Canelo-GGG: Who Has More to Lose?

On Sept. 14, 2013, young Mexican star Canelo Alvarez suffered his first professional defeat.

Just 23 years old at the time, Canelo was outclassed by the best boxer of his generation, Floyd Mayweather. Though he had a massive fanbase believing he could be the one to end Mayweather’s reign, it was too much too soon for Canelo.

Because of the specifics of that contest — Canelo’s youth, Mayweather’s dominance — there weren’t many people in the boxing community that held the loss against Canelo. His future was still bright, as he showed in his next handful of victories against elite fighters like Erislandy Lara and Miguel Cotto.

But in most cases, losses weigh heavily on a boxer’s reputation. That’s the reason so many fighters carefully choose their opponents, avoiding tough challenges as a means to keep the zero in the loss column of their record. Invulnerability remains the most marketable quality a fighter can have.

On Saturday night, Canelo, now 27, will face his toughest challenge since Mayweather. He steps into the ring with Gennady Golovkin, a middleweight champion who has yet to suffer a professional defeat.

In this contest, there is less room for moral victories. Each man enters the ring aware of the significant stakes of the bout, and the impact that losing may have on their legacy.

So the question is: Which fighter has more to lose?

Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) has a reputation almost entirely built a quasi-mythical invincibility. While his opponent is the bigger star, ‘GGG’ has for years been boxing’s boogeyman, a devastating puncher that few want to share the ring with. Though he’s seen that reputation slip in his last two fights (a sloppy victory over blown-up welterweight Kell Brook and a razor-close decision win over Danny Jacobs), he still enters this fight undefeated and dangerous.

If Golovkin were to lose to Canelo, the response from the boxing community will surely be split into two different directions. Some will say that Golovkin, 35 years old, is past his prime and that he was slighted by being kept from Canelo when he was at the peak of his powers. Others will look to discredit the overall legacy of ‘GGG’: the only knock on him has been the level of competition he’s faced, and a loss to an elite fighter like Canelo will only elevate that narrative.

For Canelo, a loss to Golovkin will likely sting harder than his previous defeat. When he fought Mayweather he was yet to hit his prime and had never been on a such a monumental stage. But now, Canelo is just entering his prime while Golovkin is arguably leaving his own. Canelo has the experience in big pay-per-view events. His youth is a benefit rather than a detriment. One would assume that a loss would hurt the Mexican star more than it would hurt the Kazakh knockout artist.

But there’s one important X-factor: the rematch clause. Canelo’s contract comes with a clause that states if he is to lose, he shall be granted an immediate rematch against Golovkin. This is common in boxing, but in the case of this fight it is especially significant. The more time passes, the better Canelo’s chances of beating Golovkin become. While ‘GGG’ moves into his late-thirties and slips out of his physical prime, Canelo is still getting better. If he loses, he’ll likely do so in a crowd-pleasing fight that has the fans clamoring for a rematch. And that’s a rematch he’ll get, months down the line against an even older Golovkin.

Of course, Canelo losing multiple times to ‘GGG’ would put a permanent dent in his reputation. But as far as this weekend goes, he knows that if he falls short of his goal, redemption is around the corner. Not to mention, coming out of a trilogy of fights with Golovkin as the victor would be even more impressive than defeating him once.

Because of the years Canelo has to ahead of him, Golovkin has more to lose on Saturday night. As he heads into the final stage of his career, he has finally gotten the opportunity of a blockbuster fight and an elite opponent. It’s up to him to capitalize on that opportunity, because another may not come his way.

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