What happened in Canelo vs. GGG 1 & 2, and why were both fights controversial?
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin will meet in an epic trilogy clash on September 17.
“I feel very happy and proud to be able to give the best fights and this fight won’t be an exception,” said Canelo.
GGG has never been anything other than victorious when facing a fighter who isn’t called Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The two middleweight rivals shared 24 thrilling rounds in 2017 and 2018, with Canelo (57-1-2) prevailing via majority decision in the rematch after their initial bout was scored a draw.
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Canelo, however, recently suffered a surprise light-heavyweight loss to WBA champion Dimitry Bivol on points, and will now be keen to bounce back with a win.
It would add another chapter to a generation-defining feud, but why are there still scores to settle and why does bad blood linger?
What happened in Canelo vs. GGG I?
Golovkin and Canelo had been in one another’s orbit for some time before they finally signed to fight in September 2017.
It was GGG’s 19th consecutive middleweight title defence and the pair’s styles gelled quickly, producing numerous compelling exchanges over the course of a high-action, high-quality bout.
Golovkin sensationally walked through a bulldozing overhand right from Canelo in round nine, but that felt like a fleeting moment of success for the Mexican in the middle stanzas, as GGG appeared to be banking rounds for a narrow but decisive advantage come the final bell.
The scorecards told a different story, however. Dave Moretti scored the bout 115-113 in Golovkin’s favour and Don Trella had it a 114-114 draw.
Cases could be made for both those cards, but Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 in favour of Canelo was patently absurd – awarding the Guadalajara native 10 of the 12 rounds, even though, according to CompuBox, he only outlanded his opponent in two.
Why was the rematch delayed and did Canelo fail a drugs test?
Such a disputed ending and the fact both men believed they won the fight meant a rematch had to be made, and Cinco de Mayo weekend was slated for the showdown.
But in March 2018, it was announced Canelo had tested positive for trace levels of the banned substance clenbuterol on February 17 and February 20. The fighter blamed the results on eating contaminated meat and Daniel Eichner, director of World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab SMRTL told The Ring: “These values are all within the range of what is expected from meat contamination.”
Nevertheless, the Nevada State Athletic Commission hit Canelo with a six-month ban backdated to February, and Golovkin offered a scathing assessment.
“Again with Mexican meat? Come on,” the Kazakh said. “I told you, it’s not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. Canelo is cheating. They’re using these drugs and everybody is just trying to pretend it’s not happening.
“You should take a look at the photos and ask a doctor. Ask any doctor. Let him explain what those [muscles] are. It’s better even to use the lie detector. Then there wouldn’t be any silly questions about meat or fruits or chocolate.”
What happened in Canelo vs. GGG II?
It meant the relatively cordial feel around the first fight was obliterated – much like Vanes Martirosyan, who Golovkin made short work of in a two-round blowout on the May date that had been reserved for himself and Canelo.
The ban was up in August and the pair reconvened at the same T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, 364 days on from their initial meeting.
The added acrimony did not take away from another exceptional boxing exhibition from both men, who again appeared made to fight one another.
You could make a case for either winning, with GGG outlanding by 234-202 overall, but Canelo finding the target with 143 power punches to 116, and displaying far more work to the body than his rival.
The cards read 115-113, 115-113 and 114-114 in favour of Canelo – the new unified middleweight champion via majority decision.
Would Canelo or GGG be favourite in a third fight?
Golovkin could certainly feel aggrieved again, but there was no nonsense akin to Byrd’s efforts the second time around. If there was a gap between the fighters in the initial contest, Canelo had closed it right up.
The concern where GGG is concerned is that Canelo has continued to motor on since, while the 39-year-old has stood still and perhaps regressed a little.
There was little to read into wins over Steve Rolls and Kamil Szeremeta either side of a thrilling middleweight title clash with Sergiy Derevyanchenko, where Golovkin was pushed very close at Madison Square Garden.
A ninth-round win against Ryota Murata in April means Golovkin has had four fights in the four years since the second Canelo fight, with the pandemic playing a part in spells of inactivity.
On the other hand, if you’re the most bankable name in the sport with an ambition to rack up world titles in multiple weight classes, fights tend to get made.
Canelo won seven in succession in between dethroning Golovkin and losing to Bivol and remains widely considered to be one of the very best pound-for-pound operators.
He has already claimed a light-heavyweight title against Bivol’s compatriot Sergey Kovalev and beat undefeated champions Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant to become undisputed king at super-middleweight.
A third fight with Golovkin will take place at that 168lbs limit, with all four major belts on the line. GGG flirted with such a move earlier in his career when the prospect of fighting Carl Froch was discussed, but he has never struggled to make the middleweight limit.
A fearsome puncher being able to carry a few more pounds might be advantageous but it is hard to escape the sense that Golovkin’s best chances of decisively beating Canelo have already passed him by.