Despite intense rivalry, Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin 3 is not enthusiastic

LAS VEGAS — NFL coaches are known for being workaholics, sleeping on the couches in their offices during the season and flipping through videos to try to find the slightest advantage.

Johnathon Banks, the coach of Gennady Golovkindoesn’t find this approach useful in his fighter’s case, despite there being 24 rounds of Golovkin fights on tape Canelo Alvarez to read for him. It will be the same fighters in the same arena, but so much has changed since then that Banks said the video of the first two fights wasn’t that helpful.

Alvarez and Golovkin will resume their rivalry on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, four years after Alvarez defeated Golovkin in their second fight on September 15, 2018.

The first two fights between them for middleweight dominance in 2017 and 2018 were so excruciatingly close that if they had been a horse race they would have been called a photo finish.

Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 by narrowly defeating Alydar by a total of about two lengths in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont States. The 1978 Belmont is considered by many to be the greatest race of all time, with horses running the last half mile before Affirmed’s neck went under the wire.

That’s the kind of fights Alvarez and Golovkin had in 2017 and 2018. Both fighters, their trainers and members of their teams agree that the first two fights were razor thin. Banks, who replaced Abel Sanchez as Golovkin’s coach after Alvarez’s second fight, said it would be a mistake to think the third fight won’t be close either.

However, they are different men when they go to the post office on Saturday. This time it’s about the undisputed super middleweight championship. Golovkin is 40 years old, but he is gaining weight for the first time. Alvarez is making his first loss since 2013 and losing weight.

“It’s the same guys, but it’s not the same fight,” Banks said.

The intensity of the fighters is undoubtedly the same and most people who work in boxing expect a convincing fight. But there are still several thousand tickets left and there is clearly a lack of enthusiasm for the fight.

Mark Taffet was the HBO Sports executive responsible for pay-per-view for their first two fights. The 2017 fight sold 22,358 tickets, had a $27.1 million gate and sold 1.3 million pay-per-views. The 2018 rematch had an admission of 21,965 with a $23.5 million gate and 1.1 million pay-per-view sales.

Saturday’s rematch will not come close to any of those numbers. Alvarez was not made available to a large majority of reporters until fight week, limiting the advanced public.

Several thousand tickets remain unsold ahead of Saturday's trilogy fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin.  (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

Several thousand tickets remain unsold ahead of Saturday’s trilogy match between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin at the T-Mobile Arena. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

Taffet said the four-year delay hurts, but said the way to maximize revenue in this fight is through Golovkin’s eyes. The fighters vehemently dislike each other and they remain among the elite fighters in the world.

A potentially great fight is needed to fuel passions and generate interest, but it’s not all that’s needed to make an event massive.

“As a fan, I’m very interested in watching the fight because the first two fights were controversial,” Taffet told Yahoo Sports. “The better known star in the sport right now is Canelo so I think there’s a great story that Golovkin could have won one or both of those first two fights in the eyes of a lot of fans. So he will try to finally settle the score or finally get what he deserves in the first two fights.”

And this is where selling the fight comes in. Both fighters admit the first two fights were close, although both believe they won. The largest customer base for the fight is the Mexican and Mexican-American fans who support Alvarez.

But it’s Golovkin who’s trying to flip the script.

“The Mexican fans are perhaps the best and most viable fan base to activate in esports,” Taffet said. “[Selling this fight] is a bit more challenging as this story isn’t about Canelo trying to avenge decisions that fans felt went in the wrong direction. But it is Golovkin who carries this on his shoulders.

“Communicating to the fandom to take action on Golovkin’s behalf is a bit harder than it would be if the story were reversed. In which [Manny] Pacquiao[Juan Manuel] Marquez fights, they were great amazing fights but Pacquiao got the wins and the Mexican fans behind Marquez felt like they had something to avenge. It’s easier to sell the story and evoke emotion.”

Both fighters’ passions were ignited as they spoke to the media over the past few days. It’s easy to understand that Alvarez doesn’t like Golovkin and vice versa.

But both coaches agree that despite so many similarities, the fight will be different.

“[Canelo] is so much better than it was then in so many ways,” said Alvarez coach Eddy Reynoso. “He’s evolved a lot and if you’re expecting the same guy that you saw, you might be surprised.”

Given their story and their skills, the combat will be close and the action intense. Whether it sells enough tickets and pay-per-views to justify the huge purses, however, is another matter entirely.

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