By Tim Dahlberg

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez had to follow a circus to town the first time they met a year ago.

The clown show by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor a few weeks earlier cast a long shadow on a middleweight title bout that turned out to be quite a show itself. Golovkin and Alvarez put on a real fight with a little bit of everything — except a winner.

The two return Saturday night for a rematch on the Las Vegas Strip that might be even better. The 160-pound titles are at stake once again as the two fighters try to settle what they couldn’t in last September’s draw.

And this time, it’s personal.

A failed drug test by Alvarez did not just postpone the rematch from the original date in May. It sparked a debate that left Golovkin openly questioning an excuse about contaminated meat in Mexico and whether Alvarez was clean for their first fight.

“I don’t believe all his stories about contaminated meat,” Golovkin said this week. “I think it’s all nonsense. I don’t like to hear his nonsense stories about contaminated meat.”

Luckily for Golovkin, he has not had to listen. He and Alvarez have shared a room only once since the fight was announced — at Wednesday’s final pre-fight press conference — and Alvarez is so upset about Golovkin’s comments that he refused to do a traditional face-off with Triple G for photographers.

When they finally do meet Saturday night, it will be with some hard feelings on both sides that did not surface in the first fight.

“I’m angry, but I’m going to use it in my favor in this fight,” Alvarez said. “I’m bothered by all the stupid things they’ve been saying.”

A fight that had to happen after the disputed draw in the first bout almost didn’t come to be after Alvarez tested positive for clenbuterol just before beginning training for what was supposed to be a May rematch. Alvarez was suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission for six months, and then Golovkin’s camp demanded a better split of the purse than he got for the first bout.

A last-minute agreement resolved the purse split, with Triple G getting closer to the 50-50 he was demanding. And both fighters will make millions for a sold-out fight that will be televised on HBO pay-per-view at a cost of $84.95.

Now the rematch has to live up to the hype. That means both fighters will need to take more chances than in the first bout, which was close and entertaining but had no dramatic knockdowns or memorable big punches.

“I just want him (Alvarez) to do what he says he will do and try for a knockout,” said Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez. “If he does that we’ll be treated to a great fight.”

Sanchez has carried much of the burden for the fight’s promotion, as both fighters are more comfortable speaking in their native languages than in English. He has tried to bait Alvarez by claiming the Mexican fighter ran in the first fight and refused to engage Triple G, when in reality all Alvarez did was rely on his counterpunching strength against the big puncher from Kazakhstan, who lives in Los Angeles.

“He’s promised the fans he’s going to knock him out, but in order to do that you have to be in range,” Sanchez said. “In order to win a fight you have to want to win a fight. People aren’t going to pay 90 bucks to see somebody run.”

Golovkin, who has held pieces of the middleweight title for eight years, is 38-0-1 with 34 knockouts, and for much of his career he knocked out anyone put in the ring with him. He went 12 tough rounds against Daniel Jacobs before going the distance with Alvarez, and there are some in boxing who believe his skills are eroding at the age of 36.

Alvarez, an excellent counterpuncher and boxer, has the advantage of having gone 12 rounds with Triple G and understanding how to avoid getting hit with his biggest punches. Alvarez is 49-1-2 with 34 knockouts, and his only loss was five years ago to Mayweather.

“I’m going to go in there to knock him out,” Alvarez said. “Every night before bed I visualize what I’m going to do, which is to get a knockout.”

In the first fight, which The Associated Press scored as a 114-114 draw, Alvarez came on strong against Golovkin in the late rounds to pull out a draw that was controversial largely because one judge had Alvarez winning 118-110.

Both fighters say they are happy with the judges for the rematch, and they doubt they will come into play anyway.

“It’s a little bit different,” Golovkin said. “It’s a real fight, a real war.”

21232358