When Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez step into the ring on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, observers will be expecting two fighters to provide the kind of head-rattling finish fans crave.
However, boxing’s most dramatic moments can be the ones that involve the gravest physical damage. The absence of national regulation and monitoring of the unforgiving toll exacted on the human brain is a moral conundrum the sport continues to wrestle with.
“It’s one of the reasons boxing is such a guilty pleasure,” said Lou DiBella, a veteran New York fight promoter and former HBO executive. “Our greatest warriors are the guys you can most identify with having damage.”
Maricela Cornejo’s second chance for a boxing world title were vanquished Thursday by Franchon Crews-Dezurn.
Crews-Dezurn, 31, relied on her power advantage to defeat Los Angeles’ Cornejo by scores of 95-95 (Patricia Morse-Jarman), 99-91 (Dave Moretti), 99-91 (Tim Tschida) to claim the vacant World Boxing Council super-middleweight title at Hard Rock Hotel.
“I knew her will and determination wasn’t as great as mine,” Baltimore’s Crews-Dezurn (4-1) said. “I’m very grateful.”
What Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin couldn’t bring themselves to do at the conclusion of their own news conference became the most entertaining moment of Thursday’s undercard session.
Middleweights Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan of Ireland and former world champion David Lemieux of Canada fulfilled the routine pre-fight duty of a face-off, intensifying the anticipation for a bout that will position the winner for a title shot at the Golovkin-Alvarez survivor.
“I can’t understand why they can’t do it,” O’Sullivan (28-2, 20 knockouts) said. “The fear in him, the weakness … I could really feel that in him when I walked toward him and faced off. I could sense the fear. I felt like I’m the stronger man. He has it in his head he’s the stronger puncher, but I’m going to [mess] him right up.”
Once, it was enough for Gennady Golovkin to ride the wave of a knockout streak that reached 23 consecutive fights, smile widely afterward and mutter his patented “Big Drama Show” catchphrase.
Golovkin had a consistent formula — train hellishly in Big Bear, let his fists do the talking, allow his handlers to best explain his dominance and veer from controversy.
But Golovkin, 36, was always observing intently, and as his rise led him to a showdown last year with the more popular Canelo Alvarez, the champion noticed a shift from the way it had worked during his earlier dominance.
Bernard Hopkins constructed a Hall of Fame career by winning 20 consecutive middleweight title fights between 1995 and 2005, but seeing that record threatened by Gennady Golovkin on Saturday has Hopkins downplaying the significance of Golovkin’s feat.
Although Golovkin still needs to defeat Canelo Alvarez on Saturday to set the standard of 21, Hopkins sought Wednesday to point out the flaws in Golovkin’s achievement.
“Don’t ever mention Marvin Hagler and ‘Triple-G’ in the same sentence. It’s disrespectful to Marvin Hagler,” Hopkins told reporters in referring to the former middleweight champion who reigned from 1980 until a 1987 split-decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard that sent him to retirement. “Don’t ever touch that. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
Canelo Alvarez’s Saturday night bout on HBO pay-per-view is the final fight on his current deal with the premium network, and promoter Oscar De La Hoya indicated the sport’s most powerful draw could leave for a new suitor.
“It makes me wonder if HBO even wants to be in boxing,” De La Hoya told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 knockouts) will seek the two middleweight belts belonging to unbeaten champion Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena on HBO ($84.95), and De La Hoya said, “I do want to fight him in December.”