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The long winding road to Canelo-GGG 3

One of the most heated rivalries in boxing history will finally reach its conclusion Saturday when Canelo Alvarez defends the undisputed super middleweight championship against Gennadiy Golovkin at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (DAZN PPV, 8 p.m. ET).

The third fight between Canelo and GGG comes four years after their rematch, which Alvarez narrowly won via majority decision. What started out as a respectful meeting between two of the sport’s top boxers — and biggest stars — became altogether personal following the controversy of the first battle, which ended in a disputed split draw.

A positive PED test for Alvarez in March 2018 that postponed the rematch cast more bad blood into the mix, and suddenly, the fighters began to loathe one another. After their second meeting, numerous attempts to finalize a hotly anticipated trilogy fight stalled until now, five years — and eight pounds — after they squared off for the first time.

Now, they find themselves in vastly different places. Golovkin was a longtime middleweight champion when he entered the ring in September 2017 and was even the betting favorite. Now, he is the underdog, five months beyond his 40th birthday. It may be the final fight of the Kazakh’s Hall of Fame career.

Alvarez, meanwhile, heads into the third meeting on the heels of an upset loss to Dmitry Bivol at light heavyweight, yet still in his prime. Standing at the height of his powers, Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) is one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, and 168 pounds appears to be the 32-year-old Mexican’s most comfortable weight.

“It’s personal for me because he talks [about] a lot of things,” Alvarez said of this third fight against Golovkin. “I just can’t wait to be in the ring.”

Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) is being counted out by some, but he has proved through 24 rounds that he knows how to fight Alvarez. And besides, the vitriol could help even out what age has taken away.

Finally, we’re here, days away from a third fight many fans thought would never materialize. Alvarez vs. Golovkin, one last time, with all four super middleweight titles at stake. How did Canelo and GGG finally arrive at the conclusion of their bitter feud?

Here’s how the fight was made.

Nov. 21, 2015: Alvarez, a former 154-pound champion, challenged middleweight champ Miguel Cotto, adding to the great legacy of fights between Mexico and Puerto Rico. With a unanimous-decision victory at a catchweight of 155 pounds, Alvarez claimed the WBC middleweight title, placing him on a collision course with Golovkin, who was tearing through the division with KO after KO.

One month earlier, Golovkin unified the WBA and IBF middleweight titles with an eighth-round TKO of David Lemieux.

May 7, 2016: Alvarez retained his title with a brutal KO of Amir Khan in his fifth consecutive fight at the 155-pound catchweight. Afterward, Golovkin entered the ring and Alvarez said, “Let’s fight now.”

May 6, 2017: Alvarez cruised to a shutout decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a mismatch. The bout was a 165-pound catchweight, Alvarez’s first above 155 pounds. Afterward, Golovkin met Alvarez in the ring and their highly anticipated showdown was formally announced.

“Golovkin, you are next, my friend,” Alvarez said. “The fight is done. I’ve never feared anyone since I was 15, fighting as a professional. When I was born, fear was gone.”

Sept. 16, 2017: Alvarez and Golovkin finally met in a long-awaited battle for middleweight supremacy. The bout lived up to the immense hype, a back-and-forth fight with plenty of power shots, though neither man was ever in serious trouble owing to their incredible chins. Alvarez attempted to counter Golovkin, who was the aggressor.

One judge scored the bout even at 114-114, another saw it for Golovkin 115-113, while Adelaide Byrd handed in a ludicrous 118-110 card in favor of Alvarez, setting off a firestorm of controversy that left GGG seething.

“[The scoring] is not my fault,” Golovkin said. “I put pressure on him every round. Look, I still have all the belts. I am still the champion.”


Gennadiy Golovkin does not agree with the split draw decision, saying that Canelo Alvarez won four rounds at most.

Said Alvarez: “I think I won eight rounds. I felt that I won the fight. I think I was superior in the ring. … I was able to counterpunch and made Gennadiy wobble at least three times. If we fight again, it’s up to the people. I feel frustrated over my draw.”

One of the richest fights in boxing history, Alvarez and Golovkin sold more than $27 million in tickets and north of 1.3 million pay-per-view buys.

Jan. 29, 2018: After a drawn-out negotiation, the rematch is formally announced for May 5.

“I am ready to battle Canelo again and am happy he took this fight again,” Golovkin said. “This is the fight the world wants. This is the fight boxing deserves. I didn’t agree with some of the judges’ decisions in the first fight. This time there will be no doubt. I am leaving the ring as the middleweight champion of the world.”

Said Alvarez: “I’m delighted to once again participate in one of the most important boxing events in history. This second fight is for the benefit and pleasure of all fans who desire to see the best fight the best. This time, Golovkin won’t have any excuses regarding the judges because I’m coming to knock him out.”


Canelo Alvarez owns up saying, “I don’t want to get anyone else involved. This was my mistake for not reading up on the risks.”

March 5, 2018: Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol, an adverse finding revealed by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. The two positive samples were collected Feb. 17 and Feb. 20. Alvarez blamed tainted meat consumed in his native Guadalajara. The alibi wasn’t without merit. NFL All-Pro tackle Duane Brown had a 10-game suspension for clenbuterol overturned in 2016 after he said the positive test came from beef consumed in Mexico.

March 8, 2018: Golovkin signed a six-fight deal with DAZN worth approximately $100 million, setting the stage for a third fight with Alvarez now that both fighters are tied to the same broadcast partner. Golovkin’s deal even included carve-out language with financial terms attached for the trilogy bout.

March 23, 2018: Alvarez was temporarily suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission following the positive test for clenbuterol. He was scheduled to appear at a hearing April 10, where the fate of his rematch with Golovkin would be decided.

April 3, 2018: One week before the hearing, Alvarez withdrew from the rematch with the knowledge that he wouldn’t be licensed. The second fight with Golovkin was officially postponed.

April 18, 2018: Alvarez was suspended six months by the Nevada commission, backdated to the first positive test Feb. 17, paving the way for a rescheduled rematch Sept. 15.


Learn about the history and usage of Clenbuterol in cattle and the effects it can have on professional athletes.

May 5, 2018: Golovkin stayed busy with a second-round KO of Vanes Martirosyan. GGG had been slated to fight future champion Jaime Munguia, but the Nevada commission refused to approve the Mexican prospect as an opponent.

June 6, 2018: Golovkin was stripped of his IBF title for failing to fight Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Negotiations for a fight with Alvarez on Sept. 15 were ongoing, but there was an obstacle. Alvarez was set to earn 65% to Golovkin’s 35%. However, following the positive test and subsequent cancellation, Golovkin insisted on a 50/50 split.

June 7, 2018: Golovkin said he now was willing to accept 45% to Alvarez’s 55%, bringing the sides closer to a deal.

June 13, 2018: Alvarez and Golovkin hammered out an agreement for a rematch Sept. 15, Mexican Independence Day Weekend.

Sept. 11, 2018: During fight week in Las Vegas, Golovkin questioned Alvarez’s explanation of tainted meat consumed in Mexico.

“I don’t believe it was beef,” Golovkin said. “Pharmaceutical experts have determined that it was doping and not contaminated meat. I think it’s nonsense and I don’t like it. You could not deny that there were injection marks on his hands and on his arms. I don’t know what it was but they were injection marks.”

Sept. 12, 2018: The day after, Alvarez fired back at Golovkin’s accusations.

“Those are the kicks and screams of someone who is drowning,” Alvarez said. “Those are the excuses they are making for what is coming this Saturday, which is a loss for them. Look, I’ve been monitored for most of my career, I’ve been monitored by VADA since 2011, and that’s why they have authorities. If I would’ve had something the authorities would’ve picked it up.”

Sept. 15, 2018: In an even more action-packed fight than the first encounter, Alvarez became the aggressor and met Golovkin toe-to-toe, prevailing by majority decision in another close fight.

The scores: 115-113, 115-113 and 114-114.

“I am a great fighter, and I showed it tonight,” Alvarez said. “If the people want another round, I’ll do it again.”

“I’m not going to say who won tonight, because the victory belongs to Canelo, according to the judges,” Golovkin said. “I thought it was a very good fight for the fans and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.”

“I’ll be honest with you, I moved on the next day. I haven’t thought about it much. I realized that those people who gave those scores, they were used. They were used like disposable tissues are being used. It was time to use them, they were used and disposed of.” Gennadiy Golovkin, via New York Post in 2022

Alvarez and Golovkin were both tied to HBO on exclusive contracts, which expired after the fight.

Oct. 17, 2018: Alvarez signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with streaming service DAZN. The first fight: a stay-busy bout against Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15 in Alvarez’s 168-pound debut.

Dec. 15, 2018: Alvarez scored a third-round TKO of Fielding in New York to kick off his deal with DAZN.

May 4, 2019: Alvarez scored a unanimous-decision victory over Daniel Jacobs in a return to 160 pounds. He retained his two middleweight titles and added a third belt. The scores: 115-113, 116-112 and 115-113.

June 8, 2019: Golovkin returned with a fourth-round KO of Canadian fringe contender Steve Rolls at a 164-pound catchweight in his DAZN debut.

Oct. 5, 2019: Golovkin met Derevyanchenko for the IBF middleweight title vacated by Alvarez and surprisingly struggled to a controversial unanimous-decision victory. Golovkin floored Derevyanchenko in the opening round, but afterward they traded heavy blows in a slugfest that was recognized as one of the best action fights of the year. The scores: 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113.

Derevyanchenko was a bona fide top-10 contender, but the competitiveness of the fight led many to believe Golovkin was past his prime.

“He won’t say it, but Gennadiy has been ill basically all week,” promoter Eddie Hearn said.

Nov. 2, 2019: In his light heavyweight debut, Alvarez captured a title in a third weight class with a vicious KO of Sergey Kovalev in Round 11.


Teddy Atlas breaks down Canelo Alvarez’s 11th-round TKO win vs. Sergey Kovalev and where Canelo ranks among the greatest Mexican fighters.

Sept. 11, 2020: Alvarez filed a lawsuit against his longtime promoter, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, and broadcast partner DAZN, alleging breach of contract. Alvarez’s relationship with De La Hoya had long soured.

When Golden Boy signed its partnership with DAZN, it promised in writing to finalize Canelo-GGG 3. Golovkin was on board, and part of the reason he signed with DAZN was to secure the trilogy. The issue: The language in Alvarez’s own deal with Golden Boy didn’t mesh with DAZN’s contract with the promoter regarding a third fight with Golovkin.

Alvarez showed little interest in fighting his bitter rival a third time, wishing, it seemed, to deny Golovkin both the financial windfall the event would bring and the chance at redemption. Canelo-GGG 3 suddenly seemed farther away than ever before.

Nov. 6, 2020: Alvarez secured his release from Golden Boy and DAZN after the lawsuit was settled.

Nov. 17, 2020: Canelo signed a one-fight deal with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing for a super middleweight title fight with Callum Smith, bringing Alvarez back to DAZN.

Dec. 18, 2020: GGG returns for the first defense of his new title reign with a seventh-round TKO of fringe contender Kamil Szeremeta.

Dec. 19, 2020: Canelo earned a near-shutout decision over Smith to capture a title in a fourth weight class. Alvarez insists that he’ll now be a network and promotional free agent so he can chase the biggest and best fights as a unified champion at super middleweight.

Feb. 27, 2021: In a stay-busy fight, part of a new two-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing, Alvarez scored a third-round TKO of fringe contender Avni Yildirim.

May 8, 2021: Canelo stopped Billy Joe Saunders in Round 8 after he shattered the Englishman’s orbital bone. The victory netted Alvarez a third 168-pound title, one short of his goal to become undisputed champion.

At the postfight news conference, middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade intervened, allowing Alvarez an opportunity to show off his personality.

“You are a champion but you fight with nobody,” he said. “Get the f— outta here. Please, get the f—outta here. Get the f— outta here because I’m going to f— you up right now mother—er.”

The clip goes viral.

Sept. 21, 2021: At the news conference in L.A. to promote Alvarez’s fight with Caleb Plant for the undisputed super middleweight championship, they engage in a scuffle on stage. Alvarez draws blood with a slap that connected with Plant’s sunglasses, another moment that caught fire on social media.

Nov. 6, 2021: Alvarez captures the undisputed super middleweight championship with an 11th-round TKO following two knockdowns of Plant.

Feb. 25, 2022: ESPN reports that Alvarez finalized a two-fight deal with Matchroom, beginning with a May 7 title challenge of Dmitry Bivol in a return to 175 pounds. If Canelo is victorious, the deal calls for Alvarez to fight Golovkin next, on Sept. 17.

April 9, 2022: Golovkin scores a ninth-round TKO of Ryota Murata in Japan to capture a second middleweight title and preserve the trilogy fight with Canelo.

May 7, 2022: In a major upset, Bivol dominates Alvarez to retain his title and seemingly cancel plans for the GGG trilogy. The 115-113 on all three scorecards belie the lopsided nature of the fight. “We want the rematch, and we’re going to do better in the rematch,” Alvarez said, signaling that he would exercise the rematch clause.

“Bivol looked better and his win was more convincing than the score reflects. The behavior of his opponent, Canelo, raising his arms after the fight and later saying that he probably lost only a couple of rounds, that just shows his loss of touch with reality and his failure to assess things adequately.” Gennadiy Golovkin, via BoxingScene in 2022

May 23, 2022: Canelo had 30 days to choose his next fight, Bivol or GGG, and he decided to pursue the trilogy meeting. The third fight with Golovkin was finally set for Sept. 17 in Las Vegas.

“He’s a f—ing a–hole. He’s not honest. He pretends to be a good person and be different but he’s not. He talks a lot of s–t about me. He’ll say, ‘I respect him, his career.’ And, other part, ‘He’s an embarrassing boxer, he’s embarrassing for Mexican boxing.’ I hate that motherf—er because of that.” Canelo Alvarez, via TMZ Sports in 2022

June 24, 2022: At a news conference in Los Angeles to promote the fight, Alvarez concedes that the third meeting is “personal for me.”

“I’m not pretending to be the other person,” Alvarez said. “Saying things in media or in other places. It’s personal for me because he talks [about] a lot of things. I just can’t wait to be in the ring. … When the cameras are off, and he’s somewhere else, he says stuff about me and talks about me. Here he pretends to be a good person, but if you ask the DAZN staff or his people, they say who he is. He’s a bad guy.”
ESPN Boxing

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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