Canelo Álvarez meets Gennadiy Golovkin at Trilogy Fight

AAt the start of this year, middleweight boxing superstar Canelo Álvarez was widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But to the surprise of fight experts around the world, Alvarez slipped up. In May, Dmitry Bivol from Russia upset Álvarez in a light heavyweight match, handing Álvarez only the second loss of his professional career.

All of which makes tonight’s fight, between Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin in Las Vegas, all the more crucial for Alvarez. The Mexican boxer is already one of the most influential fighters of the 21st century. In 2018, he signed a staggering 11-fight deal worth $365 million with DAZN, a new sports media organization that had just launched. Alvarez, who hails from Mexico, trains in Southern California and has homes in San Diego and Guadalajara, is popular throughout North America. Although his initial deal with DAZN failedÁlvarez, 32, renewed with DAZN for a lucrative two-fight deal in February.

“This fight is very important for my career,” Alvarez told TIME in a pre-fight interview. “Golovkin is a great fighter with many achievements. This fight is important to my legacy, to be remembered as one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.”

These two fighters share a history. In 2017, they met for the first time in the ring and the bout ended in a controversial draw; even though Golovkin landed 50 more punches than his opponent, one judge called it a draw, another gave Golovkin the fight, and one judge overturned a confusing card for Alvarez, scoring the fight 118-110 in his favor. It was one of the richest fights in sports history: she sold more than $27 million in tickets and attracted more than 1.3 million paid purchases. The rematch was announced in January 2018, but about two months before the May date, Álvarez tested positive for a banned substance, clenbuterol. He blamed the result on meat from Mexico, an excuse with precedence. NFL player, Dwayne Brown, had a potential Clenbuterol suspension overturned around 2016, successfully arguing that the positive test was the result of eating tainted Mexican beef. The Nevada State Athletic Commission still suspended Alvarez for six months and the rematch was rescheduled for September 15, 2018.

The incident is still a source of bad blood. Golovkin never believed Alvarez’s claim that he inadvertently used a banned substance “I’m more concerned about the situation from the point of view of my opponent who claims to be one of the best fighters, one of the best representatives of the sport and at that time to act like you break that once is still good,” Golovkin, who is from Kazakhstan, said through a translator. “It’s disappointing.”

“I did everything to prove that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Alvarez replies. “That’s fine. Stuff like that, it’s excuses and excuses and excuses. I hate that mother.”

Álvarez won this rematch in another close fight. Boxing was supposed to complete the trilogy soon after this 2018 fight, but as is common in the sport, all kinds of sniping got in the way. So fans had to wait four years for the third fight. Golovkin is already 40.

But don’t let age get in the way of intensity. Given the rivalry between these two fighters, you can expect a slugfest tonight.

“I’m motivated,” Golovkin says. “I don’t care what he says, what he does, how he dresses. I know this opponent. I know Canelo. I know his level as an athlete. But I am disappointed with his behavior. As a person, he failed to develop to be a better person.

Dean Dean. the duel begins around 11pm on Saturday in the eastern US

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Write to Sean Gregory c [email protected].

More must-see stories from TIME

Write to Sean Gregory c [email protected].

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