Toronto Star

High stakes for winner of Saturday’s Golovkin-Alvarez megafight

Middleweig­ht bout could decide who is poster boy of sport for next generation


There’s the fight purse and the world titles, of course. A better fight record and a brighter future. Plus, the adulation of fans and the respect of the boxing press. There’s plenty on the line when Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez finally step into the ring Saturday night in Las Vegas in a bout the sport has spent the past couple of years salivating over.

To the man who raises his hand in the end, though, goes something much bigger than a belt or paycheque.

“The winner of this fight earns the position to be the face of boxing,” said Bernard Hopkins, who won a closetful of belts and was one of the top fighters of his generation.

“He can be what Ali was, what Mike Tyson was, what Oscar was. It’s not just about being a champion, it’s bigger.”

Boxing is loaded with good fighters but not household names. The principals involved in staging Saturday’s megafight are convinced that the victor will be able to transcend the sport and galvanize fans who might only tune in for a fight or two each year.

While last month’s fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, the UFC star, generated worldwide attention and was a bona fide pop-culture event, most in boxing regard Saturday’s showdown as the sport’s marquee event of the year — the “real fight,” as everyone involved keeps saying.

It’s not a totally unfamiliar place for Alvarez. He’s been on this doorstep before, a champion knocking on the door of next-level success and fame.

“I’m writing my history now,” he said this week.

The lone blemish on his sterling record (49-1-1, 34 knockouts) is im- possible to skip over. He has beaten Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan.

Those victories showed the boxing world what he is: a great champion and a generation­al talent. But his 2013 loss to Mayweather showed everyone what he isn’t — or at least what he wasn’t at the time: a transcende­nt fighter who could carry the sport on his shoulders.

Saturday represents his toughest challenge since then. While Mayweather would set traps and lull foes into mistakes, Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) charges ahead with power the middleweig­ht division has rarely seen.

He has an impressive pedigree, an extensive amateur background and perhaps the best jab in boxing. Making matters tougher, Golovkin doesn’t hurt easily and has never been knocked down, not as a profession­al and not as an amateur.

For his part, Alvarez also has never been knocked down and also has the power and balance that make boxing trainers drool.

Oddsmakers list Golovkin as a slight favourite, but many in the boxing world consider the bout a virtual coin flip, a matchup that could help energize the sport and evoke memories of the glory days of one of boxing’s most storied weight classes.

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