Avid golfer Canelo Alvarez brings lessons learned on the golf course to the ring

LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez has become an avid golfer, and while the undisputed super middleweight champion is unlikely to match the many great feats he accomplished in the ring on the golf course, he concedes that playing golf has helped him in boxing in at least one way.

Golf is perhaps the most humbling sport of all. The ball sits still, never moving, yet so difficult to hit high and straight.

“You have to be very patient on the golf course and with every single shot,” Alvarez said Tuesday, four days before stepping into the ring again on Saturday to face his archrival at T-Mobile Arena Gennady Golovkin for the third time.

“When you hit a bad shot, you have to start thinking about the next shot right away [and not dwell on the bad one]. Forgetting the bad shot helps a lot.”

Alvarez’s most recent “miss” was a loss to Dmitriy Bivol in May’s bid for a light heavyweight championship. Alvarez was the sport’s consensus pound-for-pound king going into this fight, but losing to Bivol threw him off that perch.

Alvarez was the favorite but Bivol put up a brilliant fight and the result was never really in jeopardy.

When a reporter put a question to him, saying, “You come from a loss; we all know that,” Alvarez chuckled as he listened. The question was: “What would it mean for you to eliminate Golovkin?”

And if the Bivol fight was a bad shot in golf, he put it in the past and looks ahead to the next.

“Look, that’s my goal for this fight,” Alvarez said. “I’ll concentrate [on winning], and when the knockout comes, OK. But if not, I’m prepared for 12 laps.”

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 30: Canelo Alvarez tees off on the 7th hole during day one of the ICON Series at Liberty National Golf Club on June 30, 2022 in Jersey City, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Canelo Alvarez tees off on the 7th hole during day one of the ICON Series at Liberty National Golf Club on June 30, 2022 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Alvarez insisted he was in much better shape for his third fight with Golovkin than he had been in a while, perhaps dating back to the first Golovkin fight in 2017. He couldn’t run ahead of the fights that started with the Golovkin rematch in 2018 because of knee pain, but he said he ran at camp three times a week while preparing for Golovkin.

Strong legs are crucial for a boxer and Alvarez has done some notable things over the last four years despite not being at his best: he defeated Golovkin in their rematch, he stopped Sergei Kovalev to win a light heavyweight belt and he became the undisputed super middleweight champion.

Bad blood between Canelo, GGG fuels rivalry

He doesn’t hide the fact that he really wants to win on Saturday. He’s one of boxing’s fiercest competitors, but he harbors an enmity for Golovkin that he can’t contain. It keeps seeping into his conversations.

Before Alvarez met with reporters in a suite at the MGM Grand, Golovkin did the same. And Golovkin was asked if he thought the comments Alvarez made ahead of the Bivol fight about wanting to face off against unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk or WBC cruiserweight Ilungo Makabu were signs that he was not fully focused on Bivol.

“The things he said at press conferences were signs that he didn’t take Dmitriy Bivol seriously,” Golovkin said.

This comment shed light on the reason why Golovkin and Alvarez don’t get along. There was no bad blood between them in the first fight, but prior to the second fight, Alvarez failed two anti-doping tests and tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol.

He tested it in very small amounts and said it was because he ate contaminated meat. At that time any clenbuterol in the body was an injury; Now there are thresholds. Alvarez tested below the thresholds, and had they been in effect in 2018, as they are now in some jurisdictions, this would not have been a violation.

Mexican professional boxer Canelo Alvarez (R) trains during a media gathering at the House of Boxing in San Diego, California August 29, 2022, ahead of his trilogy showdown with Kazakh professional boxer Gennadiy 'GGG' Golovkin in Las Vegas in September.  - Alvarez is training ahead of a trilogy showdown with Kazakh professional boxer Gennadiy GGG Golovkin that will take place on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Canelo Alvarez is a -500 favorite at BetMGM for his third fight against Gennadiy Golovkin who is a +375 underdog. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

However, Golovkin was very critical of Alvarez and that has fueled the bitterness and intensity in their rivalry. Alvarez, in turn, was agitated by his rival’s words.

“He can say whatever he wants, but he doesn’t know anything about what happened to me,” Alvarez said. “He knows what happened to him but you can’t judge other fighters because you never know what happened.”

Alvarez said he was irritated because Golovkin says things in public that he doesn’t say to his face. But it’s clear that those words had an impact on him.

Canelo sees KO in GGG trilogy fight

He acted like a pro even in his early days as a pro and didn’t show much disdain or hatred towards opponents. However, Golovkin always manages to get under his skin. He said he had never wanted to win as badly as he did on Saturday.

“I find [I felt this way] with Caleb Plant, but it was a little bit different,” Alvarez said. “I think that’s the best [angry I’ve been].”

Fighting angry isn’t usually a smart tactic, and Alvarez is one of the smartest fighters in the sport. So he channeled his anger to urge him at camp to run when he hadn’t been for four years and to work with coach Eddy Reynoso to hone his game and find adjustments for Golovkin. He was full of praise for Golovkin’s skills, acknowledging that Golovkin is “one of the best” fighters he’s encountered.

Winning against Golovkin on Saturday could be like shooting a 6-under in the last round on a difficult course, but Alvarez has more in mind. Golovkin is a no-brainer for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but he was never knocked down or stopped.

Alvarez wants this finish to underscore his triumph and end this rivalry once and for all.

“I’ve worked so hard for this and I want to do that,” Alvarez said. “And I’m going to try and get that knockout.”

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