Although four years are an eternity in sports, Canelo Alvarez still remembers every round, tactical decision and momentum shift of his two fights with great rival Gennady Golovkin
But as he prepares for their third meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Alvarez doesn’t plan to call on those memories very much.
Four years to the weekend after they last met, Mexican great Canelo doesn’t think there’s much to be gained from preparing to fight a boxing memory.
What’s more, he believes Golovkin will scarcely recognise what he sees in the ring.
“I think he’s going to be surprised how much I’ve improved,” Alvarez says.
“My strength, my resistance, everything has improved. I think maybe he doesn’t realise this is going to be a different fight. I’ve been working hard the whole time.”
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin feels much the same way about a matchup that could turn out to define the careers of two of of the greatest boxers of their generation, particularly if he pulls an upset.
They fought to a hotly-disputed draw in 2017 and to an equally debatable majority-decision victory for Alvarez in 2018, but Golovkin said his power and tenacity have only grown in the interim – and he also expects to benefit from moving up to super middleweight.
“We’re in different times now, and that’s a lot of time since the last fight,” Golovkin says through an interpreter. “It’s going to be very different. Not only just four years, but we’ve lived through the pandemic, which was very tough. It’s like an entire Olympic cycle, but even more.”
Since they last met, both fighters’ trainers say they’ve made fundamental changes to the ways they prepare and compete in their dangerous sport.
The 40-year-old Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) has a new trainer and is bulking up to 168 pounds after 16 years as a middleweight, while Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) is newly humbled and motivated coming off a loss to light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol this year.
Their mutual dislike also appears to have grown, although Alvarez is more upfront than Golovkin about the personal animus between the rivals.
Away from microphones, it seems clear they don’t like each other any more than they did in 2018, when the entire promotion of the rematch proceeded under the cloud of Alvarez’s positive test for a performance-enhancing substance and his subsequent suspension.
Since the last time he fought Alvarez, Golovkin replaced Abel Sanchez – the American trainer who shepherded his rise to worldwide stardom – with Johnathon Banks, the former cruiserweight champion and Wladimir Klitschko’s former trainer.
Banks said Golovkin’s camp isn’t studying film of the first two fights, not even the parts where Golovkin was clearly beating Alvarez.
“It’s hard to look back at that, because we’re so steady looking forward,” Banks said.
“No matter what you see in those fights, you can’t go backwards.
“Both fighters are significantly different from those two fights and the last time they saw each other.”