BOXING fans have two mouth-watering bouts coming up, but scheduling problems need to be sorted out, as PETER COSTER reports:
THE “where” has been decided over the impending world heavyweight unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, but not the “when.”
Joshua, who holds four versions of the title, wanted it at Wembley in London. Wilder, who holds one version of the championship, wanted the fight in Las Vegas.
Joshua has won the where. The fight will be held at Wembley, or failing that the Principality Stadium in Cardiff where Joshua has fought before.
But the “when” became a problem with a world middleweight championship booked on the same date.
Not at the same venue but on the same day, September 15, when Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will fight for the undisputed world middleweight championship in Las Vegas.
That means a Joshua v Wilder fight will have to be moved to October or November or the following year if the WBA insists on Joshua making a defence of one of his titles against Russian fighter Alexander Potevkin this year.
That would be another Wembley fight. The fight between Golovkin and Alvarez will be at the Mobile-T Arena on the Las Vegas Strip.
The Joshua versus Wilder fight is the one that has the usual heavyweight hype, but the Golovkin versus Alvarez bout is one for the purists.
“Canelo” is not Alvarez’s first name. Nor is Alvarez the Mexican fighter’s surname. His full name is Santos Saul Alvarez Barragan. Canelo is Spanish for cinnamon, or red hair.
Golovkin is better known by his initials as “Triple G” and is the chill wind that blows in from the steppes of Kazakhstan.
He fought a split-decision draw with Alvarez last year, with a return bout delayed until now because Alvarez failed successive drug tests.
The tests revealed traces of performance-enhancing clenbuterol and the rematch was delayed while Alvarez served a six-month suspension.
The last time they fought the gate was US$27 million, said to be the third biggest in ring history.
Golovkin-Alvarez II is expected to bring in US$40 million.
The heavyweights provide the drama, with a fight often decided on one devastating blow, but the middleweights are boxing’s fastest and most damaging of warriors, their combined speed and punching power unsurpassed across all divisions.
Your correspondent was at ringside for the middleweight fight of the century between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns in the Caesar’s Palace carpark in Las Vegas in 1985.
I was sitting immediately behind Sugar Ray Robinson, the greatest “pound-for-pound” fighter of all time in the eyes of boxing pundits.
The former welterweight and middleweight champion’s record of 128 bouts, with one draw and two losses is unimaginable in boxing today.
I realised his remarkable record had taken its toll when he turned as I asked him which boxer he thought would win.
Joshua talks about knocking Wilder “spark out” and for Sugar Ray, the spark had long gone.
The softly smiling woman sitting next to Robinson answered for this greatest of champions by saying, “Mr Robinson favours both fighters.”
That fight, which I have described before in its ferocious intensity, ended in the third round with Hearns knocked “spark out”.
It was reignited after the fight but never burnt as brightly.
Hearns was best as a welterweight and had moved to middleweight, a mistake against Hagler who was a natural.
For me, the Triple G fight against Alvarez will be the fight of the year.
Golovkin was fighting in the streets in Kazakhstan as an eight-year-old against opponents picked by his brothers. Some of his opponents were men.
Golovkin said his brothers would ask him, “Are you afraid of him?” and he would always reply, “No.” If Triple G feared anyone, it might have been his brothers.
Alvarez was born in Guadalajara, the drug capital of Mexico, although his family moved when he was only five.
He became a professional boxer at the age of 15 and is one of seven brothers, all of whom became professional boxers.
There is nearly a decade between Alvarez and Golovkin. Alvarez is 27 compared with Golovkin at 36. This might make a difference if the fight is to go the distance. But will to win will be uppermost.
Golovkin has had 58 fights as a professional and 350 as an amateur. Before Terence Crawford so convincingly stopped Australia’s Jeff Horne in Las Vegas, Triple G was rated the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. Anthony Joshua is only fifth on the list.
Alvarez has had 52 fights with one loss, that against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jnr in 2013. He had only 44 amateur fights before turning professional at the age of 15.
These fighters have something that can never be taught. They know hard lives lived with an indomitable will to survive.
Author: Peter Coster
PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.