Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin slug it out in draw that meets expectations
LAS VEGAS — This, simply put, was the bout boxing needed — deserved — after so many disappointing super fights that built steadily in anticipation like a volcano, but never erupted.
Such a great fight calls for a second, and with no declared winner, that’s what we’re likely to get.
Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin started tactically, but like a freight train, the HBO pay-per-view matchup built up steam, round-after-round, with both men delivering their tremendous power shots. Golovkin was the aggressor; Canelo, the counter-puncher. And with so many tough-to-sort-out rounds, the conclusion wasn’t clear. It was a draw.
One judge scored it 118-110 for Canelo, another scorecard read 115-113 for GGG, with the third card a tally of 114-114. Canelo remains the lineal and RING middleweight champion, and Golovkin keeps all three of his sanctioning body belts. And now, talk can turn to the rematch we all need to prove just who the better man is because 160-pound supremacy wasn’t decided on Saturday.
There were 22,358 fans on hand — about 10,000 more than those in attendance for the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle just three weeks ago. But this was no circus. This was a violent battle waged with skill. But, as always in boxing, the fight was enveloped in controversy.
“It was a big drama show,” Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 knockouts) said. “Of course, I want the rematch. This was a real fight. I still have the belts, I’m still a champion. I put pressure on every round, and in the next fight, I want a true fight.”
Golovkin received plenty of boos when he entered the squared circle to The White Stripes’ Seven-Nation Army, but when Michael Buffer announced the split-draw result, the chorus of disapproval rained down for Canelo. General sentiment both on social media and in the arena was squarely in favor of Golovkin as the victor.
This wasn’t an easy fight to negotiate on the scorecards, though. The chatter and hope leading into Saturday was that the bout would leave us all begging for a rematch — and even a third fight. With no clear winner, the demand will only be amplified. It depended on what style you preferred.
Golovkin, an Olympic silver medalist, was the ring general. The 35-year-old marched forward and pinned Canelo into the ropes with ease, and then unleashed with his overhand right that loops around the gloves set up by the patented power jab.
Canelo (49-1-2, 34 KOs) boxed and moved on his toes and was content to lay on the ropes looking for one fight-changing counter shot. The counter-punching opportunities materialized, but Golovkin, owner of perhaps the best chin in boxing, absorbed them all and kept on plowing forward.
Even all the pulverizing body shots that the Mexican star dug to the body wouldn’t halt GGG’s progress, even late in the fight. He would not — could not — be deterred. He was there every step of the way to cut the ring off and keep Canelo in prime position for his damaging attacks.
A step to the left here. A slide to the right there. Canelo had no escape.
But he was never in any serious trouble. Not after a Golovkin right cross landed over Canelo’s left hook in Round 5. Not after the pride of Kazakhstan connected on another such head-turning punch in Round 9. No, that time Canelo was there to retort with his left hook.
It wasn’t just an amazing display of boxing skills and offensive fighting. It was a meeting of two guys fighting their hearts out on the biggest stage; in the biggest moment of their lives.
“I thought I won the fight,” Alvarez, 27, insisted. “I was superior inside the ring. I won at least seven, eight of the rounds. I was able to counterpunch and even make Gennady Golovkin wobble a couple of times. It’s up to the people if we fight again. I feel frustrated over this draw.”
Fans felt frustrated, too, particularly with Adalaide Byrd’s puzzling 118-110 scorecard in favor of Canelo. That tally wasn’t indicative of a fight that featured so many swing rounds.
Luckily, we’re bound to see Canelo and GGG do it again — perhaps in May — in another superfight that promises to be an even bigger event. Canelo’s contract contains a rematch clause in the event he wasn’t declared the winner.
Canelo claimed that there wasn’t a single GGG power-shot that surprised him, and there’s good reason for that. Golovkin’s power is among the most vaunted of the sport. His trained hands produced 23 consecutive knockouts before Daniel Jacobs ended the streak in March in a spirited decision loss.
Early on, Canelo was able to neutralize Golovkin’s offense with an active jab that found its target and also touched his body, forcing him to drop his guard. He even made GGG look silly at times with his deft upper-body movement and footwork.
Slowly but surely, though, Canelo’s workrate dropped. He nary threw a punch in Round 4. Golovkin’s stalking ways seemed to be confounding him, and with each round where Canelo stepped back, GGG’s confidence grew.
The middle rounds all played out in a similar manner: Golovkin forced Canelo to fight when and where he wanted as the redhead tried to dig counter body blows.
Momentum had shifted greatly and Canelo needed to adjust. He wasn’t able to as a novice against Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
He’s a different fighter now, though, and was able to ditch his counterpunching ways over the final third as the action built to a crescendo.
The top two middleweights in the world, and two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, period, left it all on the line. But even then, Canelo was still backpedaling as he delivered his counter shots and matched Golovkin tit for tat.
“He ran for most of the second part of the fight,” Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, said. ” … Something has to be done, it’s just unfair to the fighter. You can’t win rounds like that.”
But he did. And somehow, Canelo’s plethora of damaging body blows never affected Golovkin’s seemingly endless supply of energy, fresh in the last round and able to apply non-stop pressure.
They engaged in wild exchanges over the championship rounds, but Canelo won all three rounds on all three scorecards.
But make no mistake: this was no robbery, even if unfortunately, another great boxing event will grab headlines for questionable judging rather than the great action two men delivered in the ring.
“This was probably one of the best fights we’ve seen in recent years,” De La Hoya said. ” … Everybody has their opinion and that’s what made this such a great, great fight. This is what the sport needed.”
And now, it’s onto the next one, because surely as the sun will rise in the east, Canelo and GGG will mix it up one more time. Maybe then, we’ll know who the best middleweight in the world is.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger