Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is in an interesting spot in his career. He’s in his prime at the age of 32 and is one of the most technically interesting fighters in boxing today. He tried to capture the light-heavyweight world title only to be upset by Dmitry Bivol, who turned out to have the perfect game plan against Canelo’s style. Having taken the second loss in his career, he set out to prove that he’s still the king of middleweight not by fighting the other top contenders of the division, but by completing a trilogy with a 40-year-old Gennady Golovkin. I can’t promise much with this analysis of Canelo vs. GGG 3, but it’s a nice conclusion to what had been an exciting trilogy.
As Canelo Alvarez, Jermell Charlo, and David Benavidez continue to avoid each other while Jaime Munguia eventually joins them in the upper echelons of middleweight, we could have another Four Kings era if only the matchmaking and promotion in boxing weren’t as dismal as it is now. Promoters are more interested in making YouTubers box, which I think does devalue the sport as it makes the hardest combat sport look trivial and easy, even if the internet celebrities who give it a shot do look like hapless children wearing clown shoes in the ring.
Perhaps the one tragedy in all of this is that GGG was born too early. Canelo, Charlo, Benavidez, and Golovkin sound like the perfect middleweight quartet in this day and age, but GGG has long been over the hill at this point. It’s not to say that GGG is no longer good since he’s still one of the hardest hitting boxers in the last decade or so, but he’s certainly nowhere near his peak in the early to mid 2010s, back when he was the most avoided boxer on the planet. Nowadays, Terence Crawford holds that distinction.
It’s nice that DAZN actually uploaded the whole Canelo vs. GGG 3 fight on YouTube. All 36 rounds of this trilogy are a must-watch for boxing fans.
Previously, in Canelo vs. GGG 1 & 2
First, let’s briefly review what happened in the first two fights.
In the first fight, Canelo fought with his back to the ropes, looking to counter. He did alright, but didn’t look that good as he ate a few of GGG’s shots, including one that he shook his head at. In the second fight, Canelo didn’t have his back to the ropes; he went to the middle of the ring and faced GGG head on. That change in strategy is what gave him the nod in the rematch.
What made the difference for Canelo was his level of aggression. He fought more defensively in the first fight, which made GGG the more aggressive fighter that night. The Kazakh arguably won that first fight, even though it was officially ruled a draw.
As shown here in this review of the first fight, Golovkin took initiative with his jab to bait Canelo to counter, which he could then counter. You know you’re seeing high-level boxing if you’re seeing counters to counters. For most of the fight, Canelo had to keep adjusting to what was being thrown his way.
By waiting for GGG to give him something, he was giving the older fighter more chances to mix things up and hit him more. While Canelo certainly had better reactions as the younger man, it was like he was underestimating his opponent by thinking that he could react to whatever GGG threw at him, and it turned out that GGG wasn’t as slow as he may have thought.
Canelo knew what he did wrong, so he made one major adjustment in the second fight, which was to not fight with his back to the ropes. He made sure to meet GGG at the center of the ring and fight from there. That meant GGG couldn’t always take the initiative and Canelo could find more opportunities to both attack and counterattack instead of just waiting.
Perhaps you can say that Canelo had to do the same thing as he did in the first fight, having to react to whatever GGG threw at him. But this time, by meeting GGG’s pressure with his own, he actually limited GGG’s options and made him have to react to his pressure as well. He found the best possible way to counter GGG’s game, which was to not only counter him.
What Happened in Canelo vs. GGG 3?
Here in the third fight, Canelo did much of the same with the second fight, but with one major difference. I immediately noticed that Canelo was leaning in as he met GGG at the center of the ring. As I mentioned in this blog post, he tends to lean back while marching forward to apply his slow pressure, much like a nak muay.
A good way to know if he’s doing that is to look at his lead foot. If it’s stretched out forward while still being light on it, not having most of his weight on it, then he’s doing just that. He’d be looking to pump out jabs to prod and look for openings while pressuring his opponent.
But in this fight, I almost immediately noticed that he’s leaning in, with most of his weight on the front foot in the first round. Canelo missed a good number of counters during the second fight because he still prioritized safety. But this time, he committed himself right from the start.
As explained by Hidden Gem here, the lean-in is his way of dealing with GGG’s best weapon — his stiff jab. He looked to bait GGG’s jab to slip and counter it or move to a better angle. I talked about baiting in this blog post about the three levels of combat — forcing and baiting are above reacting and predicting.
Canelo can do that because he had already fought 24 rounds against GGG, so all he had to do was pick up from where he left off. By addressing GGG’s signature stiff jab, he can gradually dismantle his opponent’s whole arsenal throughout the fight. Canelo vs. GGG 3 had been about showing who learned the most in the previous two fights, and Canelo proved to be the more studious of the two.
You can get a sense that while he was still putting up a good fight, GGG knew that there was little to no chance of beating Canelo, especially late in the fight. At that point, it became obvious who was better, even though they seemed pretty even for most. You could even say that it got boring as the fight went on because it wasn’t a slugfest; it was a chess match.
NOTE: I included Hidden Gem’s reviews of the first two fights to match his review of the third fight. Also, I think Hidden Gem is one of the only few YouTube boxing analysts out there who doesn’t have his head far up his ass.
What’s Next for Canelo and GGG?
While you can say that GGG is too old now for this high level, he still held his ground against Canelo at his physical prime. This GGG could still blow the contenders below him, Canelo, Charlo, and Benavidez out of the water. Maybe he can then test Munguia and see what happens, but I’m not sure if that fight can ever happen.
As for Canelo, since he hit a hard wall at light-heavyweight, he could either rematch Dmitry Bivol to avenge his other loss since there’s no way he could rematch Floyd Mayweather, or he could actually attend to unfinished business by finally facing Charlo or Benavidez.
You can completely forget him fighting WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu like it was teased last year since he couldn’t even beat the light-heavyweight champion. All he’s going to do is make another lesser-known world champion famous.
Or he could do the seemingly unthinkable and fulfill my fantasy matchup by facing Artur Beterbiev, who is one of my boys. Then again, that’s like saying we should just forget the Bivol fight anyway and count that as the real fight, which is also pretty dumb.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.
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