Mayweather and McGregor Are Better Promoters, but GGG and Canelo Are Selling a Superior Fight
Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez are all set for the fight of the year on 16 September. The problem is, their superbout could be affected by a Mayweather vs. McGregor hangover.
Fotos de Hogan Photos/Golden Boy
For Gennady "GGG" Golovkin and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, boxing's two best middleweights, the comforts of their respective training camps were tantalisingly close when they awoke in Los Angeles on Thursday morning. With their looming 16 September title bout in Las Vegas – which many consider an early favourite for "Fight of the Century" – Mexico's Canelo will likely stay to train in Southern California while Kazakhstan's Golovkin will seclude himself in the mountains surrounding beautiful Bear Lake.
The sport's biggest stars could each drive a few hours, return to their element, and focus on the fight that will ultimately define both of their careers.
Instead, the unified champion Golovkin (37-0, 33 knockouts) and challenger Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) were in their fourth different media hub in as many days, combed, coiffed, and packed into their tight-fitting suits for the final day of a media tour that started in London.
Both concede that promoting a fight is part of the business, although they can be forgiven for being fatigued. Starting with Monday's press conference in London, either one or both of the fighters took part in around 30 media opportunities, ranging from a gauntlet of interviews at ESPN's campus in Bristol, Connecticut, that included four separate Sportscenter appearances, to a bout of Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots at The Wall Street Journal's offices in midtown Manhattan. And when they weren't in front of the cameras, boxing-legend-turned-promoter Oscar De La Hoya stepped in on CBS' "Good Morning America" to do his part.
Were the promotions simply aimed at capturing fight fans' attention and pay-per-view cash, the media campaign could be limited to a single tweet. Boxing aficionados have been coveting this fight since Canelo won a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto in 2015, and its announcement following Alvarez's recent win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. sent the sport into hysterics.
But when it comes to reaching the mainstream, Golovkin vs. Alvarez has some undeniable obstacles.
First and foremost, their fight occurs three weeks after the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor spectacle, which has the potential to siphon away casual fans who might otherwise pay for Golovkin vs. Alvarez.
Given Mayweather's and McGregor's reputations as promoters, their fight will likely draw more attention. And while there's an argument to made for embracing a boxing match between an undefeated legend and someone making his professional debut, Golovkin and Canelo have been quick to dismiss it.
"If you want to watch a true fight, classic fight, it's 16 September," Golovkin said to a small gathering of reporters prior to Tuesday's press conference at Madison Square Garden. He would go on to refer to Mayweather vs. McGregor as a "clown show."
When asked if he'll make time to see the fight in August, Golovkin, whose English is improving, playfully looked at his personalised Hublot watch and said: "Maybe, if I have enough time." Perhaps because the watchmaker is one of his sponsors, Golovkin repeated this line on a few occasions, each time glancing down at the thick timepiece encasing his wrist.
Even when he's engaged in guerrilla marketing, the former Olympic silver medalist seems genuinely comfortable. Golovkin's soft facial features agree with his gentle demeanour, and while his pocket square could seem like a desperate affectation for others, his seems natural and nothing like that of Thurston Howell III.
Alvarez, while also meticulously styled, is much more rigid. Underneath his trademark red hair, the bearded, square-jawed 26-year-old matches his severe demeanour with deliberate, pointed statements.
Interestingly enough, Canelo answers his questions through an interpreter, but he does not need any translation when he's listening to English reporters. Outside of a few muddled queries, Alvarez didn't hesitate to respond to any question at MSG on Tuesday.
"I don't compete with the show," Canelo said, referring to Mayweather vs. McGregor. "I think people know if they want to see a show, they'll see that fight. But if they want to see a real, competitive fight – a real fight – they'll buy our fight."
Alvarez was also asked if he'd like another chance at Mayweather, having lost their only bout when the former was just 23 and fighting at 154 pounds – seven pounds below his natural fighting weight.
"There's a saying," Alvarez said. "'First thing's first.' But yeah, sure, why not? It's in the back of my mind, that fight. I would love to erase that [defeat]."
On Tuesday, there wasn't much interaction between Alvarez and Golovkin, which isn't a surprise seeing as they're going to be fighting each other in a few months. There were a few smiles exchanged while the two fought to a draw at Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots, but for the most part, each fighter hung back with their entourage of publicists, trainers, and relatives.
For Golovkin, 35, this is business as usual. He never engages in a war of words with opponents. Even now, after nearly being upset by Daniel Jacobs before pulling out a unanimous-decision win at MSG last March, Golovkin sounds as confident as ever.
Canelo's answers, on the other hand, were more biting. Over the last two years, the perception among many fight fans was that he was avoiding Golovkin because he simply wasn't ready for the challenge.
So while both were complimentary towards each other throughout the media tour, Alvarez didn't hesitate to sneak in a few digs.
"I saw nothing really new of Golovkin," Canelo said of the Golovkin vs. Jacobs bout. "He's pretty much one dimensional. He's a fighter that's very aggressive, that comes forward. I did see that when you have a fighter that is a little bit intelligent and moves and boxes, he's gonna give Golovkin trouble. I think Jacobs gave him too much respect the first few rounds and if he would have started a little sooner, not respecting him as much, he would have won a clear decision. Even though that happened, I still think that Jacobs won by one or two points."
Even the promoters had a similar dynamic.
Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, which represents Golovkin, says "there's no animosity" and the fighters share "mutual respect."
Golden Boy's De La Hoya, meanwhile, says Alvarez, his client, and Golovkin are at odds.
"Canelo and Golovkin, they just don't like each other," De La Hoya said. "I'm not saying there's hate, but they want to fight each other. There's blood there that is boiling. The fact that you have the two top middleweights in the world, with power, calls for a great fight and you never know what's gonna happen after that."
The primarily Mexican-American crowd at Tuesday's press conference was vociferously in favour of Canelo, a Guadalajara native and national hero in Mexico. But as Golovkin emphasised during Thursday's appearance on Univision, he's embraced Mexico's culture and its people, who make up a sizeable portion of boxing's audience.
Golovkin is quick to remind reporters that like Alvarez, he is also a Mexican-style fighter, which is a tactic he credits to trainer Abel Sanchez.
This means that, like Alvarez, Golovkin never retreats, remains on the offensive, and is willing to take a punch if it means putting himself in position to deliver a bigger one.
"It's a lot of action, drama," Golovkin said. "It's not dancing." And therein lies this fight's best selling point.
Unlike the era of Mayweather, when defensive fighters survived to earn the most paychecks, KOs are back in vogue; both Alvarez and Golovkin are predicting a knockout on 16 September. And even if they struggle to match Mayweather and McGregor as promoters, they are boxing's biggest, most exciting stars, and it's up to the casual fan to separate hype from reality.