Canelo Alvarez ekes by Gennady Golovkin in thrilling rematch to win middleweight championship
LAS VEGAS — Throughout the vitriolic lead-up to the rematch, Gennady Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez sarcastically complimented Canelo Alvarez on his track shoes and goaded him at every turn.
They claimed that Canelo “ran” during the first meeting that ended in a draw last September. They pleaded with him to adapt the attacking “Mexican Style” that GGG branded as his own in an attempt to lure him into a firefight. They received exactly what they wished for.
Alvarez stood in the center of the ring and traded power shots with Golovkin to eke out a majority decision victory in the hotly anticipated Ring middleweight championship encore on Saturday in an action-packed matchup. One judge scored it even, 114-114, while the other two scorecards favored Alvarez via tallies of 115-113. The Ring also had it even.
“I showed my victory with facts,” said an exuberant Alvarez, who dealt with a nasty gash over his left eye. “He was the one who was backing up. I feel satisfied because I gave a great fight. It was a clear victory.
“We saw that the best way to victory was making him go backwards. It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”
The 28-year-old, clad in black and gold, let out a primal roar as he was announced as the new 160-pound champion before 21,965 at T-Mobile Arena, seemingly exorcising all the demons that haunted him following his positive test results for the banned substance clenbuterol. The adverse findings, which Alvarez blamed on tainted meat consumed in Guadalajara, led to the cancellation of the rematch that was scheduled for May 5 and set the wheels in motion for a heated promotion that featured plenty of name-calling (and more comprehensive drug testing).
Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 knockouts) claimed afterward that he noticed injection marks on Canelo’s biceps and abs in the first fight, proof that Canelo was doping. Canelo was adamant: it was now personal, and he backed up his words with his fighting style.
Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) applied non-stop pressure in the HBO Pay-Per-View main event, a departure from his proclivity for counter-punching in the first bout that ended in controversy. GGG — and the majority of the public — felt he deserved the nod last year, and the Kazakh was stung by the decision.
The 36-year-old was seething again Saturday, and fled the ring before HBO’s Max Kellerman could interview him. Prior to the reveal of the judges’ decision, it was clear the fighters finally found mutual respect. When the 12th round began, Canelo and Golovkin slowly met and touched both gloves.
When the furious final frame concluded, they shared a long embrace, the right side of Golovkin’s face smeared in blood (a five-centimeter cut over his right eye — created in the 12th — required eight stitches.)
How could they not find respect after such a violent affair? After such a thrilling fight where they both laid it all on the line in a high-stakes matchup waged on the highest level?
“I’m not going to say who won tonight because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges,” said GGG, who wore white and red trunks. “I thought it was a very good fight for the fans and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.
” … He wasn’t running around this time but that doesn’t mean he won. It would be great to have a third fight.”
Sanchez was adamant GGG won the first bout and ruffled Alvarez’s feathers during the promotion. But even he was content. “We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around. I had it close going into the 12th round. We had good judges who saw it from different angles.
“I can’t complain about the decision but it’s close enough to warrant a third fight. … I believe that he erased the issues that he had in May. What a great champion he is.”
Golovkin suffered the first loss of his career, his two middleweight titles and with it, his status as The Ring’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. But he didn’t lose any credibility. Some fans bemoaned the decision, and ringside media was split on who won with plenty of 114-114 scorecards.
The fighters traded tactical approaches one year later as Golovkin boxed off his back foot and landed a bundle of sharp power jabs against his hard-charging foe.
And unlike the first meeting, it was GGG who rallied to close strong this time around. He won rounds 10 and 11 unanimously and the 12th on one card.
The longest reigning champion in boxing stunned Alvarez with an overhand right in Round 10 and tried to finish off his opponent. GGG backed Canelo to the ropes and unloaded, but the former 154-pound champion never wavered. He absorbed the fearsome puncher’s best shots, and when Golovkin appeared to tire, Alvarez fired back with his own attack.
He buzzed Canelo again later in the frame, but Alvarez connected on a right uppercut — a punch he landed with frequency during the matchup — to the body that stopped Golovkin in his tracks and followed up with a left hook.
GGG opened up the 11th round with a triple jab that snapped Alvarez’s head back; despite his age, his punches still had plenty of steam on as the fight — waged at a torrid pace — continued.
Alvarez concentrated his attack on the body, the same strategy he employed in the first. GGG again curiously ignored the midsection.
Canelo’s favorite combination was the left hook to the body mixed with an right hand over the top. He elected to beat his foe to the punch rather than sit back, a wise strategy given the vast disparity in hand speed. His ability to cut off the ring won him the fight.
Alvarez can now put it all behind him. The detractors who cried that he ran rather than wildly trade punches in the middle of the ring. The critics who claimed he wouldn’t be able to fight on GGG’s level without the aid of performance-enhanching substances.
He’s now grabbed the biggest victory of his career, one that seems destined for the hall of fame. Canelo can soak in all the adulation, but before too long, he needs to meet Golovkin one more time in the third chapter of what’s shaping up as a legendary boxing trilogy.
For when everyone piled on Alvarez, he withstood the pressure and delivered the greatest performance of his career. And he made good on his vow to press for the knockout. How’s that for Mexican Style?
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger