Sunday, December 05, 2021  |

By Ron Lipton

World-class veteran referee and former amateur boxer Ron Lipton returns to share his insight, expertise, and imagination in our ongoing fantasy fight series by special guest writers. Mr. Lipton, a member of the New York and New Jersey halls of fame, presented Rocky Graziano vs. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for the inaugural Mythical Matchups featured in the May 2020 issue, and the boxing historian returns to the middleweight division for his follow-up offering: former middleweight champion Dick Tiger vs. current middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez. 

***

Once again allow me the poetic license to create this fantasy fight utilizing an amalgam of eras, officials, people and incidents.

The Dick Tiger-Canelo Alvarez dream fight is between decorated champions of physical similarities. Both stand 5-foot-8 with a reach that is almost identical (71 inches listed for Tiger, 70½ inches for Canelo).

Tiger’s lowest weight in his professional career was 158½ pounds, his heaviest was 168½. He remained extremely tight-skinned, ripped and muscular without a sign of fat anywhere on his body throughout his career. 

Alvarez’s lowest professional weight was 139 pounds on October 29, 2005, against Abraham Gonzalez, when he was 15; his heaviest weight was against Sergey Kovalev at 174½.

Both held the middleweight championship and, despite their stocky builds, both won the light heavyweight championship (Alvarez briefly possessed the WBO version). 

Both men have a natural sturdiness to their frames and were blessed with an iron jaw, but the most important asset they share is a fierce mental determination.

So how do I come up with an outcome worthy of The Bible of Boxing? 

As in all mythical matchups, I make sure that it involves both fighters on their best nights in the ring. 

As a boxing historian who has tremendous respect for the accomplishments of both Alvarez and Tiger and their fighting mindsets, I have gone about this through an arduous in-depth preparation.

I have divested myself from any professional and personal relationship I shared with Tiger to determine the outcome of this fight as I did in the previous mythical matchup between Rocky Graziano and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

I do not know Alvarez personally, but I have seen all his available fights and for this article I have watched them all again, studying every move he makes on offense and defense.

I believe Alvarez would hold his own with any other middleweight champion of previous eras as long as they came to fight.

Alvarez’s ring record is 53-1-2 with 36 KOs. He has defeated Gennadiy Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Daniel Jacobs, Amir Khan, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, Liam Smith and James Kirkland – all solid-to-elite fighters.

His only weakness – possibly one he shares with Tiger – is that he can be outboxed, as Floyd Mayweather Jr. showed (although Canelo was not as experienced in 2013 as he is today). 

I knew Tiger personally.

I was his paid sparring partner, often going from Rubin Carter’s training camp to his for more work. I drove alone with Tiger in my car to the Armory in Paterson, New Jersey, to watch Carter fight Johnny Torres one month before Carter’s bout with the former (and future) middleweight champion. Tiger wanted to scout Carter. It was all friendly, but the focus Tiger had in and out of the ring was chilling when he fixated on an opponent. His deadpan stare was reminiscent of Joe Louis and in stark contrast to his infectious smile and usual pleasant demeanor. I boxed many rounds with him in the gym, and his determination to hurt you – which was devoid of anger – was disconcerting. Tiger was 100 percent focused on your destruction once the bell rang.

Outside of the ring, he was a joy to be around. I lived and trained with him in the basement of the old Madison Square Garden and ran with him in the early mornings in Central Park in preparation for his middleweight title-winning rematch with Joey Giardello in October 1965. 

In or about 1968, before his devastating loss to Bob Foster, I watched him gradually lose his iron constitution, timing and power due to the early stages of cancer that was malevolently and silently lurking inside him during the final years of his career. He died from it in 1971.

I saw most of Tiger’s fights in the U.S. in person from ringside and I’ve watched every single bout available on film. I visited with him often to cheer him up when he retired and worked as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In later years, I was pleasantly tasked to write the introduction to his life story, Dick Tiger, The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal by Adeyinka Makinde.

***

Canelo needs no introduction to present day boxing fans. However, sometimes the sands of time erase the memory of past greats, so for our younger readers who have never heard of Tiger and for our older readers who may not remember the two-division champion, permit me to share some information about the 1991 inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The Ring Magazine

Born Richard Ihetu on August 14, 1929, in Amaigbo, Nigeria, Tiger made his professional debut on January 1, 1952, at age 23. His professional record – 60 wins, 19 losses (which includes only two stoppages, one of which was due to a thumb injury), three draws, with 27 KOs – does not give the full picture of the menace of the man. One can’t rely solely on paper ballistics. 

Tiger fought the toughest middleweights and light heavyweights of his era, honing his skills while learning from any mistakes he made vs. fierce competition: middleweight champ Gene Fullmer (who he fought three consecutive times), light heavyweight champ Jose “Chegui” Torres (who he fought twice), former middleweight champs Nino Benvenuti and Terry Downes and contenders Roger Rouse, Frankie DePaula, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Florentino Fernandez, Jose Gonzalez, Henry Hank, Rory Calhoun, Wilf Greaves, Elsworth “Spider” Webb, and Randy Sandy. 

Tiger faced them all and scored victories against each. He beat the hell out of most.

Those who chose to fight with Tiger at close quarters were broken down and made to quit or suffered so much damage that the referee would have to stop the fight. 

The best chance to avoid getting hit with Tiger’s heavy left hook and vicious right hand was to jab, run and stay far away, which is what Giardello did to earn a close 15-round decision in 1963, and also Joey Archer, who won a 10-round split decision in a non-title bout in 1964. The great Emile Griffith outpointed Tiger in 1966 (for the middleweight title), in a bout that several ringside sportswriters had scored for Tiger.

THE MAKING OF THE FIGHT:

It had been almost two weeks since Alvarez demanded the fight with Tiger. The press had been pressuring Canelo to his annoyance, insinuating that he was avoiding the showdown despite his proven mettle in his dynamic KO of Kovalev and his impressive rematch victory over Golovkin.

Alvarez had options at super middleweight and light heavyweight, but he made it clear that he wanted to remain a middleweight, as that division held all the glory and fanfare with the public.

Edilson “Eddy” Reynoso sat in his fight collection room at home and left instructions not to be disturbed as he waited for his father, Jose “Chepo” Reynoso, to bring Alvarez back from the gym.

There would be no films of Willie Pep, one of his favorite fighters who he often watched with awe and respect. Today would be just him and films of Tiger, alone, as he knew the outcome of the bouts and did not want his fighter to see them just yet. One after another, he watched with amazement at how Tiger waded through each opponent, backing them up and dominating them all in brutal fashion while remaining impervious to harm.

He watched Tiger set up and take out one of the toughest fighters to emerge from Puerto Rico, Jose “Monon” Gonzalez, during a slugfest in Madison Square Garden. Round after round, they traded punches as Tiger calmly waited. Then as Gonzalez pressed Tiger, he walked into a perfectly executed jab, right hand and left hook thrown with chilling precision and power. The sound of the finishing hook made ringside observers wince.

It dumped the iron-jawed Gonzalez face first, crumpling him into a heap of disoriented disbelief on the canvas. He arose wobbling on legs like a newborn colt and the fight was stopped.

The knowledge Eddy possessed about boxing started to torment his private thoughts. 

He had just digested the other films of Tiger destroying Florentino Fernandez while withstanding the hardest left hooks “The Ox” could throw without the slightest suggestion of effect.

He watched how Tiger floored Carter twice in the second round and again in the fourth, and the beating that ensued for the next six rounds. 

What bothered him the most was that Tiger was more skilled and powerful than Golovkin and had conquered more durable opponents. Was his beloved Saul stronger and more rugged than Gene Fullmer? Could Alvarez punch harder than Rubin Carter? 

These thoughts raced through his mind along with the fact that Tiger also beat light heavyweights, including Hall of Famer Jose Torres twice in 15-round title bouts, and he destroyed the much bigger Roger Rouse.

Eddy did not doubt his fighter’s abilities or confidence, nor did his father, who felt that Canelo could beat anyone. What bothered him most was that these films showed him one thing: It would be a disaster to stay close to Tiger and slug it out in the trenches.

Most of their success with Canelo was with a style that made his opponents back up. He would break them down with hard, fast punches while remembering all the defensive tactics they taught him. If the knockout shot presented itself, he would take it, as he did with Khan and Kirkland.

When Eddy spoke to his father and they reviewed the films of Tiger together, they both thought the best way to deal with their concerns was, as always, to speak the truth to Saul.

Canelo flanked by Chepo and Eddy Reynoso atop the Empire State Building in New York. (Photo by Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos)

They did not want Canelo thinking they doubted his ability to outpunch Tiger in exchanges, but this man was so different from GGG that their collective boxing genius would not allow them to believe it was the best way to fight the Nigerian. No, their fighter would have to punch and move all night. As Giardello once said, “I wouldn’t trade stamps with Tiger.” During training camp, both father and son urged the sparring partners to emulate Tiger. Canelo chose to dominate them, and he did this successfully as not one of them could back him up. 

It angered him a bit to think his team believed Tiger could possibly hurt or stop him. Alvarez trusted them, but he had not yet met the man who could out-macho him in that ring and he was determined to prove it on fight night.

Finally, Eddy and Jose decided it would be wise to bring in a special guest on fight night for wishes of good luck and some sage advice.

When Tiger was contacted, he immediately agreed to the fight and the boxing buzz spread like wildfire. The Biafra war was behind Tiger now. It was a heartbreaking, soul-draining ordeal. He was eager to move forward and this fight would be the best medicine.

Tiger outside Madison Square Garden.

His family was now with him in New York, having moved from Portugal to Cambria Heights in Queens. Tiger was relaxed and happy and did not argue about the 45 percent to 55 percent purse split that Team Canelo demanded. He was an easygoing man and simply grateful to be back in training for a big fight.

That being said, Tiger’s trainer-manager team of Jimmy August and Willis “Jersey” Jones demanded that both fighters could not come in over the 160-pound division limit without forfeiting the title and paying a hefty fine at the official weigh-in. There would be no excessive weight gain, either. On fight night, they both had to weigh in again in the dressing room right before the fight. If either was an ounce over a 10-pound allowable gain over the middleweight limit, they would have to pay a $1 million fine to their opponent.

Both were very popular in Madison Square Garden and agreed to the venue. The fight, which was sold out within two hours of the box office opening, would be broadcast live on HBO Pay Per View at a price of $79.99.

During the press tour across the country and the extensive coverage on HBO, the personal contact between Tiger and Alvarez was amiable with no discernible traces of friction. Tiger’s smile was so contagious that the usually stoic Canelo seemed charmed by the man’s genuine friendliness, so much so that Eddy and Jose had to remind him to maintain a strong mindset. 

Tiger playfully said hello to all of Canelo’s children – Emily, Maria, Saul Adiel and little Mia Ener, who sat on Canelo’s lap at one press conference. Saul also waved hello to Tiger’s family, consisting of his mother Rebecca, wife Abigail and all his children: Richard, Grace, Victoria, Gloria, George, Joseph, Justina and Charles Ihetu.

In a face-to-face interview with both men, Max Kellerman asked Alvarez in Tiger’s presence, “You two men have shown each other great respect at all times. Will that affect your well-known killer instinct when you get into the ring?” 

Alvarez said through his interpreter, “I don’t have to hate a man or act like a fool at the weigh-in to do my best in the ring on fight night. I will be ready and I will win.”

Kellerman then turned to Tiger: “Dick, you have been very friendly to Canelo. Will that stop you from trying to knock him out?” Tiger, wearing a wide and beautiful grin, replied: “I was very friendly to Gene Fullmer, Rubin Carter and all the men I have beaten. It does not cost me anything to be nice. I am a professional and I will be the serious Dick Tiger they all have faced once the bell rings. After the fight, we can still be friends.”

FIGHT NIGHT

Now come with me to Madison Square Garden. We’ll grab a bite to eat with the rest of the fight crowd at the Tick Tock Diner and then stop off at Jimmy Glenn’s bar for a drink before we get to our seats.

The fighters and their families have been staying at the Stewart Hotel across the street and are now in their respective dressing rooms.

Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Kellerman are calling the fight along with Randy Gordon for HBO, and the cameras are in the dressing rooms of both fighters as we are close to fight time now.

Canelo is up on the big screen. He is shadowboxing with headphones on and no one is even trying to talk to him.

Eddy taps him on the shoulder. He removes the headphones blaring the music that is getting his fighting blood up.

A distinguished man in an impeccable dark suit and tie is standing with the Reynosos waiting to talk to Alvarez. Eddy says, “This is Joey Archer, who beat Tiger in the old Garden, and he is here to wish you luck and to say something to you.”

Canelo, a bit surprised, listens as Eddy translates while Archer gently takes Canelo’s right hand in his and says, “A great boxer and uncrowned champion named Billy Graham told me this before I won my fights with Dick Tiger and Rubin Carter, and now I am telling you. This right hand is your bucket, your left hand is your brush; go out there and do a paint job on this guy and you will win. I wish you the best of luck, son.”

Archer is thanked by the Reynosos. Canelo nods respectfully to the elegant former fighter as Joey turns and strides gracefully back out to his ringside seat.

Eddy and Jose stare deep into Canelo’s eyes, waiting for his response to what they have been telling him for eight weeks of training. Canelo, with a dismissive scowl on his face, says, “Luck is for the mediocre. No man can take my title from me. I fear no man.” 

The scene in Dick Tiger’s dressing room is brimming with love and loyalty. Tiger hugs each member of his family with great affection, still smiling. Justina whispers to him, “I love you, Papa. Please be careful tonight.” Tiger replies, “I will, don’t worry,” and kisses her.

Tiger says a loving goodbye to them all as they leave for their ringside seats. As the dressing room door closes, a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation takes place.

The smile fades from existence, the consummate professional that he is starts to shadowbox and his deadly focus surfaces immediately. It is crunch time now and Tiger is used to it. The sweat pops off him like a pit bull shaking his fur, and he is ready.

The ring walk down the path to pain, blood, guts and battle is next. He dons his blue and white cloth robe with “DICK TIGER/NIGERIA” on the back and a white towel wrapped backward under his robe and over his chest and neck. Cutman Chickie Ferrara carefully puts the allowed amount of Vaseline on Tiger’s face.

Head trainer Freddie Brown pulls Tiger to the side and in old-school boxing style growls affectionately at Tiger, “Dick, don’t take this fucking kid lightly; he’s tough and got both hands.”

Tiger looks at Brown and then at Ferrara and Jimmy August: “You mean he hits harder than Rubin Carter, Frankie DePaula, Gene Fullmer, Henry Hank …” 

Freddie holds up a hand to stop Tiger, “OK, OK.” Tiger smiles and gives him a hug, “Let’s go. Thanks for worrying about me like an old grandma hen. Let me just tell you a little secret: Dick Tiger hits harder than all of them.” 

The entire corner smiles in agreement as they head out of the dressing room into the legendary arena to the sound of African war drums and the screaming crowd. He is home.

Michael Buffer is in the ring; the lights dim and then come on in a spectacular show. The music continues blaring and the drums are thundering throughout the Garden. 

The crowd is screaming with excitement as Tiger comes down the aisle to the ring. There is a strong smell of marijuana coming from the balcony seats and this music is putting people into another dimension. 

The war drums are loud, pulsating, and so intoxicating the entire interior of the Garden reverberates with it. 

If ever there was music that could make a man want to get up and fight, this is doing it and the entire fight crowd is loving it. People get up and dance as Tiger climbs through the ropes of the legendary ring accompanied by Ferrara, Brown and August. He holds one glove aloft over his head and the killer smile is back in force. He waves and his relaxed posture and confidence radiates into the crowd cheering wildly for all the great fights he has given them here.

Now the music changes as the traditional mariachi and ranchera song “Mexico Lindo y Querido” begins to play. It is beautiful as Canelo enters the arena for his ring walk.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The music is inspiring and speaks volumes of Mexican pride and love of his homeland. He is accompanied by the Reynosos and Marcelo Lopez. 

The crowd goes wild with respect and admiration for him; a huge contingent of Mexican fans is in attendance.

The emotive national anthem of Biafra is played at Tiger’s request along with the beautiful national anthems of Mexico and the United States.

It is time for Michael Buffer.

“Ladies and gentleman, this is the main event of the evening, the fight we have all been waiting for: 12 rounds of boxing for the unified middleweight championship of the world! It’s brought to you by Golden Boy Promotions and Madison Square Garden boxing, sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission, Executive Director Kim Sumbler and Director of Boxing Matt Delaglio.

“The three judges scoring from ringside assigned by the New York State Athletic Commission are Harold Lederman, Ron McNair and John McKaie, and inside the ring, the man in charge of the action when the bell rings is Wayne Kelly.

“Now the officials are ready, the fighters in the ring are ready, and for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world: Are you ready? Ladies and gentleman… LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!”

Buffer’s famous introduction thunders through the Garden, and around the world, the boxing crowd explodes in response.

“Introducing first in the blue corner, wearing the blue trunks with white trim, weighing in officially at 159½ pounds with a record of 60 wins, 19 losses and three draws with 27 knockouts, the lineal two-time middleweight and former light heavyweight champion of the world, from Nigeria, DICK TIGER!” The crowd’s response is deafening as Tiger nods his head graciously.

“And in the red corner, wearing the black trunks with gold trim, weighing in officially at 160 pounds even, with a record of 53 wins, one loss and two draws with 36 knockouts, hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, the Ring Magazine, WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO middleweight champion of the world, the former junior middleweight champion, the former super middleweight champion, the former light heavyweight champion of the world and the pride of Mexico, SAUL ‘CANELO’ ALVAREZ!” The cheers for Alvarez are equally thunderous.

Kelly, the respected veteran referee and Vietnam veteran, calls the fighters and their chief seconds to the center of the ring. Canelo stares intently at Tiger.

“I’ve given you the rules of the New York State Athletic Commission and your instructions in the dressing room. Obey my commands, protect yourself at all times and good luck to you both. Touch gloves now.”

Tiger has his head down. They briefly touch gloves and go back to their corners.

FIRST ROUND:

Canelo comes out with his gloves high and circles Tiger, whose stance is wide with his gloves held in the traditional stalking method he has used since he turned pro.

Tiger presses forward while tapping his boxing gloves together, as is his habit. 

As Canelo backs toward the ropes, he explodes with a blazing four-punch combination, trying to rip through Tiger’s guard. Three straight punches land on Tiger’s arms and the left hook to the body is blocked by Tiger’s right elbow as Canelo spins off to the side.

Canelo vs. Jacobs. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA)

Mexican fans loudly cheer Canelo’s effort and it emboldens him as he meets Tiger in mid-ring. Eddy Reynoso yells for Canelo to keep moving.

He ignores this and exchanges with Tiger, which is what Tiger was hoping for as he immediately trades with Canelo. The Mexican star has faster hands and lands a right to the body, misses a hook to the head and takes a hard right hand and left hook to the body from Tiger.

The Bell rings. 10-9 Canelo.

Canelo’s team heaps praise on him in the corner. He tells Eddy he is fine.

In Tiger’s corner, Ferrara leans through the ropes and says, “You hurt him to the body. Let him do his thing and be patient.”

SECOND ROUND:

Both men immediately try to back the other up. Tiger welcomes the exchanges in close. He cannot be moved backward but has now backed up Canelo with hard body shots.

Canelo answers with crisp, hard combinations, but they don’t hurt Tiger, who aims punches into Canelo’s midsection and side. Tiger lands a crunching right hand to the side of the jaw and Canelo wobbles as his feet betray him. Tiger is on him and leaps in to throw his patented left hook.

Canelo is hurt but in full control as he weaves deftly under that hook. Instead of backing up, he moves in and attacks behind a one-two combination that gets between his antagonist’s gloves and seemingly stuns Tiger. 

Canelo, still shaken, does not follow up but grabs and holds as Tiger has thrown a salvo of hard shots to the body and head. 

Canelo takes a half step back while taking a hard right high under his left arm to the upper part of the rib cage. His right glove drops a few inches and a whistling left hook from Tiger lands on the right side of his jaw. It violently shakes Canelo’s head the way one would in a car that was struck by a truck from behind.

Tiger vs. Fullmer

Tiger’s follow-through is so intense that the left hook whistles through the air as Canelo crashes onto his behind so hard that his head snaps back (but it does not hit the canvas, to the relief of his family and fans).

Tiger runs to the white neutral corner as the alternate referee jumps from his ringside chair to yell loudly into the microphone, giving Kelly the count of 4.

Kelly is on his knees in front of Canelo giving him the count, “5, 6, 7,” Canelo is up with determination burning in his eyes like fire, “8… Take a step forward. Take a step to the side. Esta bien?” 

“Si, si, yes, I am fine,” Canelo replies as Kelly wipes off his gloves.

Kelly waves Tiger out of the neutral corner and the bell rings to end the round.

During the minute rest period, the replays have the crowd collectively responding to the knockdown.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The HBO crew is unanimous on several points: One, that Tiger is too dangerous to exchange punches with. Two, Canelo has the heart of a champion and his courage is beyond question. Three, Canelo was doing well until he stopped using his superior assets of hand speed and leg movement. Four, when asked about the referee, Randy Gordon praised Kelly as one of the best in the business who gave Canelo every chance to continue. 10-8 Tiger.

THIRD ROUND:

Canelo leaves his corner rejuvenated – the result of a professional team that reassured their fighter without yelling or pleading with him, but by sternly maintaining their sacred rapport and getting him to agree to change his tactics. He looks fully recuperated, but only time will tell.

Tiger stalks as his corner yells for him to hurt Canelo again and not allow him to recover.

As Tiger presses the action, Canelo does not run but moves laterally, punching on the fly. Canelo boxes fluidly, landing fast combinations. The crowd screams its support, not only for his show of bravery but for bringing the fight to Tiger.

Tiger catches stiff straight lefts and rights between his gloves as Canelo times him. When Canelo dips to the side to throw the “gancho” (Mexican-style hook to the body) Tiger catches it with his right elbow, not allowing it to get through to his liver or kidney, and then makes Canelo pay with right hands. 

However, Canelo’s left hooks to the head land with thuds and he catches Tiger on the turn with jabs and one-twos that keep the Nigerian veteran at bay.

The bell rings, both turn away and respectfully return to their corners. 10-9 Canelo.

FOURTH ROUND:

Canelo comes out moving laterally and continues boxing. He lands jabs on the pursuing Tiger, but now Tiger is gradually cutting the ring off as he ups his tempo with more determination.

Tiger maneuvers Canelo to his own corner now and doesn’t allow him to move out of it. Tiger is fighting low from a crouch as he blasts hellacious body punches and left hooks to the head.

Tiger vs. Henry Hank

Canelo twists and turns to avoid the shots, ducks down and fires back, bringing the crowd to its feet. His left hooks slam into Tiger’s head and body, but Tiger’s counter shots exact a frightening effect on Canelo as the younger man’s eyes glaze over. Tiger obviously hits harder and his veteran ring savvy makes many of Canelo’s punches seem ineffective.

Tiger rocks Canelo with multiple hooks. Finally, Canelo grabs Tiger and spins out of the kill zone. As he does so, we see a very bad cut over his left eye. The crimson cascades down his face in rivulets onto his chest.

With a full minute left in the round, Tiger tries to finish Canelo. He pins him to the ropes again and beats him brutally with salvos of punches that force Canelo to navigate to the ring center. However, Tiger stays on him like an avenging demon, nailing Alvarez between and around his gloves. Bruises and contusions seem to appear out of nowhere on Alvarez’s face.

When the bell rings, Kelly looks closely at Canelo, who walks bravely and without wobbling to his corner. 10-9 Tiger (almost a 10-8).

Between rounds, Kelly and Dr. Nitin Sethi visit Canelo’s corner. The doctor says he can continue, and so he will.

The Mexican fans sing to Canelo to invigorate him. 

Meanwhile, the HBO crew assesses what they have witnessed. 

“He is now experiencing what Gene Fullmer, Rubin Carter, Jose Gonzalez, Florentino Fernandez and all the rest had to endure,” says Merchant. “GGG is a great fighter and Canelo handled all he had, but Tiger is a different kind of fighter entirely.”

ROUNDS 5-11:

Tiger continues to pick up the pace and repeatedly hurts Canelo, who has not stopped moving as he can hardly endure any close-quarter exchanges without being shaken badly. 

He is now in survival mode, although flashes of brilliance and courage carry him to the 11th round without knockdowns. However, he has taken so much punishment that Kelly and the ringside doctors once again visit his corner prior to the final round. Alvarez and the Reynosos plead with them to allow the fight to continue.

Canelo vs. Golovkin. (Photo by Tom Hogan)

Tiger’s corner lets him know that the referee and doctors are close to stopping the fight.

Tiger listens intently and then looks down at ringside. He sees Canelo’s wife and children crying, and it touches his heart as he awaits the bell for the last round.

Brown picks up on this and gives Tiger a little slap: “Dick, don’t start this shit; this is business. Do your fucking job like he would do to you. You have a family too, so don’t ease up. Get this guy out of here before he cuts you or gets in a lucky punch.”

Tiger knows what he must do and says nothing.

THE 12TH ROUND:

Kelly makes them touch gloves in center ring.

Tiger looks at the bruised and battered face of his brave fellow champion and thoughts of the Biafra war, where the enemy showed no mercy to his friends and loved ones, skipped across his mind in a millisecond. No one ever showed him mercy in life or the ring.

He rises above it with God in his heart and an admiration for a foe that only a championship-level veteran of many ring wars could feel. Canelo does everything he can to win the round. He meets Tiger head on, throwing punches as fast and hard as he can, but his hands are a bit slower, his reflexes, depth perception and stamina are impaired by the cut, facial swelling and the dull ache of Tiger’s body shots. 

Canelo’s heart is still there and the entire crowd, not just the Mexican fans, collectively cheers him on.

Tiger sees openings to finish the fight but throws jabs, lazy left hooks and pushes some right hands out toward Canelo, combos that fall way short of the mark. He grabs, holds and throws some hard punches to Canelo’s arms and shoulders, avoiding the cut eye and chin. Tiger accepts the attacks from Canelo and weathers the 11th-hour storm by weaving under shots and blocking the rest.

The bell rings, ending the fight, and both men embrace. Tiger whispers to him, “You are the bravest fighter I have ever met. I will always respect you.”

Tiger goes back to his corner and Ferrara knowingly says to him, “You can’t fool me, Dick, you are one hell of a champion and a decent man.”

HBO’s commentators praise the courage of Canelo and the force that is Dick Tiger.

Merchant says, “I have a question or two for Dick Tiger regarding the 12th round, but let’s wait for the decision first.”

Buffer announces the score cards: 

“Ladies and gentleman, we have the decision. All three judges are in agreement. Judge Harold Lederman scores it 116-111, judge Ron McNair 116-111 and John McKaie 116-111, all for the new undisputed middleweight champion of the world – Dick Tiger!”

Merchant joins Tiger in the ring for the televised post-fight interview. “Dick, I congratulate you on a dominant performance, but I have a hard question to ask you. Did you purposely take it easy on Canelo and carry him in the 12th round? It seemed like you eased up on purpose.”

Tiger: “First of all, I want to thank my family for being here and all the fans. In answer to your question, Canelo is a great fighter. I was very tired in the 12th round and chose not to take any chances with such a dangerous champion like Saul. I did not take it easy on him and will only say that he has my deepest respect and admiration for his skill and courage.”

Merchant: “Let us get Canelo over here with Eddy Reynoso. Your team did a great job on that cut and all credit goes to you and Canelo for the great fight he put up.”

Eddy Reynoso: “Thank you, Larry. I am so proud of Saul I cannot put it into words; he is the bravest fighter I have ever seen. No one could have stood up to Dick Tiger like Saul did tonight. No shame in losing to such a great champion. We will be back, I promise you.”

Canelo: “Tiger is a great fighter. I thought I won more than four rounds, but all respect to Tiger; he was the toughest and strongest fighter I ever faced. When my cut heals up, I would love to fight him again. Thank you to all my fans; I love you all and I will be back…. VIVA MEXICO!”