Timing is everything, and as searing as the heat was on Oscar De La Hoya for holding back the reins on Canelo Alvarez, the move now appears like it will pay off.
While Gennady Golovkin's aura of invincibility was dented in March during his narrow victory by unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs, Alvarez escalated his skills to unprecedented heights Saturday night while toying with former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
When they meet Sept. 16 at a venue yet to be chosen, the 26-year-old Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 knockouts) possesses the greater volume of edges necessary to topple 35-year-old three-belt middleweight champion Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs).
Start with youth.
While Golovkin struggled to maintain the energy of the bigger, younger Jacobs, he'll be dealing with an even fresher, more powerful fighter in Alvarez.
And Canelo's skills are clearly advancing, starting with defense, which allowed him to out-land the ineffective Chavez Jr. by a three-to-one punches-connected margin.
That ratio was so one-sided in the later rounds that Alvarez sought to back himself to the ropes and almost appear to dare himself to feel the heaviest punches by the heavier Chavez Jr., who hadn't fought as low as 164 pounds in five years when he fought Alvarez.
Yes, Golovkin knocked out 23 consecutive foes before the Jacobs decision, but he'll need to break through the shields of a fighter displaying fiercer attention to the discipline.
Chavez's size advantage was a non-issue because Alvarez has discovered powerful new weapons, starting with a jab that might not be as effective as Golovkin's, but still looked crisp and hurtful.
And while Alvarez's improved jab is something Golovkin has to reckon with, he'll also be forced to remain aware of Alvarez's powerful uppercut, which rocked Chavez Jr.'s head back on multiple occasions.
Then, there are the intangibles of home-crowd advantage, which has been known to influence judging, and Alvarez's own spiraling-upward confidence.
While his own promoter worked to delay this meeting for a year, becoming another voice doubting that Alvarez was prepared for the destructive Golovkin, Canelo is the fighter who wanted Floyd Mayweather Jr. at age 23.
And although he lost that challenge badly, Golovkin lacks the Mayweather foot speed. He'll be there to engage with Alvarez, and since the youth and power belong to Mexico's most popular fighter, he's the pick in this corner by 11th-round knockout.
— Lance Pugmire
There are valid reasons to think Canelo Alvarez can beat Gennady Golovkin in their Sept. 16 showdown.
Alvarez is younger. His hands are faster. He's a better combination puncher. He throws a greater variety of punches. His defense is better.
I'm not sure that will be enough to win him the fight.
Golovkin has an edge in power, but that isn't the most significant advantage he will take into this fight. That would be his superior jab.
While Alvarez and Golovkin are best known for their vicious power punches, their jabs are what could determine the outcome.
Because the fighter who wins this fight will be the fighter who controls the distance between them.
Golovkin is at his best when he can have full extension on his punches. Alvarez throws shorter punches, which allows him to generate power in closer quarters. Alvarez's optimal range is about a half-step closer than Golovkin's.
That half-step will be the difference.
Golovkin's jab has the force of a power punch. It's straight and sets up his devastating overhand right and right uppercut.
Alvarez showed a similar ability to move in behind his jab in his most recent fight, a one-sided whipping of completely overmatched Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Alvarez hadn't shown that jab much in the past and it's hard to tell how that punch will play against someone who isn't a human piñata.
Even if Golvokin outjabs him, Alvarez should have his moments. Golovkin's tendency to cover up instead of retreat or slip punches should offer Alvarez opportunities to unload occasional combinations. The crowd is expected to be pro-Alvarez and the judges could credit the Mexican fighter for landing punches that are blocked by Golovkin's arms.
However this unfolds, this fight almost certainly won't be a stinker. Alvarez's and Golovkin's worst moments have come against swift-moving opponents who exploited their lack of footspeed. They won't have to worry about that in this fight.
It should be a close fight. I see it unfolding something like this: Golovkin controlling the early action with his jab, Alvarez winning some of the middle rounds with his combination punching, and Golovkin taking advantage of his elite endurance to claim the championship rounds. My early pick: Golovkin by decision.
— Dylan Hernandez