The attention to detail that has defined the careers of Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin was seen again Friday when each weighed in precisely at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds.
Now for the matter of their defining bout.
Boxing fans’ most anticipated fight since Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao in 2015 is expected to fulfill the great expectations of purists who’ve longed to see how the former two-division champion Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 knockouts) will confront the power-punching strategies of Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs).
The informed thinking regarding the championship bout is that each man will bring out the best in each other. Whether that triggers a sudden stoppage that would mark the first knockdown of either fighter’s pro career, or produces a classic decided by judges Dave Moretti, Adalaide Byrd and Don Trella, is to be determined.
“Golovkin can box. He hasn’t had to show it,” Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez said in a nod to the Kazakhstan fighter’s 23-fight knockout streak that ended in March in a unanimous-decision victory over Daniel Jacobs.
“My guy had 350 amateur fights. I look at him as a head of lettuce. There are so many layers to him that we haven’t seen. Maybe in this fight we see some of those.”
The 27-year-old Alvarez, after being kept away from Golovkin for nearly two years by his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, has showed a developed uppercut and left to the body capable of shaking the unified middleweight champ .
“I’m going to show him who Canelo really is,” Alvarez said after stepping off the scale and facing off with the 35-year-old Golovkin on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Alvarez said despite Golovkin criticizing him in the past for saying “too many words,” he’s never believed he wasn’t ready to take on the challenge.
“They can say all they want,” Alvarez said from the MGM Grand weigh-in stage to more than 9,000 mostly supportive fans. “We’re a day away. And tomorrow, all those words are going out the window.”
Alvarez has claimed he’s dreamed repeatedly during training camp of knocking out Golovkin, who is seeking his 19th consecutive middleweight title victory in a clash likened to throwback middleweight classics like Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns and Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard..
"See you tomorrow,” Golovkin roared on stage when told about Alvarez’s knockout visions. “I’m still champion for long time.”
Alvarez has lost to only Floyd Mayweather Jr., four years ago. With Mayweather retired, this is his opportunity to seize upon what he says will become “the Canelo era.”
“I was too young” against Mayweather, he said, “and obviously it showed. What won was [Mayweather’s] experience. But I learned a lot from that fight so I don’t take it today as a defeat, I take it as an experience.”
With an improved jab and a distinct foot- and hand-speed advantage over Golovkin — which Jacobs also possessed in his narrow loss — Alvarez is hopeful of avoiding the devastation of Golovkin’s power punches.
“He has a very aggressive style. He comes to search and destroy, in search of a knockout,” Alvarez said. “You know me. I don’t back down. I am a counter puncher. I like to fight and I think it is a no-miss because of the styles. It has all the ingredients to be one of the best fights ever.”
Alvarez has additional freedom to answer Golovkin’s aggression with his own. De La Hoya added a rematch clause into the fight contract for Alvarez. If he loses after gaining a $5 million guaranteed purse plus pay-per-view upside, he gets a second crack. Golovkin is earning his record-high guaranteed purse of $3 million.
“I think the rematch and the contract and the money are secondary to both of them,” Sanchez said. “The fact this is the defining fight for their careers, more so for Golovkin — because he hasn’t got the recognition — emboldens him more. They want to do well because of that.”
With Alvarez drawing an expected crowd of 40 million television viewers in Mexico, Golovkin finally found a big-name opponent to fight him after past champions Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. avoided him.
“The biggest day is coming; a lot of money is coming,” Golovkin said earlier this week. “My truest fight … I am a boxer and I like [to] fight. I am excited.”
There is substantial public support for Alvarez. He is a minus-130 (less than 2/1) underdog, and the multiple potential outcomes have been debated all week.
“No one has any idea what’s going to happen,” HBO Executive Vice President Peter Nelson said.
Golovkin said he wouldn’t be surprised if the bout avoids the Hagler-Hearns route and opens with close rounds, as each man works to “look at strategy.”
“I am ready for everybody. He’ll bring maybe new ideas for this fight, interesting for me,” Golovkin said. “He is like first class. It’s not an easy fight for him — or for me.”
Alvarez was in good spirits at the weigh-in, then later joined family and friends at an MGM Grand steakhouse, munching on medium-rare filet mignon, chicken and pasta. Servers surprised him with a large cake decorated in the colors of Mexico’s flag.
He bypassed a bite of the dessert, perhaps with a bigger party still to come Saturday night.
“I’m going to win tomorrow night,” Alvarez said, exiting the building. “God willing.”
Main Event: Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) vs. Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs); Golovkin defending his World Boxing Assn., World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation middleweight belts
When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Television: HBO pay-per-view, $79.95
Undercard: JosephDiaz Jr. (24-0, 13 KOs), South El Monte, vs. Rafael Rivera (25-0-2, 16 KOs), Tijuana, featherweights; Randy Caballero (24-0, 14 KOs), Coachella, vs. Diego De La Hoya (19-0, nine KOs), Mexico, super-bantamweights; Ryan Martin (19-0, 11 KOs), Chattanooga, Tenn., vs. Francisco Rojo (20-2, 12 KOs), Mexico, lightweights