Canelo Alvarez wants to unify at 168, but should he really close the door on a GGG trilogy?

  • ESPN Staff Writer
  • Previously a college football writer for The Dallas Morning News
  • University of North Texas graduate

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Once again, Canelo Alvarez looked dominant.

Alvarez rolled over Callum Smith in a lopsided unanimous decision to win the WBC and WBA super middleweight belts. Alvarez more or less cruised in the victory and continued to show why he’s arguably the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

His abilities have never been in question. What everyone wants to know — and the one Alvarez somewhat answered in the post-fight interview — is whether the weekend’s action merits a third fight between Alvarez and his biggest rival, Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin.

On Friday night, Golovkin stopped Kamil Szeremeta to set the record for most middleweight defenses in boxing history. One night later, Alvarez had no problems. So does a third fight make sense for both guys? ESPN’s Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein debate what’s ahead for Canelo in 2021 and beyond.

Baby: I think Canelo did whatever everyone expected. He had some beautiful counterpunching, measured his punches and absolutely dominated the much, much taller Callum Smith. What did you make of Canelo’s performance?

Rothstein: It was, frankly, exactly what I expected. Smith’s height was going to take time to adjust to and Alvarez, likely knowing he was the superior fighter, could take a couple of rounds to measure it up before fighting how he typically does. Which, by Round 4, was clearly happening. Once Alvarez started stalking Smith around the ring, Smith’s only shot was to catch him with a single punch. And that wasn’t happening, so this fight became another slow three-minutes-at-a-time movement toward another convincing win for Alvarez. Ben, was this enough to sell you on Canelo-GGG Round 3 or, ehhh, not so much?

Baby: The Canelo part of this equation wasn’t the part I needed answered this weekend. At 38, I was more concerned with how Golovkin looked against Szeremeta. Golovkin didn’t look great against Sergiy Derevyanchenko in 2019 and was coming off a 14-month layoff entering his fight Friday night.

Golovkin checked all the boxes with his win. He looked sharp and actually showed some things in the ring that could trouble Canelo in the third fight. Granted, it was a vastly inferior opponent, but GGG had solid head movement and worked the body well.

No matter what either guy thinks, that rivalry is still unresolved. Many people think Golovkin won at least one of those fights, even though one was officially a draw and a Canelo victory (and that’s not including the “tainted meat” situation before the first bout). A third fight will add a significant and arguably needed chapter to each man’s legacy. I think it makes a ton of sense for both guys.

Rothstein: It does, but not necessarily because I think it would be all that competitive of a fight.

At this point for Canelo, it’s a good payday and the ability to definitively answer the question of who won the trilogy — although at 38 it’s always going to be a tougher fight for GGG. It’s time to get that out of the way and in the meantime let who might be beyond GGG sort itself out in the first part of 2021.

Money, as it does in almost any sport, talks. And this is the fight to make from a financial perspective. Plus, Canelo won’t have to answer the question about fighting GGG again and can move on, whether it’s at age 30 or age 31, to find a new rival and potential two-or-three fight series to make in his early-to-mid-30s. So tie up loose ends. Ben, let’s say GGG-Canelo 3 happens — where should Canelo look to after that?

Baby: Whoa, there. I think it’d be competitive. You can’t fight two fights that close and the third one not be on that level. They seem like perfect opponents who bring out the best in each other.

And in a way, that kind of answers your question. GGG is still good enough to push Canelo — at least more so than some of his previous opponents. With Canelo now promoting himself, he’s free to chase the best fights without any restrictions.

If Canelo passes on GGG, why not Golovkin against WBO middleweight world titlist Demetrius Andrade? It’s a makeable fight as both fighters are aligned with DAZN and if Andrade wins, he gets some much-needed exposure, which makes a future fight against Canelo a bit more lucrative for everyone involved.

As for Canelo, I’d like to see him against Jermall Charlo. How about this: A stay-busy fight early 2021, the third fight with Golovkin at the end of the year and Canelo-Charlo in 2022 with as many fans as possible? That could be a ton of fun.

Rothstein: That would be a good structure for Canelo’s next three fights, actually, and could be the start of the next big rivalry right off the tails of the end of Canelo’s last one. I’m as big as possible on creating large fights as often as possible — I believe it helps the sport’s growth — so give me Canelo-Charlo. I like your thinking as we’re starting to head toward, finally, a new year.

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