By Tris Dixon, photo by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos
IN the end we got what we wanted but we had to take it with one hand while accepting what we least desired with the other.
Gennady Golovkin-Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was riveting rather than wild, captivating rather than scintillating, but as a fight that is good enough. Yet when it was all over it was the scorecards that were causing the fight to trend on social media, not the performances of the boxers.
Two scorecards were plausible but one, belonging to Adalaide Byrd, was simply outrageous.
Early on there was more imagination and variety from the younger Mexican and Golovkin looked a little predictable. Gradually that predictability became a constant, grinding pressure. He had looked short on ideas yet still he came forwards and in the fifth the bombs began to detonate. They smiled when they landed and shook heads when they took shots, acknowledging success and damage in equal measure. The fight simmered and began to boil at stages in round six. Golovkin led, Canelo countered. Yet in the seventh Alvarez began to wait for his second wind and it seemed reluctant to come.
By the eighth, and with little between them, you could feel a controversial climax on the horizon. It was hard to separate the two, whether you preferred the eye-catching shots of the Mexican star or the volume of the Kazakh machine.
Both showed signs of wear and tear in round 10 but, if it was of any help to the judges, Golovkin was apparently enjoying it more and looked comfortable. Canelo reverted to the back foot and at one point Golovkin even burst forwards in pursuit of him, not allowing the redhead any respite.
At the bell to signal the end, both celebrated with the audience who had witnessed quite a fight. There was plenty to cheer, after all. It didn’t last, of course. Why would it? It’s boxing. We are used to glory being replaced by frustration. We swim in the murkiest waters of sport, so much so that we have allowed ourselves to be isolated by a mainstream that has grown weary of this tiresome garbage.
Controversy is now boxing’s default setting, that the ‘home’ fighter or the ticket-seller gets the good end of the stick while the ‘away’ fighter gets the sharp end.
Whether you preferred stoic Golovkin’s pressure, intensity or more clinical approach or Canelo’s more flashy punches, pluckiness and composure under fire it was close. It was a quality bout between two top-drawer boxers. The majority may have scored narrowly for Golovkin. Some felt it was all level. Other believed Canelo might have just edged it. But Byrd had it a complete rout for the Mexican, with Golovkin winning just two sessions out of the 12 rounds.
Who would have predicted that going into 2017’s two biggest money spinners in Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor and Gennady Golovkin-Saul Alvarez we would have been left with the more sour taste from the latter.
Yes, it was superior fight but the aftermath has sabotaged that, certainly for those who do not dig for information beyond the highlight reels or the headlines.
It was supposed to be the event for the ‘real boxing fan’. It was supposed to be a reward for tolerating the excess of what went before, on August 26. It should have been a tonic. Instead, Byrd’s scorecard left the sport open to ridicule once more.
Mayweather entered the ring against McGregor wearing a mask, signalling the monetary heist that was about to take place. It should have been Byrd, as she robbed the sport of credibility and integrity it needs from the highest level down. It would have made the sport a laughing stock, had we not seen it all before.
We may have grown tired of the empty whisperings of conspiracy theories and corruption but many seasoned observers from press row predicted controversy beforehand. It is the way it goes. Boxing lurches from one to the next like a drunk knocking into streetlights on a weary walk home. Just when we think we have two stars we can rely on for our kids to look up to, a fight we can tell our non-boxing friends to tune into and an actual bout to be proud of, the rug gets pulled from under us and we are all made to look rather stupid again. The joke is on us for associating ourselves with this sorry old racket.
What will be done about it? Nothing [Byrd has been stood down from major fights, as was CJ Ross after the bizarre 114-114 Canelo-Mayweather card. Yet we know it will happen again]. When will it happen? Never. And this is not just a Las Vegas thing. It’s not only Sin City that often sins, though the Nevada State Athletic Commission is often held in high esteem and cited for it’s progressive nature.
Yet nights like this undermines the work it does on fighter safety and the work it does with drug-testing agencies. Everything gets undone when things like this happen. We can still celebrate Golovkin and Alvarez and their ability to take the type of blows that have sent other man into oblivion as they pushed each other to the wire. But should the rematch happen we will be bracing ourselves once again.
There might be a cherished few who savour the contest, who have rewatched and scored it again with no commentary, trying to get to the bottom of what happened for their own piece of mind. They might not have found the answers. Byrd’s card was hard to justify and impossible to explain.
It is the one thing we did not want yet it is the one thing many of us expected.
Until next time.