Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez proved every bit the dream fight anticipated before the ineptitude of the Las Vegas judges tarnished one of the great modern middleweight title battles.
All three scorers saw it differently but their combined efforts resulted in a draw – Dave Moretti tallying it 115-113 in favour of Golovkin, Don Trella 114-114 level and Adalaide Byrd conjuring one of the most nonsensical cards in recent memory by scoring it 118-110 for Alvarez.
The consensus was that Golovkin, who forced the issue for the most part and out-landed Canelo, won the fight, and even what had been a heavily pro-Alvarez crowd angrily booed the outcome.
According to official statistics, Triple G landed 218 of 703 thrown (31 per cent), while Alvarez connected with 169 of 505 (34 per cent). Golovkin landed more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds.
The Kazakh labelled the decision “bad for boxing” and he is absolutely right to feel aggrieved.
The result left a bad taste, and while it fell short of being an outright robbery – it was a close fight of contrasting styles with room for different interpretations – Byrd’s wretched card made it appear exactly like a robbery.
For her to call it 10 rounds to two for Canelo goes way beyond the realm of incompetence with ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas going as far to label it as “corruption”.
With Alvarez perceived as the superstar fighter, there was always a fear something like this could happen, as like everything else in Vegas, it seems that the scoring follows the money.
“The 118-110 card is not correct, this person doesn’t understand boxing,” complained Golovkin “I controlled every round. Maybe I give him three or four, that’s it.
“I pressed all the time. I believe I won and you can see in people’s reaction that they felt the same. All the fans know who the real champion is.
“I controlled him with my left jab… so many punches. Maybe not the right hand because Canelo is not real Mexican style, I am real Mexican style. He is a dancer.”
Whenever you get bogus judging, the narrative is always that boxing as a sport doesn’t help itself, but the blame should be apportioned far more specifically.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission appointed Byrd despite her having a track record best described as inconsistent. They have managed to sully the fight of the year and should be held accountable. Byrd should never judge another meaningful bout.
As it was, she gave only the fourth and the seventh to Golovkin, despite his clear domination of the middle rounds.
Canelo may have pinched the early frames, but once Triple G settled into his rhythm, a clear pattern emerged, with the Kazakh applying constant pressure with clever footwork, backing up his foe with his jab and Canelo responding with sporadic but eye-catching bursts.
All three judges gave the first two to Alvarez, with only Byrd awarding him the third, while the trio were in agreement that Golovkin won the fourth.
The fifth was more clearly a Triple G round with him pinning Canelo on the ropes and landing flush with a huge right hand. Naturally, Byrd scored it for Canelo.
The sixth was closer. Canelo’s brilliant defensive work was a feature of the fight and his ability to slip and ride right hands kept him in the contest.
That said, he could do little to prevent Triple G’s onslaught in the seventh and he looked fatigued in the face of the Kazakh’s relentless stalking.
The eighth went the same way and despite a vicious short uppercut drawing gasps from the crowd, Alvarez was second best again in the ninth.
The 10th had everyone on their feet as the two traded big shots. Again, Golovkin was the one asking the questions with Canelo able to fight in spots and keep it competitive.
A pulsating climax ensued with both men in the centre of the ring loading up power shots as the final bell rang. It was a fight that delivered on all of the hype and the demand for a rematch will be huge. It would have been even without Byrd’s unwelcome contribution.
Golovkin proved that while he may be 35 and has now plateaued as a fighter, he is still the man to beat in the middleweight division.
Canelo, meanwhile, once and for all shook off any suggestion of him being protected and the erroneous scoring shouldn’t detract from his skill and bravery.
“If the people want it, then yes [we will have a rematch],” said Canelo. “He didn’t beat me. It was a draw. I always said I was going to be a step ahead of him. We’ll fight in the second one, but I’ll win.”
Golovkin added: “The rematch is a question for the promoters, I am ready. But it cannot be the same again, when you win the rounds and they call it a draw. That is very bad for boxing.”
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.