Expectations are high for the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin bout to deliver like the throwback middleweight fights of the 1980s when the fists did the talking.
“I want to win this fight because maybe for me this win will be like a history fight, like Leonard versus Hagler,” Golovkin said. “Like middleweight division, I believe the boxing division will come back. And Canelo, he’s a very special guy.”
Before Golovkin and Alvarez step into the ring Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, here’s a look at three memorable middleweight bouts in Las Vegas:
1. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
Winner: Hagler, third-round TKO
Venue: Caesars Palace outdoor arena
Date: April 15, 1985
Remind any fight fan about the eight-minute brawl between “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns and watch their facial expressions as they utter the word “war” to describe the classic middleweight bout.
The two 160-pound fighters got the crowd jumping early at Caesars Palace with their wild haymakers in the first round, which provided more action than most fights that go the distance. Hagler, who was the dominant middleweight champion, came out swinging, looking to impose his strength against Hearns, who was new to the division.
Hagler quickly found out about Hearns’ power when he was hurt by the Hitman’s right hand in the opening minute. That didn’t stop a dazed Hagler from continuing to stalk the lanky Hearns.
Hearns, who broke his right hand during the bout, went down in the third round and needed help out of the ring after the devastating shots he took from Hagler.
To this day, it’s still hard for Hearns to talk about the loss to Hagler that electrified Las Vegas three decades ago.
“Don’t remind me of the Hagler fight,” Hearns said last month before entering the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. “The more you bring it up, the more I think about doing it again (fighting Hagler).”
2. Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard
Winner: Leonard, split decision
Venue: Caesars Palace outdoor arena
Date: April 6, 1987
The boxing world wanted to see Hagler against Sugar Ray Leonard in the early 1980s, but it needed to wait half a decade after Leonard retired because of an eye injury. It was worth the wait.
Leonard, a heavy underdog, eventually fought Hagler in 1987. Leonard only had one fight in the prior five years before meeting Hagler, who was on a 11-year undefeated streak and destroying everyone in his path.
The flashy Leonard didn’t make the same mistake as Hearns by trying to brawl with Hagler. Leonard fought at a distance and landed timely shots that weren’t hurting Hagler, but looked good to the judges.
Leonard won the close bout on the cards, but many believed Hagler was the true winner. The loss angered Hagler so much that he retired to end a Hall of Fame career.
3. Bernard Hopkins vs. Oscar De La Hoya
Winner: Hopkins, ninth-round KO
Venue: MGM Grand
Date: Sept. 18, 2004
Bernard Hopkins made history when he landed a devastating left hook to Oscar De La Hoya’s liver. The Golden Boy hit the canvas and was only able to get on his knees, as he was knocked out for the first time in his career.
Hopkins, who had three belts on the line, unified the middleweight division by taking De La Hoya’s title. “The Executioner” became the first boxer in the four-belt era to hold the major titles simultaneously.
Just like the memorable Hopkins-De La Hoya bout, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs when Golovkin and Alvarez meet. Golovkin will defend his WBA, WBC and IBF titles against Alvarez, the 160-pound lineal champion.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.
Canelo-GGG fight week
Tuesday: Grand Arrivals, MGM Grand lobby
Gennady Golovkin, 12:45 p.m.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 1:15
Wednesday: Undercard public workouts, MGM Grand sports book next to TAP sports bar
Jorge Lara, Francisco Rojo, 3 p.m.
Randy Caballero, Ryan Martin, 3:30
Joseph Diaz Jr., Diego De La Hoya, 4
Friday: Weigh-in, MGM Grand Garden Arena
Doors open, 10 a.m.
Fighters on scale, Noon
Saturday: Fight night, T-Mobile Arena
Doors open, 3 p.m.
First fight, 3:15
HBO pay-per-view, 5