Once the consensus favorite to steamroll Canelo Alvarez, middleweight champion Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin could be perceived as the ‘unofficial’ underdog among boxing insiders.
Unlike a year ago, a lot of accomplished fighters are predicting an Alvarez win despite the fact Golovkin is a modest favorite to defeat his foe in September.
And to add insult to injury for Golovkin, Canelo appears to be evolving as the strong A-side.
The A-side fighter, of course, is the guy who generates greater interest among the masses. He usually earns more money than his foe but is not always the champion, the favorite or the more skilled or accomplished. Nevertheless, his team usually has the leverage when choosing the fight date, venue, size and type of glove, ring size and etc.
Moreover, the A-side fighter isn't always the guy with the crowd rooting for him. For instance, in both Tyson vs Holyfield matches, the live gate overwhelmingly supported the B-side fighter, Evander.
However, in high-profile boxing the A-side fighter wins 4 of 5 times if the fight is close.
The bottom line
The uncomfortable truth is, Canelo, as the A-side fighter, will enter the bout with a small scoring advantage. To beat a more popular foe on the big stage, the other guy must usually win decisively i.e. leave no doubt.
...It's always been that way in boxing.
Ward vs Kovalev I, Leonard vs Hagler, De La Hoya vs Whitaker, De La Hoya vs Sturm, Mayweather vs Castillo I, Chavez vs Vera I, Mayweather vs Maidana I, Ali vs Shavers, Ali vs Norton III, Ali vs Young, Leonard vs Hearns II (Draw), Pacquiao vs Marquez III, Marciano vs LaStarza I, Louis vs Walcott I, Holyfield vs Lewis I (draw), Holmes vs Carl Williams, Foreman vs Alex Stewart, JamesToney vs Tiberi, James Toney vs Johnson, Rios vs Abril, Garcia vs Herrera and Roy Jones vs Tarver I...
And the list goes on.
Canelo vs GGG News
Date: September 16, 2107
Broadcast: HBO PPV (US)
Champion: Golovkin (Consensus)
Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
In fact, both Canelo and Golovkin have arguably benefitted from being the A-side in their razor close decision wins over Erislandy Lara and Daniel Jacobs, respectively.
And no, as we saw earlier this month with Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn, the A-side doesn't win 100 percent of the close ones but he's sure to win a high majority of bouts where verdicts produce split opinions among fans and media.
So, what does all this mean?
Most of the too-close-to-call rounds will likely be awarded to Canelo. Hence, when a strong case could be made for both fighters winning a round, Alvarez will get the nod most of the time.
In addition, and to support the above statement, Canelo has the larger fanbase, is presumably gaining in public momentum and will likely have the crowd behind him on fight night.
... And while judges insist they train themselves to ignore the cheering, they are not robots. They are human and subject to human elements. Should Canelo clip Golovkin with a shot that misses its target, the crowd will react as if he's landed a hard right hand thus giving the impression the shot land was more consequential than it was.
Last week, Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez was asked if he was worried about his fighter behind on the short of the scorecards in a close fight.
"You have to worry about that, but knowing [what has happened with Canelo's fights in the past] - it's up to us not to allow Canelo to make it out of twelve. If we let this happen to us, it's our fault," Sanchez told ESPN Deportes.
It's no coincidence the A-side, throughout boxing history, tends to get the benefit of the doubt most of the time, especially when most of the live gate is behind him.
Boxing history suggests that If Canelo vs GGG is close in the back half of the fight, it would behoove Golovkin to do something a little extra to separate himself from Alvarez.