Canelo vs. GGG – Where Should You Lay Your Money?

by Lee McDonald
on September 15, 2017

We are less than a month removed from the most media-crazed boxing match in recent memory where Floyd Mayweather rode off into the sunset with a perfect 50-0 record after a 10th round TKO of Conor McGregor. With the betting line of that match being so one sided, action was heavy.

While most bets were placed on McGregor, the biggest bets were placed on Mayweather. The trajectory of the betting made total sense. In boxing anything can happen with one punch, and when one guy is sitting at a +1200 or even +450, it can be worth it to take a flyer and place a bet.

Unfortunately, not all boxing contests offer the type of betting line that can offer you a heavy return on your wager. Once such fight that fits that bill of being almost too close to call is this Saturday’s middleweight bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennday “GGG” Golovkin.

When the fight was announced in May, Golovkin opened as the favorite at -160 to Canelo’s +140, this according to the Westgate sportsbook. The line has shifted ever so slightly with Golovkin now currently sitting at -155 to Canelo’s +125. The odds are inching closer to about as even money as you can get.

This is a VERY tough match to call and being so close to even money is definitely the right way to shape the line. When faced with even money, or close to even money fights, it is very difficult to figure out who to bet for. With GGG being undefeated and the fight being at his natural weight class of middleweight, that stands out as the only clear reason to make him the favorite over the fight being even money.

These two fighters are so skilled and so close in their abilities that no one would be wrong in saying this fight is a toss up. So I’d like to take a deep dive into these two fighters and break down which side you should put your money on and why.

Gennady “GGG” Golovkin

Golovkin comes into this fight sporting a 37-0 record with 33 knockouts. His most recent bout against Daniel Jacobs was a close 12-round decision that snapped GGG’s 23-fight knockout streak. It was likely this fight that wet the appetite of Canelo’s camp to get this fight made.

Daniel Jacobs was definitely no slouch coming into the fight so it’s not as if Golovkin was expected to completely walk through him. Going the distance in a close fight, however, was in no way what anyone was expecting.

GGG has been so dominant that his bout with Jacobs represented his smallest betting line since 2012 when he was a -450 favorite over Grzegorz Proska. While his -480 line against Jacobs made him a slightly better favorite in that fight, it was the first time in the long time he wasn’t an EXTREME favorite.

Let’s take a look at Gennady Golovkin’s most recent betting lines in between the Jacobs and Proska fights:

  • -480 against Daniel Jacobs
  • -750 against Kell Brook
  • -7000 against Dominic Wade
  • -1300 against David Lemieux
  • -2500 against Willie Monroe, Jr.
  • -2000 against Martin Murray
  • -2000 against Marco Antonio Rubio
  • -750 against Daniel Gaele
  • -9000 against Osumanu Adama
  • -1550 against Curtis Stevens
  • -1200 against Matthew Macklin
  • -5000 against Nubuhirio Ishida
  • -3450 against Gabriel Rosado

As you can see, not only was Golovkin always favored, but the fights weren’t even supposed to be competitive. It’s not that GGG has been fighting tin cans, the man from Kazakhstan really is that good. He has definitely fought a few unworthy opponents, but for the most part, it is who Gennady Golovkin is as a fighter that made him so heavily favored.

So his line of -155 has to give any bettor cause for concern coming into this fight. This is clearly the biggest test of his career. For the first time since he’s been a champion, his middleweight titles are vulnerable.

Speaking of being vulnerable, it was Canelo’s trainer, Chepo Reynoso, that felt as though GGG was more vulnerable to shots landed in the Daniel Jacobs fight, something he sees as being an advantage for Canelo.

Far be it for me to argue with the trainer of one of the best boxers in the world. Golovkin is also 35, and as fighters get older, their ability to absorb shots definitely decreases.


To talk about GGG’s strengths in this fight does not necessarily mean it is a weakness for Canelo, but rather a strength specific to Golovkin, independent of who he is fighting.

Power: When a fighter has 33 knockouts in 37 wins it is no secret that power is a big commodity of theirs. GGG is clearly one of the biggest power punchers in the game today. So much so that on more than one occasion his opponents have thrown in the towel.

Precision: Conor McGregor once said, “Precision beats power, and timing beats speed.” In addition to Golovkin’s great power, he has great precision. His shots are always very measured and accurate. Even in a close fight against Jacobs he still managed to land nearly 50% of his power punches and close to 40% overall.


To be honest, Gennady Golovkin has no weaknesses. But for the purposes of trying to compare this two fighters to choose a side to wager on we’ll discuss the only thing I can think of.

Age: That’s right – age. 35 years old may not seem like it’s all that old, but you have to consider that Canelo is only 27. Does this mean that GGG is slower or lacking quickness in comparison to Canelo, of course not. But Father Time is undefeated and we’ve seen plenty of fighters seemingly “get old” overnight. Do I think that’s the case with Golovkin? Of course not. But his last fight was a tough one. While Daniel Jacobs is a good fighter, could that have been the first sign of GGG’s decline?

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo comes into this fight touting a record of 49-1-1, with 34 wins coming by way of knockout. Alvarez has essentially been near perfect himself, with his only loss coming at the hands of the undefeated Floyd Mayweather via a majority decision.

His last fight against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. was essentially target practice for Canelo. He didn’t score a knockout, but he won a very lopsided unanimous decision. It was after this fight that the GGG bout was announced and the boxing world began to salivate.

Much like with GGG, Canelo has been a pretty dominant fighter for most of his career. This fight marks his first time as an underdog since his 2014 fight with Floyd Mayweather in which he was a +235 underdog.

While not quite the lopsided betting lines that Golovkin has been seeing, the bouts between Mayweather and GGG saw Canelo highly favored as well. His breakdown is as follows:

  • -425 against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
  • -1000 against Liam Smith
  • -650 against Amir Khan
  • -300 against Miguel Cotto
  • -900 against James Kirkland
  • -285 against Erislandy Lara
  • -670 against Alfredo Angulo

Again, not quite the constant high four-figure betting lines we saw with GGG, but a heavy favorite in most cases nonetheless. Now is this indicative of Canelo facing better opponents or Golovkin being a better fighter?

Given that the two fighters are so close to one another in skill, you would have to argue that Canelo has been up against the tougher fighters. I would definitely make that argument considering there are names like Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan on Canelo’s list.

What’s interesting is that Golovkin has been asking for this fight for a couple of years now. So to GGG, he doesn’t care whether or not he sees holes in your game, he just wants to fight you no matter how good you are.

So just how good is Canelo?


Just like with Golovkin’s strengths, these are merely strengths of Canelo regardless of who is opponent happens to be.

Power: With 34 of his 49 wins coming by way of knockout, you could very much argue that Canelo is the bigger power puncher of the two. Some of Canelo’s knockouts have been simply devastating, leaving his opponent no chance for a standing eight count.

Precision: Matching strength for strength, Canelo’s punching precision is probably only matched by GGG at this weight class. In his bout with Chavez, Jr. he managed to land around 43% of his power punches and about 38% of his total punches overall. While not as high as Golovkin’s previous fight, you have to take into account the height and reach disadvantage that Canelo was at.


Just like with GGG, there really are none. Canelo’s game is so tight that you’re hard pressed to find a weakness. While Mayweather was able to hand Canelo his first and only loss, experience seemed to be his weakness in that fight.

Since that time Canelo has grown heavily as a fighter. With that said, I can think of only one weakness.

Miles: Canelo has had 51 professional fights. Even though he is only 27 years old, that is a lot of miles on the body and in the ring. To put that in perspective, Floyd Mayweather had a 20 year career and retired at age 40 with one fewer fight than Canelo. Does that mean that he’s starting to wear down? Of course not. But in a fight where fighters are so evenly matched, you often find yourself grasping at straws to find holes in their games.

What the Pros Are Saying

When a fight is this close it makes sense to get input from the people that know the game better than anyone. A number of boxing’s top fighters, both past and present, have already weighed in with their picks for the fight.

Let’s take a look at who’s getting more love from their pugilistic counterparts:

Floyd Mayweather

“I think there’s a few guys that can beat GGG, and Canelo is at the top of that list.”

Pick: Canelo

Anthony Joshua

“I hope that Canelo wins, not that I don’t like GGG.”

Pick: Canelo

Tommy Hearns

“GGG is a strong fighter, can fight with anyone, but does not get away from blows and if Canelo does what he has to do, boxing, staying out of danger, and if he does that when he lets go of his punches, he has a good chance of winning.”

Pick: Canelo

Bernard Hopkins

“He (Jacobs) set up a blueprint for the next man, Canelo, to come along and study that…and realize that GGG isn’t getting better.”

Pick: Canelo

Amir Khan

“I honestly don’t think he (Canelo) beats GGG.”

Pick: GGG

Johnny Nelson

“I think Canelo will be the one who, mentally, prepared himself better.”

Pick: Canelo

Sugar Ray Leonard

“I give the edge to GGG because of who he is and what he has.”

Pick: GGG

Out of 7 boxers that were asked the question, 5 are riding with Canelo. Just as easy if we asked another 3 fighters we could be sitting here with a 5-5 score, so take that for what it’s worth.

The Current Trends

If the current betting trends on the fight are any indication, Golovkin is looking pretty good. Word out of Las Vegas is that the MGM has already taken “a couple low six-figure bets” on GGG. The early betting on the fight was fairly close, however, as only $3,100 more money had been bet on Golovkin than on Canelo.

As it stands now, word is that 54% of the action that has come in so far has been on Golovkin. This makes for a very close and very difficult fight to bet. So if that’s the case, than what do we do about it?

Where to Lay Your Money

Now that we’ve considered all of the factors; we’ve looked at their last fight, glanced at the list of their most recent betting lines, and weighed their strengths and weaknesses which makes them basically even, who are we betting for?

First, we have to keep in mind that with them being so close to even money, neither fighter is going to get you a huge score on your return. In weighing risk versus reward, your risk is essentially going to be your reward.

With that being said and all things being equal, the favorite is the favorite for a reason. So when push comes to shove and we have to make a decision, I’m going to have to go with the guy that is yet to lose a fight and put my money on Gennady Golovkin.

Do I love the bet? I can’t say that I do but this fight is so close that I’ll settle for a bet that I like. This is one of the first fights in a very long time that if you told me you placed a bet on either fighter it would make sense.

I still feel, however, that the safe money is on Golovkin. Saturday can’t come soon enough.

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