Photo Credit: Tom Hogan
On August 29th barely a fortnight before the anticipated rematch between Gennady GGG Golovkin & Saul Canelo Alvarez HBO treated viewers to their highly produced Big Fight preshow 24/7. It is a look inside the camps, the hearts and the minds of those involved in some of the biggest fights in boxing and as always narrated by the dusky-voiced actor Liev Schreiber.
HBO debuted the first instalment of their 24/7 series featuring the first match between the two men 366 days ago and on the surface little seems to have changed. There is an air of deja vu, a theme that narrator Schreiber would return to several times in this latest edition of the popular series.
As in the first fight and first instalment of 24/7 Canelo/GGG features the challenger on the marquee first, Canelo is an HBO fighter after all - one of the few with true Main Event status, however, it is the champion GGG who gets the first word.
Sat at a dimly lit table with GGG’s muscled torso in full view he asks a simple question of Canelo and the audience: what is respect? For GGG, arguably a very uncomplicated man and fighter it’s simple. To show respect is, to be honest, to be humble. To GGG sport is the purest form of those attributes and to GGG, Canelo’s violation is unfathomable and unforgivable. GGG passes this judgment along to all associated with his opponent and his corner team and all of Golden Boy Promotions as well.
Canelo’s equation is just as free nuance. To him, GGG has no respect, no for his fans and not for boxing, because he has not been honest. He calls into question GGG’s entire career, states he has a fought few champions, plainly states many of GGG’s opponents have a shitload of loses. To Canelo, who at 21 fought Floyd Mayweather and took the beating like a man and fought future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto and others he simply has a bigger set of balls.
What began a year ago as the pinnacle of modern boxing, in a time when the sport was seeing a massive resurgence the contest between two modern greats has been marred by controversy and a growing, curdled antipathy between the fighters. None of the respect remains, instead, in this modern era we have an old school beef - less AJ/Klitschko more Hagler/Leonard.
The episode continued with insight from Jim Lampley, long-standing presenter who initially saw greatness in the bout, a dream clash of styles between the relentless pressure of GGG and the powerful counterpunching of Canelo. Carefully curated footage showed the ebb and flow of the fight last year that largely delivered on the hype.
However, HBO leaned into the subject of the scores particularly the infamous card of Adelaide Byrd (10 rounds to 2 for Canelo) and the outrage caused by the draw. Lampley’s probity could not allow him to spin the narrative in Canelo’s favour, at the time of the fight he simply called the score fiction. Here he was no less sincere. No fighter had won 10 out of the 12 rounds - least of all Canelo.
Following the controversy, most wanted an immediate rematch, the 24/7 episode whitewashes the details here intimating that negotiations merely hit a few snags, whereas in truth, Oscar de la Hoya put up several roadblocks to it fairly soon, to the point we may remember he outright turned the fight down instead picking opponent Spike O’Sullivan for a September 2018 date.
None of it would matter of course as the elephant in the room collapsed and died in April 2018 when Canelo held a stage-managed press conference announcing he would withdraw from the agreed upon rematch unilaterally after testing positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol. Interviews in this episode allowed the Reynoso brothers continued to push the narrative that tainted Mexican beef was to blame despite an admission from Jose Reynoso that he has vast experience with the Mexican beef industry and knows clenbuterol is used of course begging the question if you knew it was used and knew it was banned - then why allow Canelo to consume it?
The implacable GGG answers the question for us - if you were not simply cheating and got caught then you’re an irresponsible fool.
The Nevada State Athletic Commision still had to get involved in the case of a clear violation, the 24/7 crew gained access to proceedings as the commission handed down their relatively light 1 year ban, effective from the date of the first failed test in December 2017 but would be reduced to six months for Canelo’s cooperation. Meaning, though Canelo maintains his innocence he acknowledges the failed test and accepts his suspension and the commision took his admission along with the mitigating circumstances that this was the first offence and was lenient with their punishment.
In May, finally the rematch was announced, Canelo-GGG II was back on!
The episode continues with the fighters trading barbs and the trainers doing likewise. Reynoso describes GGG as a donkey, without a single thought in his head, GGG knows only to move forward and throw some punches he says. Nevermind that for more than two decades with some 400 fights under his belt between the amateur and professional ranks GGG has known little else but a boxing ring.
While Abel Sanchez and GGG both believe the problem with Canelo does not lay in his skill but in his heart, they think Canelo ran from them the first time yet believe he will have something to prove now and be more likely to engage and that plays directly into GGG’s hands.
The episode ends striking an assured tone, there will be a reckoning. The controversy that tainted the first bout will be excised in the rematch and the vitriol that infected the two fighters and degraded this contest will reach its terminus.
HBO is known for its dramas, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and other highly rated episodic TV and the 24/7 series and this most recent entry is one more example of what the channel does so well - creating emotional investment. Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez are real complex human beings, not characters in a TV melodrama, though it would be hard to script the trajectory that leads these two men back into the ring.
It’s impossible to regard either man as purely good or evil even if only for the sake of good storytelling, however, it was GGG that delivered a quote earlier in the episode that could have been spoken by Jon Snow himself.
Looking into the camera GGG matter of factly states I’m for justice. I’m for truth. These are not just empty words for the camera but it sure makes for great TV, we like our plots clearly defined, deep down we want to know who to root for and against.
Canelo/GGG II, like all good dramas, has a beginning, middle and on the 15th of September, there will be a conclusion.