The horde snaked through MGM Grand on Wednesday in matching white hats.
“MEX” was spelled out on the crown in green, white and red. Canelo Álvarez’s personal logo was on one side. A motto was stitched in red on the other: “Legacy is Earned.”
The messaging from Álvarez and his team was precise. Álvarez, a world champion boxer in four weight classes, cares about his legacy, about how he will be remembered among Mexican boxing legends. In his estimation, a win over Gennadiy Golovkin in their trilogy’s finale at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, will further solidify his legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
“This fight is important for my legacy,” Álvarez said. “I need to win this fight very convincingly.”
For others, the bout, no matter the result, has already tarnished it.
It has been four years since Álvarez and Golovkin last fought. Álvarez won a majority-decision in 2018, giving Golovkin his first career defeat, as the aggressor. The strategy was in stark contrast to his more passive approach a year earlier in the first meeting, which ended in a controversial draw.
The consensus in the boxing world is Golovkin was robbed of a win in the first encounter, Álvarez squeaked out a victory in the second and Álvarez waited far too long to give Golovkin a chance for redemption.
On Wednesday, Álvarez (57-2-2) tried challenging the prevailing narrative that he avoided Golovkin, claiming he nearly signed the contract in 2019 for a third fight. But, for reasons he didn’t explain, it never happened.
“COVID happened so it was canceled, and I started fighting in other weight classes,” Álvarez said.
Golovkin scoffed at his opponent’s version of events.
“Almost signed?” he jokingly asked through an interpreter. “He couldn’t find a pen to sign the contract? I don’t think you should pay a lot of attention to what he’s saying.”
Golovkin (42-1-1) was the betting favorite in the first two fights. The Kazakh is the underdog Saturday. The difference: Álvarez is still thought to be in his prime while Golovkin’s best days are considered behind him.
Golovkin turned 40 in April, one day before scoring a knockout win in the ninth round against Ryota Murata in Japan. Golovkin started slow before overwhelming Murata, a solid but unspectacular titleholder.
“He’s still a dangerous fighter,” said Eddy Reynoso, Álvarez’s trainer. “Look at what he did in Japan. He’ll be a dangerous fighter until he retires.”
The 32-year-old Álvarez is coming off his second career loss in May against Dmitry Bivol in May. But that was as a light heavyweight. He returns Saturday to super middleweight (168 pounds), where he is the undisputed champion. Golovkin, meanwhile, has never fought professionally as anything but a middleweight (160 pounds).
“I don’t know when I’ll knock him out,” Álvarez said, “but it’ll be over before 12 rounds.”
Animosity marked the second fight months after Álvarez tested positive twice for a performance-enhancing drug. He was suspended for six months, forcing the cancellation of the original fight date in May. Álvarez claimed he ate tainted meat in Mexico. Golovkin said Álvarez was caught cheating, insisting there were “injection marks” on Álvarez’s arms.
The sequence sparked a deeper feud between the fighters. Four years later, Álvarez’s disdain for Golovkin remains.
“It’s personal for me because he talks s- – – about a lot of things,” Álvarez said.
The hostility is one-sided, at least publicly. Golovkin has shrugged off repeated questions about Álvarez’s scorn. He has smiled when told Álvarez said he’s going to end his career Saturday; he plans to continue fighting regardless of the result. His camp hasn’t engaged in the banter unlike when he had Abel Sanchez in his corner before the first two fights.
The unfiltered Sanchez challenged Álvarez for not being a “Mexican style” fighter, but instead a counterpuncher, and not being aggressive in the first bout. Sanchez argued Golovkin was a more Mexican fighter, drawing rebukes from Álvarez and Reynoso. The storyline surfaced during Thursday’s when a fan, after Golovkin answered a question, yelled “Mexican style!” from the back of the theater.
But Álvarez changed his approach for the second fight, and chased down Golovkin. The tactic produced the best win of his career, bolstering his legacy. A victory Saturday, however, would only do so much.