Can Gennady Golovkin exploit Canelo's weaknesses that Bivol exposed?

Dmitry Bivol showed just how to defeat Canelo Alvarez in May as he beat him to the jab, targeted the body and always had the final word in exchanges… Gennady Golovkin can now exploit those newly-found weaknesses in their trilogy bout

  • Canelo Alvarez lost to Dmitry Bivol in their light-heavyweight fight in May
  • Bivol had success by beating him to the jab and targeting the body effectively
  • He also often had the final word in exchanges to win the fight on points
  • Gennady Golovkin may look to use some of Bivol’s tactics when he faces Canelo
  • Their trilogy bout is due to take place in Las Vegas, America on Saturday night 

No fighter is invincible. But heading into 2022, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez looked pretty close to it. After being outclassed by Floyd Mayweather back in 2013, the popular Mexican had gone 16 fights unbeaten.

He had just put together a run of wins that had seen him overcome Sergey Kovalev up at light-heavyweight to become a four-weight world champion, before coming back down to 12 stone and beating Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant in the space of 11 months to clean out the super-middleweight division. 

At 31, he appeared to be at the peak of his powers, and almost unstoppable.

Dmitry Bivol (centre) stunned Canelo in May to end the Mexican’s nine-year unbeaten run

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

Then it all went wrong against Dmitry Bivol in May. Canelo went back up to light-heavyweight to challenge himself against the Russian, but came off a distant second best, despite the scorecards suggesting that 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 favourite. 

Now, four months on from that humbling loss, Canelo is set to get back into the ring for his trilogy bout with Gennady Golovkin. The first two fights have been gripping contests, with their first meeting ending in a controversial draw, prior to Canelo winning their second via a razor-thin majority decision.

Golovkin can feel hard done by to have not got the verdict on either occasion, but finally has the chance to settle the score with his old rival. Can he learn anything from Bivol’s approach to take into the fight?

Sportsmail takes a look at the weaknesses Bivol exposed, which Golovkin could potentially exploit ahead of what promises to be a must-watch showdown in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Keep Canelo at bay with the jab

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

At times he was just pawing with the shot to get his range, while he also turned it into a snappier, more damaging punch as he grew in confidence.

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

Golovkin does not have the height or reach of Bivol, but he has shown that he possesses one of the best jabs in the business.

Bivol used his jab effectively to keep Canelo (left) out of range so that he could not counter

Golovkin’s jab is a thudding one and helps him stamp his authority on a fight. The 40-year-old has become renowned for his chopping hooks, but his jab should not be underestimated.

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

He also used it very effectively against the big-punching David Lemieux back in 2015 as he outboxed and then stopped the Canadian inside eight rounds.

His jab was not as potent when he met Canelo for the second time, but Bivol showed that it can be utilised to put rounds in the bank, suggesting that Golovkin should look to bring his jab into play as early as possible to boost his chances of victory.

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 couple of hooks around the side of the gloves, and managed to penetrate Bivol’s defence with an uppercut.

Yet Bivol answered back. He put together an eye-catching combination to push Canelo back towards the ropes as he held his own and refused to be bullied.

This trend continued through the fight – every time Canelo looked like sparking the crowd into life, Bivol would hit back.

Bivol regularly had the last word in exchanges as Canelo looked to pull out of range

He caught Canelo with a couple of impressive left hooks in the latter rounds of their fight

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

Golovkin has had plenty of success against Canelo in their previous meetings, but Canelo has often been the fighter producing the flashier combinations that stick in the memory more – perhaps that is why the judges have given him the benefit of the doubt.

Bivol consistently had the final word in his exchanges with Canelo, making it clear that he was bossing the fight, and Golovkin should try to do the same rather than letting Canelo pinch rounds as he has done in the past.

Attack Canelo’s body

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

His decision to consistently switch between head and body certainly paid off. It meant that Canelo was constantly guessing when Bivol got 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 left sprawled on the canvas with broken ribs after taking a devastating left hook in 2013.

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

Yet Golovkin has not attacked the body enough when he has faced Canelo previously. Canelo has exceptional head movement, making it very difficult to catch him cleanly.

He has also proven that he has a granite jaw, having never looked close to being stopped in his career to date.

Therefore, targeting the body more is definitely worth trying. If Golovkin can start to land downstairs, he may begin to soften Canelo up, and this could allow him to get on top as the fight progresses.

Stamina issues resurface

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

Over the years, he has managed this issue better. With experience, he appears to have been able to pace himself so that he can go the full 12 rounds without taking his foot off the gas.

However, against Bivol, concerns over his stamina resurfaced. At the halfway stage of the bout there was not a great deal to split the pair, but Bivol ran away with the fight in the championship rounds.

Canelo backed off to the ropes to catch a breather on multiple occasions against Bivol

It was particularly noticeable in the final round that Canelo had very little left to give. 

He must have known that he was likely to be behind on the scorecards, yet he backed off to the ropes on multiple occasions to catch his breath, and when he did try to get his own shots off, they were arm punches with very little power behind them.

Some fans may point to the fact that Canelo had stepped up to light-heavyweight, and argue that the extra weight took its toll on him.

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

He looked tired after the final bell as he slumped on the ropes when the decision was read out

He consistently kept the pressure on and worked the body, and this may have had an effect on Canelo in the latter stages of the fight.

At the age of 40, it will not be easy for Golovkin to push the pace against his younger foe. He has demonstrated that he has superior stamina to Canelo across the course of his career, though.

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

If he has one last big performance in him and can set an uncomfortable pace, he may finally get the official victory over Canelo that he has desperately wanted.

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