Thanks to his masterful heel turn, Canelo Alvarez enters GGG rematch playing with house money
Alvarez almost has nothing to lose on Saturday night in Las Vegas
In the relatively brief history of pay-per-view boxing, the idea of an immediate rematch following a controversial decision hasn't necessarily been a guarantee.
For every Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield II that was constructed for the mere purposes of righting a wrong (while paying everyone involved handsomely for a second fight), there are rematches like Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler and Felix Trinidad-Oscar De La Hoya that never came to be despite cries of incompetence and/or corruption with the scoring.
Considering his age and status as the B-side of the PPV, unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) remains somewhat lucky to have received a second chance at a fight that would do more to define his legacy than any in his 39-bout pro career when he faces Canelo Alvarez on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas ().
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But after a two-year build to their first fight in which he was labeled everything from a "liar" to a "diva" by his critics and a 12-month fallout which has included two failed drug tests, a suspension and a rescheduled rematch, surprisingly little has been said about how lucky Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) is for getting the same second chance.
As boxing's biggest PPV star in America and maybe only second biggest globally to unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua of England, it feels like a silly notion to suggest that Alvarez is lucky when he's the one who financially calls the shots in his fights. Yet from the court of public opinion, nothing seems to cancel out negative headlines quite like winning does.
When you consider that just about no one outside of judge Adalaide Byrd (who submitted the infamous 118-110 scorecard in his favor) believed that Alvarez had won the first fight, the Mexican star enters a fairly convenient opportunity to remove the first fight from the record by winning the rematch convincingly. Should he play his cards right from a post-fight public relations standpoint and infuse humility, he may also be able to do the same about the lingering suspicions derived from his failed drug tests and contaminated meat excuses.
American sports fans are a particularly forgiving group who often show weakness to a comeback story of any kind and tend to forgive prior debts as long as one can reclaim top status and look good doing so.
Need proof? Just take a glance at how former UFC champion Jon Jones was hailed by media members () when he returned from drug suspension to finish Daniel Cormier and regain his title in their UFC 214 rematch in July 2017. Jones showed humility inside the Octagon after the fight and remorse for a lost few years of trouble outside the cage. Two weeks later, of course, it was revealed he failed another drug test that returned his name to infamy.
Despite all of the perceived pressure on Alvarez to prove he didn't knowingly take the banned substance clenbuterol and that he wasn't on performance-enhancing drugs in his first fight with Golovkin, it has been Alvarez's willingness to play the cocky villain over the past year that subdued much of that pressure.
Should Alvarez lose on Saturday, many will simply say it was a course correction for the scoring of the first fight. Because of Alvarez's ability to draw, major fights would still await him on PPV at 154 or 160 pounds. A victory, on the other hand, would only further extend Alvarez's celebrity and legacy as one of the top big-fight performers of his era.
The pressure is far more on GGG to secure a clear victory as a means to cement his resume as truly one of the greatest middleweights in boxing history after years of top fighters avoiding him. Not only would Golovkin break Bernard Hopkins' division record of 20 title defenses, he would finally secure a win over an A-level fighter in his prime.
Considering so many of Alvarez's detractors look at Saturday's bout as a no-win situation for him thanks to the drug test fallout (and his initial refusal to undergo random, out-of-competition testing in the months after he was caught) Canelo is inconceivably playing with house money this weekend within a fitting backdrop of Las Vegas.
Like him or not, it's hard to deny that Alvarez's subtle shift from dare-to-be-great wunderkind who took on huge challenges early in his career to an adopter of the Floyd Mayweather handbook on how to wield power as a calculated public villain has been nearly flawless, especially in how he has overcome a few public missteps along the way.
It's because of his comfortable command of the pro wrestling-inspired "heel" role entering this fight that Alvarez, in all reality, will have surprisingly little to prove or lose on Saturday, and yet, so much more to gain should he show courage in overcoming as the betting underdog.
Either way, he will be laughing all the way to the bank. Membership among boxing's untouchable elite certainly has its privileges.
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