How Canelo vs Golovkin ranks among boxing's greatest trilogies

JEFF POWELL: Will Saturday night’s fight elevate Alvarez vs Golovkin to the all-time pantheon of epic rivalries? The mother of all trilogies remains Ali vs Joe Frazier, of course, with Fury and Wilder joining the legend most recently

  • Canelo and Golovkin will face each other for a third time on Saturday evening 
  • They drew in their first fight and the Mexico’s superstar won the second fight 
  • Nothing defines greatness more than three wars against a formidable opponent
  • Saturday’s showdown at the T-Mobile Arena will be a climactic end to the affair
  • Their bout will join the history books for being one of the biggest trilogies ever
  • Others include Ali vs Joe Frazier,  Holyfield vs Bowe, Fury vs Wilder and more

At the church altar we give adoration to the Holy Trinity. In the boxing ring we deify the immortal trilogies.

Nothing defines a fighter’s greatness more vividly than three, or more, wars against an equally formidable opponent..

These series have electrified the hardest game for well over a century and we have come to this neon strip in the desert to bear witness to the latest blood triumvirate.

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will face each other for a third time on Saturday evening

Where Canelo Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin comes to rank in the litany of trilogies will depend on the nature and quality – the brutality even – of this third encounter of the close kind.

Very close, as it happens. Given that the draw in fight one and then the victory in the rematch granted to Mexico’s superstar were both decisions of such controversy that a majority of the boxing fraternity still hold that the Kazakh KO artist was mugged twice in Sin City.

The first two episodes were brilliant in almost every dimension, with the glaring exception of the scoring in Canelo’s home-town from home-town.

The first fight between Canelo (right) and Golovkin (left) in September 2017 ended in a draw 

However, Canelo (middle) secured a majority decision victory over Golovkin in their middleweight championship bout at T-Mobile Arena in September 2018

Elevation to the all-time pantheon of epic rivalries will depend on this Saturday night’s episode being as fiercely contested, skilfully enjoined and heroically met as the first two instalments. 

And, yes, a climactic end to the affair. But fought, also, to a fair and honourable conclusion if the outcome falls, yet again, into the hands of the judges.

The dispute over the previous handling of the cards by these gentlemen in the shadow of all these casinos is no fault of Alvarez. Nor can he be blamed for using the occasion of Mexico’s Independence Weekend to secure, yet again, home advantage.

After all, the thousands of Hispanic high-rollers coming to Vegas for the celebrations are helping to bolster his opponent’s bank balance as well as his own.

The great Sugar Ray Robinson (right) won five of six blistering battles with Jake LaMotta (left), the subject of Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning portrayal in the famous movie Raging Bull

Whatever happens here and now, he, like Golovkin, is a world-class fighter destined for a place in boxing’s Hall of Fame.

With their exceptional skills and disparate styles they are a match made in pugilist heaven. A culminating epic would have been more certain had Canelo returned to this fray sooner. But as Golovkin says: ‘At 40 now I still feel as good as ever. I’m just happy he didn’t keep me waiting until I turned 50.’

Aren’t we all, as we sit in hope of another hat-trick for the ages. A thrill which might come to bear comparison with duels of three, sometimes more, enmities. Some already enshrined in history. A few of more recent vintage.

The other ‘Sugar’ great, Ray Leonard, inscribed his trilogy against Roberto Duran (above) 

Sam Langford the Boston Butcher was the monarch of multiple fights, boxing and mostly defeating Harry Wills (no Royal brotherly connection) 18 times, Sam McVey (15) , Joe Jeanette (14), Jeff Clark (13) and Jim Barry (12). For which research I am indebted to boxing historian Ken Hissner.

The pride of Cockney-ville Ted Kid Lewis had 20 punch-ups with Jack Britton.

The great Sugar Ray Robinson won five of six blistering battles with Jake LaMotta, the subject of Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning portrayal in the Raging Bull.

The other Sugar great, Ray Leonard, inscribed his trilogy against Roberto Duran. After losing the first fight and his world titles to Panama’s ‘Hands Of Stone’ Leonard dazzled, danced and humiliated Duran into quitting during the eighth round of the rematch as he told the referee: ‘No mas.’ No more, in Spanish.

The third fight was a less memorable but decisive procession to victory for Leonard.

Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe added to heavyweight history with three fights Vegas

Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe added to heavyweight history with three dust-ups here in Vegas. Big Daddy won the first, which came to a crescendo in the tenth, one of the fabled rounds in ring legend. 

The Real Deal Holyfield came back from an horrific beating in the first two minutes to batter Bowe in the closing stages, only to be outpointed. Come the second fight in open air outside Caesars Palace a so-called Fan-Man flew on his hang-glider out of the night sky into the ring. 

That forced a chaotic 20-minute hold-up which helped Holyfield gather enough of a second wind to reverse the previous decision. But in the third fight he suffered one of only two stoppages in his garlanded career.

It doesn’t always take world champions to make great trilogies. Matching skills and beating hearts generated three consecutive bloodbaths in 2002 and 2003 between Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti. ‘Irish’ Micky won the first and last of those and they emerged from that manic intensity of slugging to become close friends.

Most recently of all, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder joined the history book for trilogy bouts

However, the mother of all trilogies remains, of course, was Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier

Most recently of all, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder joined the legend. The Gypsy King kept climbing like Lazarus from his death-bed after being decked by the Bronze Bombers’ massive punches to draw the first, dominate the second and KO Wilder in the third. 

It is feasible they could meet a fourth time, if Fury can deal first with Anthony Joshua and then Olexsandr Usyk, the latter for the undisputed world heavyweight championship.

But the mother of all trilogies remains, of course, Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier. The Greatest was on the comeback trail from suspension for refusing to go to war in Vietnam when he met Smokin’ Joe at Madison Square Garden in what lived up to its billing as the Fight Of The Century. 

In front of the great and the good of America on a star-spangled night Ali was heavily outpointed by Frazier, sustaining a fractured jaw in the punishing process.

Ali redeemed himself with a surprisingly routine victory in the rematch, which set up one of the most famous fights ever, The Thrilla in Manila. So mightily did they batter each other that Ali – telling his seconds ‘this is the closest I’ve been to death’ – demanded that his gloves be cut from his hands at the end of the 14th round. 

Before that could be done Frazier – who by then was virtually blind in both eyes – was pulled out by his corner despite his protests.

Now fate beckons Canelo and Golovkin. May the best man win – on an historic night.




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