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Boxing: Can Gennady Golovkin exploit the weaknesses of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez that Dmitry Bivol exposed?

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No fighter is invincible. But heading into 2022, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez seemed pretty close. After being outclassed by Floyd Mayweather in 2013, the popular Mexican went unbeaten for 16 fights.

He had just racked up a string of wins that saw him beat Sergey Kovalev as light-heavyweight to become world champion in four weights, before coming back to 12 stone and beating Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant in the space of 11 months to win the super -middleweight division to clean up.

At 31, he seemed at the peak of his abilities and almost unstoppable.

Dmitry Bivol (center) stunned Canelo in May to end the Mexican’s nine-year undefeated streak

Gennady Golovkin (pictured) could now try to exploit the weaknesses that Bivol has exposed

Gennady Golovkin (pictured) could now try to exploit the weaknesses that Bivol has exposed

Then it all went wrong against Dmitry Bivol in May. Canelo went back to light-heavyweight to challenge himself against the Russian, but took a distant second, despite scorecards suggesting the fight was a close affair.

In one night his aura of invincibility was gone. Bivol made a mockery of the pre-fight odds, which had Canelo as the clear favorite.

Now, four months after that humiliating loss, Canelo is ready to get back in the ring for his trilogy fight with Gennady Golovkin. The first two fights were gripping matches, with their first meeting ending in a controversial draw, before Canelo won their second via a razor-thin majority decision.

Golovkin finds it hard not to get a verdict on both occasions, but finally gets a chance to settle the score with his old rival. Can he learn anything from Bivol’s approach to fighting?

Sports post takes a look at the weaknesses Bivol has exposed that Golovkin could potentially exploit ahead of what promises to be a Saturday night showdown in Las Vegas.

Keep Canelo away with the jab

Bivol managed to establish his jab against Canelo early on, and he mixed his use of it well.

At times he was just clawing the shot to get his reach, while also turning it into a faster, more damaging punch as he gained confidence.

By doing this, he kept Canelo busy and off balance, making it difficult for him to rip home his punishing counter punches.

Golovkin doesn’t have the height or reach of Bivol, but he has shown that he owns one of the best jabs in the business.

Bivol effectively used his jab to keep Canelo (left) out of reach so he couldn't counter

Bivol effectively used his jab to keep Canelo (left) out of reach so he couldn’t counter

Golovkin’s jab is a thump and helps him imprint his authority on a fight. The 40-year-old has become known for his heels, but his jab should not be underestimated.

It was the shot that gave him the upper hand against Canelo in their first fight, and he probably should have seen him emerge victorious.

He also used it very effectively against hard-working David Lemieux in 2015 when he outboxed the Canadian within eight rounds and then stopped.

His jab wasn’t as powerful when he met Canelo for the second time, but Bivol showed it can be used to bench rounds, suggesting that Golovkin should try to get his jab as early in the game as possible to his chances of winning.

The last word in exchanges

Bivol was the clear winner against Canelo, but the Mexican still had his moments of success.

In the third round, Canelo threatened to find his rhythm as he landed a pair of hooks around the side of the gloves and smashed into Bivol’s defense with an uppercut.

Still, Bivol replied. He put together an eye-catching combination to push Canelo back to the ropes while holding his ground and refusing to be bullied.

This trend continued throughout the fight — every time Canelo looked like it brought the crowd to life, Bivol hit back.

Bivol regularly had the last word in exchanges as Canelo appeared to be out of reach

Bivol regularly had the last word in exchanges as Canelo appeared to be out of reach

He caught Canelo with some impressive left hooks in the closing rounds of their fight

He caught Canelo with some impressive left hooks in the closing rounds of their fight

Another example of this came in the 11th round, where Canelo wanted to get up close to get some body shots. Twice he pulled away after launching his attack, and twice he was caught with shocking left hooks to the jaw.

Golovkin has had great success against Canelo in their previous encounters, but Canelo was often the fighter who produced the flashier combinations that stick more to the memory – perhaps that’s why the judges gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Bivol consistently had the last word in his exchanges with Canelo, making it clear that he was in charge, and Golovkin should try to do the same instead of squeezing Canelo around like he’s done in the past.

Attack Canelo’s body

According to CompuBox punch stats, via boxing sceneBivol threw more power punches to the body than Canelo (292 to 266) and landed more (106 to 74). Considering how good Canelo is for the body, those are very impressive numbers for Bivol.

His decision to consistently alternate between head and body has certainly paid off. It meant Canelo was constantly guessing when Bivol was coming into punching range, and it undoubtedly slowed down the future Hall of Famer.

Golovkin is a fearsome body puncher – just ask Matthew Macklin, who was sprawled on the canvas with broken ribs after taking a devastating left hook in 2013.

Golovkin should attack Canelo's body after this was an effective tactic for Russian Bivol

Golovkin should attack Canelo’s body after this was an effective tactic for Russian Bivol

Still, Golovkin didn’t attack the body enough when he faced Canelo before. Canelo has exceptional head movement, which makes it very difficult to catch him cleanly.

He has also proven that he has a granite jaw, and so far in his career he has never looked forward to being stopped.

That’s why it’s definitely worth trying to focus more on the body. If Golovkin can land down, he can soften Canelo, and this could allow him to get to the top as the fight progresses.

Endurance issues resurface

Canelo’s stamina was certainly questionable in the early stages of his career. Look back at his fights with the Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara and you’ll see that he gave away rounds while looking to catch his second wind.

Over the years, he has managed this problem better. With experience, he seems to have been able to set his pace so that he can go the full 12 laps without taking his foot off the gas.

Against Bivol, however, concerns about his stamina resurfaced. There wasn’t much to split the pair halfway through the match, but Bivol took off with the fight in the championship rounds.

Canelo retreated to the ropes to catch his breath on multiple occasions against Bivol

Canelo retreated to the ropes to catch his breath on multiple occasions against Bivol

Especially in the last lap it was noticeable that Canelo had little left to give.

He must have known he would probably be behind on the scorecards, but he retreated to the ropes several times to catch his breath, and when he tried to get his own shots off, they were arm thrusts with very little force behind them.

Some fans may point to the fact that Canelo made the move to light heavyweight, claiming that the extra weight took its toll.

But Bivol also deserves credit for outsmarting his opponent – CompuBox numbers show he threw more punches and landed more punches in each round than Canelo.

He looked tired after the final bell as he sank onto the ropes as the decision was read

He looked tired after the final bell as he sank onto the ropes as the decision was read

He was constantly holding the pressure and working the body, and this may have had an effect on Canelo in the final stages of the fight.

At 40 years old, it will not be easy for Golovkin to pick up the pace against his younger foe. However, he has shown that he has superior stamina than Canelo over the course of his career.

His late rise in the second fight with Canelo highlighted his impressive fitness, and some fans felt this should have been enough for him to raise his hand.

If he has one last big performance in him and can set an uneasy pace, he can finally get the official win over Canelo he so desperately wanted.

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