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.”