For a sport often given up for dead, boxing is suddenly very much alive.
Turn on the TV and there’s probably a fight on from somewhere. Tune in, and there’s a good chance even the most casual boxing fan will find something to like.
The heavyweight division is coming back, and there’s a group of welterweights so talented they are bringing back memories of the 1980s, when fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler ruled the ring and the biggest fights were magical affairs staged outdoors on the Las Vegas Strip.
Networks are getting into bidding wars for fights, and a string of new deals means there’s more boxing on free television than ever before.
And, of course, there’s Saturday night.
That’s when Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez step into the ring at the T-Mobile Arena to try to settle what they couldn’t the first time around in a hotly anticipated showdown with the middleweight title at stake. The fight is a rematch of their draw last September, and this time both fighters have made it clear they just don’t like each other.
It’s a combination that should make this a pay-per-view worth reaching into the wallet for, though it’s not cheap. Boxing still insists on a buy-in for its biggest fights, and at $84.95 to watch at home, this fight needs to deliver in a big way to justify the cost.
Whether it does won’t be known until the two actually get into the ring together in a fight delayed from May after Alvarez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. But there’s a lot to like about two big punchers meeting to settle things at 160 pounds the way fighters used to do it back in the day.
“I believe it will be a big drama show,” Golovkin said. “I wanted the first fight to be a big drama show, but he wouldn’t fight me.”
Golovkin’s complaint about Alvarez not standing toe-to-toe with him in the first fight isn’t his only issue with the rematch. He also believes Alvarez is a cheater, and dismisses his claim that eating tainted meat in his native Mexico led to the positive test for clenbuterol.
“It’s very strange because we know what happened. He was caught for doing illegal substances,” Golovkin said through an interpreter. “As far as his stories about the meat, you have to be really stupid to believe these kind of stories after being caught doping.”
Golovkin’s other complaint centered on the purse split for the fight. Alvarez, who was a proven pay-per-view draw, got 70 percent of the take in the first fight, and was supposed to get 65 percent in the second, had it happened in May as planned.
But Triple G stood his ground, finally getting a 45 percent share after already booking another fight elsewhere that would have paid him only a fraction of the millions both he and Alvarez will make for their showdown.
All of which, of course, has raised some bitter feelings in the Alvarez camp.
“It’s definitely more personal now. I really don’t like him,” Alvarez said. “It’s personal, and I take it that way. It will make me train harder and give it the extra push to knock him out.”
The fight itself is a classic matchup that has the potential to deliver more than the first fight, a good scrap that lacked the drama of knockdowns and ended in a draw that satisfied neither fighter. Whether it does largely depends on the chances both fighters take — or refuse to take.
Golovkin, the Kazakh who lives in Los Angeles, thought he won the first fight easily, even though one judge had it 118-110 for Alvarez. Golovkin did win the early rounds and seemed to be controlling the action until he faded late in the fight.
Golovkin, who has knocked out almost everyone put in front of him (38-0-1, 34 knockouts) has vowed to be more aggressive in the rematch. Alvarez, too, says he has some new tricks he will pull out to try to regain a fan base upset with him after his positive test for PEDs.
Whatever the strategy, it’s the kind of fight that might have taken place it in the 1980s, when the best fought the best under the stars at Caesars Palace. Boxing is on a roll again, and the biggest fight of the year should set a tone for the sport moving forward.
A year after they first met, Golovkin-Alvarez II is once again must-see TV.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg