Las Vegas—Twelve months of steadily simmering acrimony reaches boiling point here Saturday when world middleweight king Gennady Golovkin faces off against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in their long-awaited Las Vegas rematch.
Golovkin, the unbeaten WBA, WBC and IBO champion, will be chasing a place in boxing history as he attempts to make a record-breaking 21st consecutive defense of his middleweight crowns against Mexican idol Alvarez at a sold-out T-Mobile Arena.
But the Kazakh champion’s tilt at the record books has become a footnote in a build-up dominated by the furor that erupted when Alvarez failed two drug tests in February, scuppering a planned May 5 rematch.
Alvarez, who was later suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, insists the banned substance—Clenbuterol—entered his system via contaminated meat in his native Mexico.
Golovkin, who most observers believe should have been awarded victory in last September’s drawn first fight, has rubbished Alvarez’s explanation for the failed drug tests.
The 2004 Olympic silver medallist, (38-0-1, 34 knockouts), has repeatedly accused his Mexican opponent of doping, raising the temperature in Las Vegas this week by voicing his suspicions again.
“These stories about contaminated meat are nonsense,” Golovkin said, claiming to have seen injection marks on Alvarez’s body in photos of his opponent.
“You couldn’t deny there was some injection marks on his hands and his arms. Injection marks were evidently there,” Golovkin said.
“Everywhere, biceps, stomach, pretty much all over his body you could see injection marks.”
For the most part, the animosity between the two men has had a ring of authenticity about it.
Alvarez, whose only defeat in a 52-fight career was a 2013 loss to Floyd Mayweather, admits the accusations have riled him.
“Those are the kicks and screams of someone who is drowning,” Alvarez said of Golovkin’s doping claims.
“Those are the excuses that they are making because of what is coming on Saturday, which is a loss for them.
“I’m bothered by all the stupid things they’ve been saying and I’ve been using it as motivation in my training for this fight.
“Maybe they said it to get me mad, and you know what, they did it. I’m angry, but I’m going to use it in my favor for this fight.”
A more aggressive approach from Alvarez, however, may well play into Golovkin’s hands.
In their first meeting, Alvarez fought cagily, deftly slipping away on the ropes and consistently circling to the left to avoid the Kazakh’s fearsome jab.
Yet while Alvarez was able to frustrate Golovkin, he did little in the way of meaningful damage.
Only a freak scorecard from judge Adalaide Byrd, who triggered uproar after ruling it 118-110 Alvarez, denied Golovkin a victory.
This time around, Golovkin plans to leave nothing to chance, promising to take the decision out of the judge’s hands by winning inside the distance.
“If Canelo gives me a chance and fights like he claims he will, I will knock him out,” Golovkin said.
Abel Sanchez, who has trained Golovkin at his gym in the San Bernardino Mountains outside Los Angeles since 2011, agrees.
Sanchez has rarely wasted an opportunity to goad Alvarez’s camp during the build-up, effectively daring the Mexican to adopt a more aggressive approach.
“If he intends to knock out Golovkin, he’s going to have to fight him,” Sanchez said.
“And if he fights him, he’s going to get knocked out. He would have got knocked out the first time, but he decided to make it a track meet.”
Sanchez said a decisive victory for Golovkin will cement his place amongst the greatest middleweights in boxing history, delivering a signature victory that his otherwise stellar CV lacks.
“At the moment I put him in the top five, and the only reason I don’t put him any higher is because he needs that fight that people recognize, the signature fight or legacy fight,” Sanchez said.
“I think this fight could be it.”