Gennady Golovkin retained his three world middleweight titles Saturday, fighting to a draw with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez in a showdown for middleweight supremacy that lived up the hype.
The 35-year-old Golovkin, making his Las Vegas debut, kept hold of the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation belts in front of a crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena.
Judge Dave Moretti scored the tense battle 114-114. Dan Trella saw it 115-113 for Golovkin but Adalaide Byrd had it one-sided, 118-110, for Alvarez.
Byrd’s lopsided score didn’t reflect the explosive drama of a bout in which Golovkin moved forward aggressively while Alvarez was the counter-puncher with fast hands.
“This was a real drama show,” Golovkin said. “I want to thank all my fans for supporting me.
Asked if he thought he won, Golovkin said, “Look I still have the belts and I am still the champion.”
The baby-faced champion with the steel jaw is considered one of the fittest athletes in boxing, but Alvarez was also well-prepared for a fight which both needed to validate their places in history.
Golovkin won most of the early rounds but then got hammered a few times with Alvarez’s uppercuts and right hands and seemed to be the more tired of the two near the end.
Golovkin established himself early with his stinging jab, all the while effectively cutting off the ring. There was no feeling-out process in this one as both fighters came to fight from the opening bell and tried to land big punches early.
It is boxing’s ultimate irony that in this most singular, deeply individual sporting quest, a fighter should rely so implicitly on the existence of a worthy rival to elevate him to greatness.
Very few combatants earned ultimate respect without a nemesis. Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier; Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake LaMotta; Ray Leonard had Roberto Duran and Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez have each other.
Such is the heady anticipation for tonight’s world middleweight championship bout in Las Vegas that the optimistic among us are already hoping that we get to see it more than once. For that to happen it must be every bit as good as expected, and the probability is unusually high that it will be.
Boxing occasionally has an unwelcome tendency to fall flat when it has the world’s attention but this fight comes with as close to a guarantee of excitement as you can get.
Three weeks ago, in the very same venue, the combat sports world wallowed in fakery, on Saturday it will celebrate the skill and authenticity of a real fight between two supremely talented sportsmen.
In one corner you have Golovkin, a beastly pressure fighter with awesome knockout power who turned the lights out on 23 straight opponents before inconveniencing the judges last time out against Danny Jacobs.
In the other you have Alvarez, plenty aggressive in his own right, but more known for his brilliant counter-punching and success against those who come to him.
While the phrase ‘styles makes fights’ is one of boxing’s most wearying axioms, it is also one of its truest. This fight, it seems, is a marriage of two perfectly complementary styles and the result should be spectacular.
That’s not to say we will see a frenzied Hagler/Hearns style war – there is too much mutual respect – but what will likely start as an intense tactical battle will inevitably give way to brutal back and forth action down the stretch.
Added intrigue comes from a pre-fight narrative suggesting Golovkin, at 35, has lost a step, while Alvarez, eight years his junior, is peaking at just the right time. Whether you believe either statement, it means the bout is widely regarded as 50-50 ahead of the opening bell at the T-Mobile Arena.
The notion that Golovkin is in decline comes from the punishment he shipped on his way to a fifth round stoppage of Kell Brook, before seeing his KO streak ended by a resolute Jacobs in March.
However, logic would suggest that Brook, a quick-handed natural welterweight, was always going to land some eye-catching shots given his massive advantage in speed, and it shouldn’t be forgotten Golovkin walked right through them and then literally broke Brook’s face.
And to denigrate his last performance is to ignore Jacobs’ brilliant effort, not to mention the significant size and reach advantage the American enjoyed.
In contrast, the overwhelming belief is that the best ever version of Canelo will step into the ring tonight following impressive victories over Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Liam Smith and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The counter to that of course is that none of those opponents could possibly prepare him for Golovkin. The Kazakh could probably beat Khan, Smith and Chavez on the same night. Conversely, how would Canelo fare against Brook and Jacobs?
The form book may not be entirely trustworthy, but it’s hard to imagine this being anything other than a tense, elite match-up between two men who boast immense ring generalship. Canelo ostensibly has the tools to win, but can he handle the pressure and power Golovkin invariably brings?
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Kazakh will be the presence of Dave Moretti and Adalaide Byrd among the three ringside judges. Moretti has form for leaning heavily in Canelo’s favour while Byrd has a reputation for erratic scoring.
Controversy would of course fuel interest in a second instalment but this match-up deserves better. A far more desirable outcome would be that it is so explosive the public simply demands to see it again.
Boxing’s most iconic moments have been forged in the struggles of familiar foes – tonight we could see the start of another truly special rivalry.
Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez face off for the middleweight championship of the world in Las Vegas on Saturday.
In one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts in years, the pundits are split right down the middle with many labelling it a 50-50 fight.
Here we look at the keys to victory for both men.
Triple G has the best jab in boxing. That’s not an opinion, it’s statistically proven by Compubox. Nobody across all of the weight divisions has a better connect percentage than the Kazakh.
Golovkin has many weapons but this is his most potent. It’s not a range-finder or token scoring shot, it’s an offensive weapon, a heavy punishing shot, a power-punch disguised as a jab.
He broke down David Lemieux with it, and it was chiefly responsible for his points win over Danny Jacobs last time out. Jabbing with spite and authority will be fundamental for Golovkin as he looks to back Canelo up.
Triple G’s ‘Mexican Style’ has been the foundation of his meteoric rise from obscurity. The approach was cooked up by coach Abel Sanchez and sees him blend his Eastern European fundamentals with a relentless, smothering offence.
He stalks, cuts off the ring and unleashes hell on the ropes. In the past he has shown an utter contempt for smaller foes and those he feels cannot hurt him.
Canelo is a physically powerful man and will likely be the heavier of the two on the night, but Golovkin is the naturally bigger fighter, a true middleweight and he must assert himself, back up Canelo and wear him down.
The critics point to a 20 per cent dip (68.6 to 54.1) in his punch output in his last two fights as proof of his decline. Get that number back up to where it had been previously and his chances increase significantly.
Scoring in Vegas is like everything else in Sin City, it follows the money. Canelo is the A-side, the cash cow, effectively fighting at home with a partisan Mexican crowd in town to support him.
There’s nothing to say that Triple G cannot win a decision, but the aforementioned factors have to be worth a couple of rounds to Alvarez.
Canelo tends to do well on the cards and two of the judges – Adalaide Byrd and Dave Moretti – have both scored overwhelmingly in his favour in the past.
Promoters Top Rank recently tried to have Byrd thrown off one of their shows, while Moretti has turned in more than a few questionable cards.
Moretti had him winning 11 rounds to one against Miguel Cotto (7-5 or 8-4 was more realistic), and also ludicrously had him losing 116-112 to Floyd Mayweather in a fight where he wasn’t even close to winning a round.
Golovkin may need a stoppage. At the very least he can’t afford for it to be close.
If Canelo has one obvious weakness then it is his heavy feet. That rules out a game plan based on lateral movement like the one Jacobs employed against Golovkin. The Mexican is far more likely to stay at mid-range, slip and ride shots and fire back with counters.
While his feet aren’t the best, Canelo still boasts a superb defence based on head and upper body movement. Crucial to all of this will be his use of feints to keep Golovkin off balance and make him reset, while also using them to pry open gaps and set traps for his own shots.
The feints will be particularly crucial when he inevitably finds his back against the ropes. Few are better at fighting off the ropes than Canelo and he will need all of his skill on Saturday night.
Canelo is expected to start well but find himself under increased pressure as the rounds progress. If Golovkin fights true to form then he usually starts to turn the screw in the middle rounds. That’s not to say Canelo cannot pinch rounds, but to do that he needs to make sure he is doing the eye-catching work.
The 27-year-old has a clear advantage in hand speed and he must make it count by firing back with twos and threes. It will stoke up the crowd and certainly strengthen his case with the judges.
The Golovkin camp has openly talked about his ‘slappy combinations off the ropes’, meaning they are all too aware of how important they could be in influencing the scoring.
Stunning combination punching by Canelo https://t.co/gVZT6E94ey— SabotageBoxing (@SabotageBoxing) September 3, 2016
When asked about Canelo’s chances last week, Mayweather replied: “He will win, maybe even knock him out, if he goes to the body.”
The artist formerly known as ‘Pretty Boy’ hasn’t been the only one to make this point and many feel Jacobs’ body work was the real reason for Golovkin’s somewhat subdued display back in March.
Triple G has shown time and again that he has arguably the best chin in boxing, but he has never really come under a sustained body attack. That is largely because going to body carries an inherent risk and few are brave enough to trade up close with the Kazakh.
However, no previous opponent has had Canelo’s skill-set and should he find a route to Triple G’s torso then it could pay off big time.