GGG v Canelo: Foes recount brutal, bruising bouts with Golovkin and Alvarez

Ahead of the superfight between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez, Omnisport spoke to two men who shared the ring with middleweight stars.

Gennady Golovkin and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez have chalked up a combined total of 86 career victories en route to Saturday's superfight in Las Vegas.

The WBC, WBA, IBF and lineal middleweight titles are on the line at the T-Mobile Arena, along with a chance for the winner to cement their claim to greatness.

But what of the men they have left in their wake on the path to this meeting and what can those vanquished opponents tell us about how a highly anticipated battle might unfold?

Matthew Hatton, former European welterweight champion and brother of British fighting icon Ricky, stepped up in weight to contest the vacant WBC light-middleweight title against a 20-year-old Alvarez in March 2011.

The Mexican, already tipped for the pinnacle of the sport, won a shutout decision in Anaheim but could not find the knockout against Hatton, who was never stopped in a 52-fight career.

 

"Physically so strong. Completely on another level"

"I'd sparred bigger guys and I'd fought bigger guys in the past but the strength of him was completely on another level. He's physically so strong," Hatton told Omnisport.

"He was a very hard puncher but it's more the physical strength that I struggled to deal with."

Hatton has little doubt Alvarez will be able to physically hold his own against seasoned middleweight Golovkin and recognises a far more rounded fighter than the young tearaway he ran into.

"He's got very good shot selection; he doesn't waste many punches. In all the punches he's very heavy handed and carries power," Hatton said of Alvarez, who is on a seven-fight winning streak since Floyd Mayweather Jr handed him his solitary loss four years ago.

"His boxing skills have improved as he's gone on. Maybe the defeat to Mayweather taught him a little bit of a lesson there.

"A lot of emphasis in this fight has been placed on the punch power of both guys. I think they're really well matched but I think Alvarez does have slightly better skills."

 

"Golovkin is defensively very good"

The fight has been broken down as a battle between Alvarez's tighter defence and counter-punching skills and Golovkin's bludgeoning power, which has given him 33 knockouts in a 37-fight professional record.

Australia's former IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale was one of those victims - stopped in three rounds in New York in 2014 - and he believes aspects of Golovkin's arsenal are being ignored due to his show-stopping reputation.

"The big thing I see is Golovkin is probably overlooked for his defence. He is defensively very good," Geale told Omnisport. "He knows where he's at in the boxing ring all the time."

There is, however, a slight caveat.

"It does appear to me though that he lets himself get hit. I don't why," Geale observed. "He does take a couple, but against a guy like Canelo he doesn't want to be doing that."

 

"Canelo's left hook to the body is a great weapon"

Hatton managed to ride out the storm against Alvarez but is keen to see how Golovkin reacts if the 35-year-old comes under fire from the younger man's much-vaunted body attack.

"He never significantly hurt me but the punches he was hurting me with were downstairs," Hatton said. "That left hook to the body is a great weapon and that's what's going to be so interesting in this fight.

"Golovkin has always had things totally his own way. He's never had anyone strong enough or good enough to get up close and bang away at his body. It's going to be very interesting to see how he copes with that because I'm pretty certain that's what Canelo's team will try and employ."

Hatton feels slow footwork represents a weakness in Alvarez's make-up, although supreme reflexes and upper body movement make up the defensive shortfall.

 

"If GGG catches him early the fight changes"

Given Golovkin should not have to look very far to find Alvarez, in contrast to Daniel Jacobs' more elusive style that made his last outing in March a struggle, Geale anticipates fireworks.

"Against Jacobs he was frustrated, more so with his size and not being able to get near him. It makes the Canelo fight a lot more interesting because he will be in his face," Geale said, while identifying the obvious risk with this tactic for the Mexican mauler.

"Canelo will go in there with confidence, especially early. If Canelo gets caught with some big shots early, the fight changes.

"But if Canelo is a little more skilful defensively – he learnt a bit from his fight with Mayweather because he was very aggressive and missed a lot – and makes it harder for Golovkin, that makes it a lot better for him."

 

"They can both stop the fight with one punch"

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hatton and Geale are both leaning towards their formidable former foe when it comes to picking a fight-night tip.

"Having fancied Golovkin all along, I think the difference between the two has been narrowing and narrowing and Alvarez has just gone past him now," the Englishman said.

"Kell Brook exposed a few weaknesses in him. Also, in the Danny Jacobs fight, he showed some signs of weakness. I fancy Canelo quite strongly now."

So, will Alvarez be the man to halt the Kazakh juggernaut?

"I'd say no but you never know," Geale replied. "It's only that one punch. Golovkin can be hard to hit but he can be hit. If he is hit regularly, it changes things.

"They're two fighters who have the ability to potentially stop the fight with one punch. They have to go for it because if they tentatively try to survive, it won't work for them."