By Sean Cunningham / September 15, 2017 5:00 am

As the champ in two WBC boxing divisions and a mixed martial artist who will next fight at Bellator 185, Heather “The Heat” Hardy goes through at least two workouts a day at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. That’s not counting “all the running, sit-ups and push-ups, the side work,” plus training personal clients in boxing.

“I don’t really have a lot of time,” she said, meaning it takes a special event to get her attention.

Enter Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez (so dubbed for his cinnamon-colored hair) and Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (call him “Triple G”) on September 16.

“I was always a really big Canelo fan, a really big Triple G fan,” she said. “I can’t wait for that one.”

While they’ll be hard-pressed to equal the media frenzy generated by Mayweather-McGregor, this bout offers something special: two fighters Hardy proclaims “great punchers” who plan to stick around a while. Following that epic payday, 40-year-old Floyd Mayweather retired while the UFC’s Conor McGregor will be returning to his usual sport.

By the end of the night, one man will have the combination of pay-per-view clout and ring accomplishments to be the official big dog of boxing.

Here’s a quick look at the two fighters:

The Master of Mexico. Only 27, Guadalajara-born Canelo has already racked up an absurd 51 professional fights. (In 2008 alone, he fought eight times.) His record is 49-1-1 with 34 knockouts, the only loss a majority decision to Mayweather when he was 23.

Canelo is coming off a showdown again his only rival for the hearts of his countrymen, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. Chavez is the son of Julio Cesar Chavez, the legendary boxer who, after the first 87 fights of his career, was 87-0.

The fight generated 1.2 million PPV buys. Those who tuned in witnessed this:

 

Canelo landed three times as many punches as Chavez did. After the easy decision victory, it was announced he would take on the scariest fighter since Mike Tyson in his prime: GGG.

Boxing’s Brutal Borat: Triple G is from Kazakhstan. You may recognize that country’s name from this:

 

And no, GGG is NOT amused:

 

His objections aside—and they are deeply valid as GGG had by all accounts a savage childhood filled with constant fighting and the deaths of two brothers—there is a undeniable hint of Borat to Triple G outside the ring. He’s perpetually smiling, almost excessively polite and prone to use terms like “big drama show.”

Then he gets in the ring and does this:

 

There is an unnerving variety to Triple G knockouts: He is the rare fighter who can stop opponents with body blows or just smash them straight through the ropes.

Triple G’s record reflects this dominance: 37-0 with 33 KOs. He has never been knocked down (much less out) in nearly 400 amateur and pro bouts. His superiority was such he stopped a staggering 23 straight opponents.

Again, boxing hadn’t seen a fighter destroy opponents like this since Iron Mike. There are even stories of bears running away from Triple G at his Big Bear, California training camp.

Of course, there’s a significant difference between Triple G and Tyson (besides the facial tattoos): Mike quickly became one of the most famous people on the planet. Triple G has largely remained a cult hero, seemingly destined to cut down foes like trees in a weirdly empty forest.

“It’s no secret that female boxers don’t make a lot of money,” said Hardy, offering one reason why she’s always ready to scrap in both boxing and now Bellator. (“As long as I got four to six weeks between fights, I’m cool.”)

Indeed, in general, boxers don’t make a lot of money. Mayweather may have his nine-figure paydays, but the sport is filled with people paid more like sparring partners. Quite simply, boxing is a sport that often leaves fighters feeling fortunate to collect hundreds of dollars after a beating, not hundreds of millions.

It seemed Triple G was doomed to reside in boxing’s upper middle class: popular enough to have PPVs, but not so popular they did particularly well. (He has never cracked 200,000 buys.) Worse, he couldn’t take on top opponents because elite fighters looked at a man who didn’t generate huge purses but might leave them hospitalized and decided, “Not for me, thanks.”

Then came Triple G’s March bout against Danny Jacobs when it all went wrong. No, he didn’t actually lose, but he only won by decision.

Naturally, this has started speculation that Triple G is past his peak. After all, he’s 35 and hundreds of fights have to take some toll, even if he spent much of his time walking to his corner after driving another poor bastard into the canvas. (Incidentally, when you get a victory in a fight during which you knock your opponent down and people are disappointed, you’re quite good.)

And suddenly Triple G was signed to take on Canelo and step on the biggest stage of his career.

Triple G has since suggested his subpar performance was the only reason he got his dream bout: “Boxing is a business. If I look great against Jacobs—if I knocked him out—I would not be getting this fight with Canelo now.”

Which brings us to the fight. With one of his trademark knockouts, Golovkin could become a full-on superstar. But if Canelo wins, he’ll be both the sport’s biggest attraction and arguably boast boxing’s best resume. (And again, he doesn’t turn 30 until 2020.)

So who comes out on top?

Best-case scenario: In many ways, it won’t matter. This is what happened when Canelo took on James Kirkland in 2015.

 

With action like that, no one really loses. (Fans don’t think any less of Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns for failing to win his legendary 1985 bout against Marvelous Marvin Hagler.)

That noted, Vegas has made Golovkin the betting favorite. Who do you have, Heather?”

“My coach was saying Canelo—Canelo with a knockout.” (A bold pick—this would be the first time Triple G’s even felt the canvas.)

And who’s the choice for the woman who declared: “I never really considered myself a boxer, I’m more of a fighter who learned how to adjust to the rules of boxing. Give me more leeway and I’m going to show you something more brutal. (Giggles)”

“I’m still… I don’t know. They’re both my favorites. It’s like picking vanilla or chocolate: I like both.”

Canelo-GGG has this potential: Obviously there’s a winner, but both fighter’s legacies are little bigger by the final bell.

Below, learn how Hardy’s fight career somehow sprung out of an attempt to take a yoga class…

 

…and behold HBO rolling out all the stops for the fight, with a short film featuring iconic photos from throughout boxing history and a cameo by Ice Cube.