat all of his words and speculation.”
The Golovkin camp has been relentless in chastising Alvarez for the failed test and postponement of the rematch. It has caused a river of bad blood. The two fighters didn’t engage in the traditional faceoff after Wednesday’s press conference at the MGM Grand. They likely won’t look into each other’s eyes until the opening bell for a sellout crowd Saturday night.
“I want to punish him,” said Golovkin, 38-0-1 with 34 knockouts. “I want to punish him for all the bad things that he and his team have done.”
The fight last fall ended in a swirl of controversy after judge Dave Moretti scored it 115-113 for Golovkin; while Don Trella saw it a 114-114 and Adelaide Byrd favored Alvarez 118-110. Byrd’s one-sided card ruined what was a competitive bout. All three judges agreed Alvarez won the first two rounds and the last three.
“For the most part, we did a good job in the first fight,” said Alvarez, who still insists he won at least seven rounds. “The error I made was there were some spots in the first fight where he was vulnerable and I didn’t take advantage. I’ve got to make sure when he’s vulnerable I take advantage of that.”
Golovkin is from Kazakhstan, but markets himself as a Mexican-style boxer, who fights with heart, courage and a hunger for the knockout. His has tweaked Alvarez by saying many of his former fans are now “GGG” fans. Alvarez isn’t buying it.
“People can support who they want,” he said, “but the authentic Mexican will be supporting the Mexican.”
Alvarez must prove his career has been authentic. The best way to do that is with a victory over Golovkin.