Before their first fight last September, Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez personified sportsmanship. Praising each other’s accomplishments became an overriding theme hyping the highly anticipated bout.
True, there was the occasional snipe from Golovkin’s camp about Alvarez prolonging the decision to face the Kazakhstan native, who had already built a lengthy run as middleweight champion but lacked the marquee rival that enhanced his profile. Alvarez, viewed as Mexico’s current fighter linked to the country’s legendary champions, fit the mold with his strong pay-per-view pedigree.
The angle of Alvarez ducking Golovkin notwithstanding, both fighters never lowered the hype to gutter levels displayed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor preceding the other notable pay-per-view match last year.
However, the tone has completely changed leading to the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch Sept. 15 in Las Vegas.
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Instead of pleasantries, Golovkin and Alvarez trade accusations and insults. The proverbial gloves are off.
“There was nothing special about him in the first fight,” Golovkin said. “He did not fight Mexican-style like he promised. Over the last 12 months, Canelo has showed his true self.”
Two obvious factors contributed to the fighters’ radical verbal shifts.
The first bout, also in Las Vegas, ended in a disputed split draw.
Golovkin retained his multiple middleweight belts with the draw, but the majority of fans and experts believed Golovkin was the busier and more aggressive fighter and deserved victory.
Adding to the outrage felt by many was judge Adalaide Byrd’s scorecard. Byrd somehow scored 10 of the 12 rounds for Alvarez.
Even Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, questioned Byrd’s verdict.
“Of course, it was terrible for the sport of boxing because statistics showed I landed more punches,” Golovkin sad. “The fans saw I wanted to fight, and Canelo did not want to fight.”
After a brief a lull in negotiations for a second bout, Golovkin and Alvarez agreed to fight on May 5. But the fight was canceled after Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) twice tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and served a six-month suspension. Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) saved the fight date and found a late replacement, knocking out Vanes Martirosyan for his 20th successful middleweight title defense.
With Alvarez’s suspension lifted, the fighters again signed on for the rematch.
“This fight is personal because of all that’s been said and it will be difficult to regain the respect that we once had,” Alvarez said. “The statements that have been made about me have given me more motivation to train harder.”
Golovkin stepped up the verbal attacks toward Alvarez following the cancellation.
“Canelo he is not a champion, he is a liar who has no respect for the sport,” Golovkin said. “Was I upset that Canelo failed two drug tests? Yes. But I was more upset at Canelo’s team. The excuses they gave, their attitude and Canelo’s reaction. It showed they have no respect for the sport or the fans. They showed their real faces. They are fakes.”
Alvarez counters that Golovkin, 36, and his camp should be fortunate that they finally found an opponent who increased the relevance of Golovkin’s bouts. The fallout from Alvarez’s suspension also enabled Golovkin to sweeten his purse for the rematch.
“I know they are bothered, but I don’t know why since it is I who has made them so much [money],” Alvarez said. “They say they don’t worry about that. They say they don’t fight about that but that’s the first thing they fight about — the money, the purse. It’s hypocritical for them to say otherwise.
“I think they’ve gone too far. They’ve gone beyond just trying to sell the fight with their statements. I don’t like talking or instigating with the fighter or even trying to make a show to sell the fight.”
Despite all the venom expressed as the rematch nears, Alvarez briefly reverted to the demeanor displayed before the first fight.
“People know that when we get into the ring, we’re going to give a great fight,” Alvarez said.
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