There’s one more undercard bout ahead of tonight’s feature attraction and it’s worth tuning in for. Jesse Rodriguez, the youngest world champion in boxing today and one of America’s brightest rising stars, is making his second defense of the WBC super-flyweight title against Israel González in a fight that’s due to start in the next few minutes.
The 22-year-old Texan southpaw, who trains under the great Robert Garcia, has been widely tabbed for Fighter of the Year honors and can effectively close the debate with a good show tonight. Our Donald McRae caught up with him earlier this week:
For the first time this year Rodriguez will step into the ring as the favourite when he defends his world title against Israel Gonzalez. If he wins in dominant style again, many boxing insiders believe he could seal his place as 2022’s Fighter of the Year.
“This is a huge fight for me,” Rodriguez says, “probably bigger than my last two fights because it’s on the biggest card of boxing in Vegas. So this is the perfect platform to go out there and show not just the hardcore boxing people but the casual fans what I can do. I’m one of those fighters you see very rarely, a once-in-a-generation world champion, and people are going to see that on Saturday night in Las Vegas. I’m going to go out there and be spectacular and show everyone that I really am the fighter of the year.”
Rodriguez looks up and grips my hand with one last dazzling smile. “It’s crazy,” he says, “but it’s beautiful.”
Tale of the tape
Here’s a look at how Canelo and Golovkin measure up ahead of tonight’s main event. Golovkin still enjoys the slight advantage in height if not in reach. The key difference from their first two encounters is the contracted weight, which both met at yesterday’s weigh-in. The 40-year-old Kazakh is moving up to super-middleweight for the first time in his career, a division where Álvarez has proven more than comfortable since they last met four years ago.
Hello and welcome to the Las Vegas Strip for tonight’s third fight between Canelo Álvarez and Gennady Golovkin. We’re ringside at the T-Mobile Arena for a threequel four years in the making as two of the most accomplished fighters of their generation look to stamp a definitive conclusion on their highly caustic rivalry after 24 rounds that left so little to separate them.
Their first encounter, in 2017, was one of the most eagerly anticipated summit meetings of the decade and the rare superfight that managed to not only meet but exceed the hype. Until, that is, the decision. Most at ringside, in the crowd and watching at home believed the Kazakh knockout artist known as Triple G did enough to win on points. But the official verdict – including the mystifying score of 118-110 to Álvarez handed down by Adalaide Byrd – was a widely disputed split draw that denied Golovkin what should have been the defining moment of a career spent largely out of the mainstream spotlight.
Their second, in 2018, was closer, but ended in a majority-decision win for Álvarez after another 12 rounds where many thought Golovkin did no worse than a draw. That it came after Álvarez failed a pair of Wada-administered urine screenings for the banned substance clenbuterol, which the Mexican claimed was a result of contaminated meat consumed while training in Guadalajara, managed to further raise the temperature on their rancor.
A third bout always felt inevitable, but the fighters went their separate ways. Golovkin, who turned 40 in April, has fought only four times in the four years since, including wins over Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Ryōta Murata to win back a couple of belts at the middleweight division he’s lorded over for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Álvarez furthered his ascent as boxing’s biggest superstar, adding titles at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight before coming back down to unify all four belts at 168lbs in the span of a year: the very same undisputed championship that’s on the line tonight.
Of course, this is Golovkin’s first time fighting at 168lbs after a career spent at middleweight, which further tilts the odds in the younger, primer Mexican’s favor. But if Álvarez and Golovkin have proven nothing else in their two fights so far, they are born dance partners. And any time they share the prize-ring carries with it the promise of something very special.
It’s all little more than an hour and half away. Álvarez are Golovkin expected to make their ringwalks shortly after 8pm local time, 11pm ET and 4am BST.
Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s Donald McRae’s preview of tonight’s main event.