In the somewhat incongruous surrounds of the ballroom of a central London hotel on a blistering summer’s afternoon Canelo Álvarez and Gennady Golovkin made their first scheduled public appearance in support of a long-anticipated Las Vegas meeting for the world middleweight title on 16 September. These were the opening skirmishes of a fight scarcely less important than the main event: for the attention and pay-per-view pounds of fans also being beguiled by the meeting between the Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor and the freshly un-retired Floyd Mayweather, which takes place tat the same venue, the T-Mobile Arena, hree weeks earlier.
Golovkin, who brings to the fight an unblemished record of 37 professional wins, 33 of them by knock-out, insisted the Mayweather fight is a mere sideshow. “That’s not a fight, it’s business,” the champion said. “I think people understand. Do they want a true fight, a boxing fight? That’s mine with Canelo. Or a big show, maybe a funny show, a circus show? Conor is no boxer. If you want to watch a show, watch that one. If you want to watch boxing, watch mine.”
Frank Warren, whose BoxNation will broadcast the Golovkin defence in the UK, was in no doubt about which has the greater sporting merit. “This will be the fight of 2017,” he said. “It’s not a freakshow, it’s a real fight.”
Warren announced that Billy Joe Saunders will defend his WBO middleweight title against an as-yet unconfirmed opponent at the Copper Box on the same night. Saunders, looking some way from peak fitness, took the opportunity to challenge either of the headline boxers to a fight. “I didn’t even recognise him, to tell you the truth,” Álvarez said later. “He’s got to come down in weight first before he thinks about fighting one of us. I’ve never really studied him but I can promise you this: with one hand tied behind my back and my eyes closed, I’d be able to beat him.”
Saunders may find that both Álvarez and Golovkin are preoccupied for a while yet. The Kazakh, who at 34 is eight years Álvarez’s senior, is already keen to arrange a rematch. “Maybe there won’t be only one fight, maybe two or three fights,” he said. “This is interesting. Why not?”
Oscar De La Hoya, Álvarez’s promoter, had a similar vision, which he said came to him in a dream. “I strongly feel that Canelo and Golovkin can be a trilogy,” he said. “We know for sure, guaranteed, that this fight will deliver, because of their styles. Gennady is a hard puncher, he has a great chin, he comes forward, he has tremendous skills, and so does Canelo. Neither fighter knows how to take a step back. The fans are going to be treated to a wonderful fight.”
The only dissent came from Álvarez, who had been encouraged by Daniel Jacobs’s performance in losing to Golovkin on points at Madison Square Garden in March, which had ended Golovkin’s run of 24 successive knock-outs. “It’s going to be a difficult fight. I’m confident I’m going to win, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy fight. It’s going to be a very tight, very hard fight,” he said. “But I’m going to prove in the first fight that there’s no reason to have a second or a third.”