By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Gennady Golovkin isn’t naïve.
The Kazakhstan native is the defending middleweight champion and the undefeated fighter favored to beat Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night. Golovkin fully understands, however, that he is without question the ‘B’ side of this high-profile promotion, the lesser star who is boxing for the first time in the “Fight Capital of the World,” clearly Canelo country.
Hopefully he realizes, too, that if he expects to leave the T-Mobile Arena ring with his IBF, IBO, WBA and WBC middleweight titles, Golovkin had better do what he does best – win by knockout. If Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) wasn’t nervous before about what could happen if their 160-pound title fight goes the distance, that had to have changed Monday when the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved executive director Bob Bennett’s recommendations for the three judges who’ll work this fight.
Adalaide Byrd, Dave Moretti and Don Trella are all veteran judges who’ve combined to score hundreds of world title fights.
Unfortunately, Nevada’s Byrd is one of boxing’s most inconsistent judges and Moretti has submitted scorecards for at least two Alvarez fights in Las Vegas that have caused controversy.
Nevada’s Moretti gave Alvarez a 119-109 victory over Miguel Cotto in November 2015, when Cotto deserved more than one round in a 12-round fight Alvarez won by closer scores on the two other cards (118-110, 117-111). Moretti also scored Alvarez a 115-113 winner over Erislandy Lara, who lost a split decision to the Mexican superstar in July 2014.
Levi Martinez scored that fight for Alvarez by a wider margin than Moretti (117-111). Jerry Roth scored Lara a 115-113 winner that night.
Moretti also scored Alvarez a 116-112 loser to Floyd Mayweather Jr. four years ago, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find four rounds Alvarez won against Mayweather.
Byrd and Moretti got it right while scoring Alvarez’s last fight, when each of them gave him a 120-108 win against Mexican rival Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Of course, it was fairly obvious that Alvarez won every round against a sluggish, apathetic Chavez on May 6 at T-Mobile Arena.
If Alvarez-Golovkin goes the distance, it figures to resemble Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs in terms of competition and difficulty to score much more than Alvarez-Chavez. Golovkin gave a diplomatic answer when asked about the possibility of losing a controversial decision to the much-improved Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) on Saturday night.
“I respect sport,” Golovkin said before a press conference Wednesday at MGM Grand. “I believe everybody, all judges respect boxing. … If judges not correct, you know, this is very bad. Not for me … for boxing, for history, you know?”
Actually, a controversial loss could be very bad for Golovkin as well.
It wouldn’t just cost him the unblemished record he has built over the past 11 years and his streak of 18 consecutive middleweight title defenses. A debatable defeat would cost Golovkin millions of dollars and any leverage he would have in pursuing a rematch.
The rematch clause in their contracts calls for Golovkin to give Alvarez a rematch, likely immediately, if he wins. If Alvarez pulls off what would be a slight upset, he owes Golovkin nothing.
If Alvarez and Golovkin provide the type of entertainment everyone seems to expect, and the event is the pay-per-view success promoters Oscar De La Hoya and Tom Loeffler anticipate, a rematch might be too tempting for Alvarez to bypass if he wins. He would have even more financial leverage over Golovkin, though, and could make his 35-year-old opponent wait until longer than May 2018 for a second fight.
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s outspoken trainer, is confident his fighter will eliminate those possibilities by stopping Alvarez late in their HBO Pay-Per-View main event.
“I think it’s a difficult fight for three or four rounds,” Sanchez said. “I think that the tactics will be determined at that point – what one guy’s gonna do, what the other guy’s gonna do. I think that Canelo’s gonna succumb to the physicality of Golovkin. I think that towards the end of the fight Golovkin will be too strong for him – too big and too strong for him, and he’ll hit him too much. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes 12.”
If it goes the distance, Sanchez realizes they’re asking for trouble.
“I’m not gonna say I’m not [concerned], but I trust the honorable Mr. Bennett and his judges,” Sanchez said. “And let’s hope that it’s something that we’re not talking about later.”
It’s not something Golovkin and his team members necessarily want to discuss before the fight, either.
But because Golovkin and Alvarez both have granite chins, the distinct possibility of Golovkin suffering a controversial loss is a harsh reality of a subjectively scored sport in which winners wind up losing sometimes. And there’s entirely too much at stake for Golovkin, both financially and historically, to ignore it.
Loeffler is well aware of that in the aftermath of Golovkin going the distance for the first time since K2 Promotions, the company Loeffler serves as managing director, began representing him. Golovkin defeated Daniel Jacobs by unanimous decision March 18 at Madison Square Garden, but some fans and media consider the decision debatable (115-112, 115-112, 114-113).
“When the Jacobs fight went to the decision, I thought Gennady clearly won seven rounds to five, eight to four, plus the knockdown,” Loeffler said. “I didn’t think it was controversial at all, but whenever it goes to a decision, you never know what’s gonna happen with the judges. And then here in Vegas, you don’t know.
“But I really think the style with Triple-G matching up with Canelo is gonna be more definitive, where you don’t have those really close rounds. I think the punches that Gennady’s gonna land are gonna be very telling, they’re gonna be much harder than Canelo’s punches and I don’t think they’ll be 50-50 type of rounds. I think it’ll be very competitive, very close, but I think it’ll be to the point where the judges should be able to score definitively one way or the other.”
That said, Loeffler conceded he’d prefer to not spend Saturday night discussing scorecards.
“That’s the easiest situation for Gennady,” Loeffler said, “if he can just bring his own judges and we don’t have to worry about the judges’ scores.”
If he doesn’t do that by knocking out Alvarez, Golovkin very well could live to regret it.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.