Saturday night, September 16th, was all about clarity, all about conflict resolution; that was the intent, anyways. The T-Mobile Arena hosted and HBO Pay-Per-View broadcasted a highly anticipated clash of fistic titans, presumably to remove all doubt over who reigns supreme at middleweight and atop pound for pound lists. Yet, when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KO’s) and Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KO’s) finally met, at last, the boxing landscape seemed cloudier instead of clearer, in the immediate aftermath. After 12 entertaining rounds, the official verdict was a split decision draw by scores of 118-110 Alvarez, 115-113 Golovin and 114-114, blemishing both men’s records, in a fight that also enhanced them somewhat.
To be frank, Triple G appeared to have outworked Canelo, doing enough to earn the decision. But this was no robbery. Understandably, the controversy stems from Adelaide Byrd and her 118-110 card, as poor a job of judging a prizefight as you could ever imagine. Simply put, she should never work a high-profile boxing match again. Ever. A draw wasn’t off-base at all, but Ms. Byrd’s verdict missed the mark so badly, blatant corruption is the only plausible explanation. Ultimately, it boiled down to preference; a handful of clean, eye catching shots, here and there vs. sustained, at times sloppy, yet unrelenting pressure.
From the outset, Canelo established himself as the speedier, more fluid, more mobile fighter, trading jabs with Triple G, finding a home for left hooks to the head and body, as well as right uppercuts to the grill. The pace was to Alvarez’s advantage, Golovkin seemed to be almost too respectful, and after three rounds, Canelo was firmly in control. Prior to round 4, Abel Sanchez told his fighter he had just given the preceding stanza away, which sparked “GGG”. Golovkin began stalking Alvarez behind his jab, backed him to the ropes and unloaded with lefts and rights, mostly to Canelo’s arms and gloves. Canelo shook his head “no”, occasionally answered with flurries or single shots to the head/body, but a pattern was forming.
Alvarez has always struggled with stamina and as such he’s a spurt fighter. From rounds 4-9, Canelo did just that; giving ground, making his way to the ropes, parrying and rolling with shots. He fired back time to time, with two-fisted assaults, but primarily appeared to be trying to get his second wind. Meanwhile, Triple G stayed on him, never affording any breaks, constantly keeping Canelo occupied with his jab and power punches. From a judging perspective, it was virtually impossible to score any of those stanzas for Canelo.
The father-son team of Chepo and Eddie Reynoso urged Alvarez to win the last three rounds and Canelo began the 10th accordingly, standing his ground, ripping lefts and rights upstairs and downstairs, then a flush right cross. Undeterred, Triple G weathered the storm and got back to pressuring. In the 11th, Golovkin knew he had tasted the best Alvarez had and defiantly walked him down, shaking off any and all incoming. Canelo’s best round may have been the 12th, as he dropped lead uppercuts on “GGG”, as he leaned in to fire from close range. Alvarez flurried, jabbed and flurried once more to the head, with 5-6 punch combinations, none of which so much as made Golovkin blink.
Again, Triple G probably should have received the nod, but Canelo did just enough to make a legitimate case for a draw. He landed a higher number of flush, noticeable punches to the head and thudding blows to the body. Triple G certainly connected with his fair share to the same areas, but his jab was the primary weapon of choice and his pressure, both mentally and physically, forced Canelo into firing when he was looking for a break. The punch resistance of both men has to be noted; neither of them was hurt or staggered at all. And with Golovkin’s reputation as a killing machine, perhaps his inability to put a dent in Alvarez left a less than favorable impression with judges. Who knows?
Alvarez is no stranger to disputed decisions or scorecards, nor is his promoter, the “Golden Boy”, Oscar Dela Hoya. Canelo’s split decision victory over Erislandy Lara was deemed a loss by more than a few, and his bout with Floyd “Money” Mayweather, a completely one-sided defeat, was somehow scored a draw by a Vegas judge who hasn’t worked a fight since. Dela Hoya was on both sides of head scratching verdicts with the likes of Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whittaker, Ike Quartey, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Felix Sturm. House promoter, house fighter, you do the math.
Compu-Box punch-stats told the story; Triple G threw and landed more punches, but at a lower percentage. He threw more jabs, landed more jabs and a higher percentage of jabs. Canelo threw fewer power shots, but landed more and at a higher percentage.
Thru broken English, Golovkin expressed himself succinctly, “I want a true fight, I like Mexican style, I have Mexican style, I want close distance. I pressure every round, I want big drama show.” Conversely, Alvarez said “I won 7-8 rounds easily”, via his interpreter. A rematch would be an easy sell; the bout was fan friendly, contained good exchanges, nobody was beaten up, dominated or out of the fight, they both absorbed the others best shots and given their time spent in the ring, each second of each round will possess a heightened level of urgency and intensity, in a return affair.
12 rounds later, we’ve learned we’d like to see 12 more.