LAS VEGAS — It’s the kind of fight Gennady Golovkin has been chasing from the moment he walked off an airplane six years ago to make his new home in Los Angeles.
It’s the fight boxing fans have been waiting for almost as long.
Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez meet Saturday night in a middleweight showdown that has been brewing for years. They do it in their prime, and they both bring the kind of power that could make for a night that will be talked about in boxing for years to come.
Three weeks after Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor met in an odd spectacle, boxing shows off its best side in a scheduled 12-round fight that will pay both men millions and make one of them the undisputed top 160-pounder in the world.
“It’s a true fight,” Golovkin said. “You can go back home or go to the hospital. It’s dangerous. Everyone understands that.”
Indeed they do, which is one reason Golovkin has had trouble getting fighters in the ring with him. The fearsome slugger from Kazakhstan has stopped almost everyone put in the ring with him, winning all 37 of his fights, 33 by knockout.
But Alvarez packs power, too, and the red-headed Mexican is a savage counterpuncher with a style that should match up perfectly against the onrushing Golovkin.
“I don’t back down,” Alvarez said. “I’m a counter puncher, and I like to fight.”
The combination of styles has boxing fans salivating over what will happen in the same ring where Mayweather stopped McGregor three weeks ago. The fight quickly sold out and is expected to do well on HBO pay-per-view, though it will not reach the level of last month’s spectacle.
Still, it promises to be a can’t miss fight that brings back memories of the great middleweights of the 1980’s. Both fighters weighed in Friday at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds.
“It all depends on who lands the punch that defines the fight and I think Gennady is going to do that,” said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer. “They’re going to hit each other and give fans the kind of fight they want and expect.”
It won’t be the first time the two have met, but it will be under far different circumstances. They sparred together at Golovkin’s camp in Big Bear, Calif., in 2011 as both were preparing for fights and, though accounts vary, both had their moments with each other.
But this is a real fight, with Golovkin’s titles at stake and a lot more. Both will make millions of dollars in a fight that holds risks — and plenty of rewards — for both of their careers.
“These are the fights that define your career,” said Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Alvarez. “Both guys are not going to back down.”
Alvarez is already an established superstar, arguably the most popular athlete in Mexico. Golovkin, who won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, is hoping for the kind of performance that will finally win over fans not overly impressed by a 23-fight knockout streak of 18 middleweight title defenses.
Between them they have 86 wins, against only one loss. That was suffered by Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 knockouts) in 2013 against Mayweather in a fight he admitted he was too young to take.
Oddsmakers in this gambling city have made Golovkin a slight 7-5 favorite, but the fighters themselves say anything could happen.
“It’s not an easy fight for him or me,” Golovkin said. “I think the first couple of rounds will be very close. I think the second half will be much crazier, like a street fight.”
For Golovkin, the fight is the culmination of a long battle to establish himself as the top middleweight in the world. Triple G came to the U.S. in 2011 to pursue bigger fights, and has collected the major middleweight titles while trying to get Alvarez into the ring.
It finally happened after Golovkin (37-0, 33 knockouts) was forced to go 12 rounds earlier this year against Danny Jacobs in a fight where he got hit a lot and barely escaped with a decision. Some in boxing thought it showed some vulnerability or suggested that at the age of 35 Triple G is getting a bit old.
Nonsense, he says.
“I am the champion and I bring all my belts,” Golovkin said. “This is my game, my fight. I am the boss, not Canelo.”
Golovkin, who speaks limited English, backed his comments up with a tweet warning Alvarez what was yet to come.
“If you go in the ocean the shark knows,” he wrote. “He’s home. It’s the same for me in the ring. … Let’s do it.”