Friday, June 02, 2023  |


Gray Matter: Canelo gently closes the book on GGG, Bivol’s style is still poison

Photo by Ed Mulholland/ Matchroom Boxing
Fighters Network

Well, it was certainly more Leonard-Duran 3 than Ali-Frazier 3 – that’s for damn sure.

The Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin rivalry concluded with a whimper at the very same venue – the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas – where it began half a decade ago. Canelo walked away a 12-round unanimous decision winner, the undisputed super middleweight champ and he’ll forever hold a 2-0-1 lead in the trilogy – officially.

In comparison to the first two battles, this one was a waltz. Golovkin was so timid with his offense over the first two thirds of the fight that Canelo racked up the rounds in second gear. As a fight fan, you become frustrated when an event fails to live up to expectations, but we’ve been down this road before.

Almost 33 years ago, less than two miles away from the T-Mobile Arena, at the then-newly constructed Mirage, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran went through the motions in a third fight. It was a battle of boxing legends, but the only fireworks that night were let off before the fighters entered the temporary outdoor arena. Leonard won a decision and the crowd booed during the closing stages. Sound familiar?

Last night’s official scoring (115-113, 115-113 and 116-112) was a shocker. I had 119-109 Canelo, which is wider than most cards I’ve seen. However, it was never a 7-5 fight. I know a lot of fans and experts had GGG winning most of the final third, but I didn’t see it that way. While Golovkin threw more punches late than he did early, I was careful not to be overly charitable. He did nothing early, so any increase in punch output was going to look more impressive. I just felt Canelo was more consistent.

Photo by Ed Mulholland/ Matchroom

Golovkin, 40, is a magnificent warrior and one of the finest fighters of his generation. He jogs into the Hall of Fame on a first-ballot nomination and his body of work will never be forgotten. What we saw last night was a great old fighter reach the end of the road. If you look back at the first two fights, Golovkin still has his timing and reflexes. He attacked with confidence and punished Canelo for his mistakes. Last night, there was a split-second delay from brain to limbs. That’s age.

As for the final score in this trilogy, there will always be a gripe. Canelo was very lucky to get a 12-round split decision draw in the 2017 original – and he knows it. If Golovkin gets that win, then the division goes in a completely different direction. And while I thought Canelo legitimately won the epic 2018 rematch, a black cloud will always hang over that victory because the Mexican star failed a VADA test months earlier. The fact that GGG comes out of this rivalry without a win will be disheartening for many. I remember feeling the same way after Manny Pacquiao was given charity in his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Like Canelo over GGG, “PacMan” had a 2-0-1 lead in that trilogy, but Marquez got vindication by nailing his rival to the floor in a fourth fight. Golovkin will get no such opportunity.

While he still holds IBF and WBA middleweight titles, I’d like to see GGG call it a day. He’s got absolutely nothing left to prove.

And what of Canelo moving forward? He didn’t look particularly great in that fight. I think the task was easier than he’d expected and he almost looked bored at times. Try and find a moment in either of the first two encounters where he popped Golovkin with a shot, turned his back and walked away nonchalantly. You’ll be searching for a while. I think the former pound for pound king can be a lot better than he was last night although I still wouldn’t allow him in the same zip code as WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol. Canelo is a real fighting man and he’ll be aching to avenge May’s humiliating points defeat. I just think he’d be better off targeting another light heavyweight, or maybe super middleweight bogeyman David Benavidez.

Bivol’s style is poison and it doesn’t look like Canelo has the antidote.