LAS VEGAS -- Boxing's highly anticipated rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez is just days away, and there is no shortage of questions for this rematch to answer.
Will it eclipse the financial marks of last year's bout? Will Alvarez fight more aggressively, following months of accusations from Golovkin's trainer that he "ran" in the first fight? How will the judges respond to any added scrutiny caused by last year's controversial scores?
But perhaps the most fascinating question: Is Gennady Golovkin finally angry? And if he is, how might that impact the biggest fight of his career?
It certainly appears that Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs), one of the sport's most matter-of-fact, impassive champions outside of the ring, has had enough. In recent months, he has referred to Alvarez as "the most unpleasant and dirtiest opponent I have ever had," and he called the Mexican fighter's entire team "fakes."
Whether Golovkin has been encouraged to drop a few soundbites to promote the fight or these comments have come from the heart is hard to say. He has probably entered the ring angry only once, when he fought Curtis Stevens in November 2013. Stevens talked a lot of trash before the fight and even held a mock "funeral" for Golovkin. Golovkin finished him in the eighth.
Golovkin's reasons for being emotional now, however, are quite different than simple trash talk -- and frankly, might stretch all the way back to 2004.
Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, believes he was robbed of an Olympic gold medal in 2004, when judges denied him a victory against a Russian opponent. He has struggled to land big-name opponents throughout his career, and he even went to the trouble of modifying his fighting style in an attempt to become more popular.
"My push for Gennady was always -- and still is -- that we are in the entertainment business," said his trainer, Abel Sanchez. "He's not American. He's not Mexican. We have to work twice as hard, and we never had those marquee fights. Sergio Martinez avoided him forever. Miguel Cotto was supposed to fight him and didn't. We haven't had that fight that transcends race lines."
That fight Sanchez speaks of was supposed to be the first meeting with Alvarez. When that ended in a disappointing scoring controversy, it was supposed to be a rematch in May. As everyone knows, however, that fight was canceled when Alvarez was suspended for six months for a failed drug test.
The aftermath of that failed test is what has angered Golovkin most. Golovkin and his team believe Alvarez dragged his feet addressing the test in an attempt to prevent Golovkin from taking another fight in the meantime (Golovkin ended up fighting Vanes Martirosyan in August).
When the time came to rebook the rematch, Golovkin demanded an even 50-50 revenue split. He relented to 55-45, but even that was initially denied, as Alvarez sees himself as the draw. The negotiations enraged Golovkin so much that he walked away from the fight. His promoter, Tom Loeffler, was in the process of finalizing another fight when the rematch was salvaged.
"f Gennady had tested positive, we wouldn't be talking about a rematch, because he would have been ostracized. Nevada seems to take care of its money makers. A lot of rules seemed to change for Floyd Mayweather's benefit. I understand this is a business, but when you're on the other end of it ..." Abel Sanchez, Gennady Golovkin's trainer
It's not difficult to understand Golovkin's perspective. He has made concessions his entire career. He has agreed to be a B-side, as the unified champion of the world. He was arguably robbed of the most significant win of his professional career. He has watched an opponent fail a drug test and receive a punishment his team isn't sure would have been the same had he been the transgressor.
"If Gennady had tested positive, we wouldn't be talking about a rematch because he would have been ostracized," Sanchez said. "Nevada seems to take care of its money makers. A lot of rules seemed to change for Floyd Mayweather's benefit. I understand this is a business, but when you're on the other end of it ..."
What effect this will have on the rematch, we'll find out this weekend. Golovkin and Sanchez have each said that they believe Alvarez's reputation is at stake and there is more pressure on him to perform than there was in the first fight.
For Golovkin, maybe it is not anger with which he'll enter the ring for this fight but an understanding of some sort -- an understanding that, throughout his career, he has probably fought an uphill battle to reap what he has sown. And the best thing he can do to take what's his is to keep it in his hands.
"This business is a very interesting business," Golovkin said. "I have good experience [from the first fight]. Just so many people showed their true face. HBO commentators, commission. Right now, I know who I am. I know who is this guy.
"Right now, I more understand this situation, this position ... I understand this is business."