LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez has become an avid golfer, and while the undisputed super middleweight champion is unlikely to approach his many great feats he’s accomplished in the ring on the golf course, he concedes that playing golf has helped him in boxing in at least one way.
Golf may be the most humbling sport of all. The ball is sitting still, never moving, and yet’s it’s so difficult to hit high and straight.
“You need to be very patient on the golf course and on every single shot,” Alvarez said Tuesday, four days before he climbs into the ring again at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday to face arch-rival Gennadiy Golovkin for a third time.
“If you hit a bad shot, right away you need to start thinking of the next shot [and not dwell on the bad one]. Forgetting the bad shot is helping a lot.”
Alvarez’s most recent “bad shot” was a loss in May to Dmitriy Bivol in a bid for a light heavyweight championship. Alvarez was the consensus pound-for-pound king of the sport heading into that bout, but the loss to Bivol knocked him off of that perch.
Alvarez was the favorite, but Bivol fought a brilliant fight and the result was never really in jeopardy.
When a reporter prefaced a question to him by saying, “You’re coming off of a loss; we all know that,” Alvarez smirked as he listened. The question turned out to be, “What would it mean to you to knock out Golovkin?”
And so if the Bivol fight was a bad shot in golf, he’s put it in the past and is looking ahead toward the next one.
“Look, that’s my goal for this fight,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to keep my mind focused [on winning], and if the knockout comes, OK. But if not, I’m prepared for 12 rounds.”
Alvarez insisted he’s in much better shape for the third bout with Golovkin than he has been in some time, perhaps going back to the first Golovkin fight in 2017. He wasn’t able to run before fights starting with the Golovkin rematch in 2018 because of knee pain, but he said he’s run in camp three times weekly while preparing for Golovkin.
Strong legs are critical for a boxer and Alvarez did some remarkable things while at less than his best in the past four years: He defeated Golovkin in their rematch, he stopped Sergei Kovalev to win a light heavyweight belt and he became the undisputed super middleweight champion.
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He doesn’t hide the fact that he wants a win on Saturday, badly. He’s one of boxing’s fiercest competitors, but he carries an enmity for Golovkin that he can’t contain. It seeps into his conversations repeatedly.
Before Alvarez met with reporters at a suite in the MGM Grand, Golovkin did the same. And Golovkin was asked if he felt that the comments Alvarez made before the Bivol fight about wanting to face unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk or WBC cruiserweight Ilungo Makabu were signs he wasn’t fully focused on Bivol.
“The things he was saying at press conferences were signs that he didn’t take Dmitriy Bivol seriously,” Golovkin said.
That comment brought to light the reason why Golovkin and Alvarez don’t get along. There was no bad blood between them in the first fight, but before the second fight, Alvarez failed two anti-doping tests, testing positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.
He tested for it in very low amounts and said it was because he’d eaten contaminated meat. At the time, any clenbuterol in one’s system was a violation; now, there are thresholds in place. Alvarez tested under the thresholds and had they been in place in 2018 as they are in some jurisdictions now, it wouldn’t have been a violation.
Golovkin, though, was highly critical of Alvarez and that’s fueled the bitterness, and the intensity, in their rivalry. Alvarez, again, was agitated by his rival’s words.
“He can say whatever he wants, but he doesn’t know anything about what happened with me,” Alvarez said. “He knows what happened with him, but you can’t judge other fighters because you never know what happened.”
Alvarez said he gets irritated because Golovkin says things in public that he doesn’t say to his face. But it’s clear those words had an impact upon him.
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Alvarez has carried himself like a professional even in his early days as a pro, and hasn’t shown a lot of contempt or hatred for opponents. Golovkin, though, manages to get under his skin repeatedly. Never, he said, has he wanted to win as much as he does on Saturday.
“I think [I felt this way] with Caleb Plant, but it was a little bit different,” Alvarez said. “I think this is the most [angry I’ve been].”
Fighting angry usually isn’t a smart tactic, and Alvarez is one of the smartest fighters in the sport. So he’s channeled his anger to push him in camp, to run when he hadn’t for four years, and to work with trainer Eddy Reynoso on refining his game and coming up with adjustments for Golovkin. He was filled with praise for Golovkin’s skills, and conceded Golovkin “is one of the best” fighters he’s faced.
Getting a win over Golovkin on Saturday might be like shooting 6-under in the final round on a tough golf course, but Alvarez is eyeing more. Golovkin is a cinch for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but he’s never been knocked down or stopped.
Alvarez wants that finish to make his triumph emphatic and end this rivalry once and for all.
“I’ve worked so hard for this and that’s what I want to do,” Alvarez said. “And I’m going to be looking to get that knockout.”