By Cliff Rold
Sometimes a controversy is about an injustice against a fighter.
Sometimes it’s about an injustice against the sport itself. What happened on Saturday is the latter. While this scribe falls in the majority appearing to have felt Gennady Golovkin won the needed seven or eight rounds to defeat Saul Alvarez, it wasn’t an easy fight to score.
One could find enough swing rounds to get to a draw. A draw, in and of itself, would not have been an injustice.
The draw we got was because one of the scores was so bad it invalidated the entirety of the outcome. A lot of things happened in the ring this weekend. Not one of them, not even close to a single one, was Saul Alvarez winning ten rounds of his fight with Gennady Golovkin.
It was a score seemingly disconnected from reality. Its place as one of the three scores that counted makes the whole finish a farce, denying even a reasonable outcome grounds for reasonable discussion.
Judge Adalaide Byrd had the worst night of her career.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Alvarez B; Golovkin B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarez B+; Golovkin A+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarez B; Golovkin B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarez A; Golovkin A/Post: Same
It takes nothing away from a fantastic fight inside the ring. While not the sort of scrap we’re likely to remember as an enduring classic in middleweight lore, it was exactly what it needed to be: at the final bell, everyone watching knew they got their money’s worth.
Both men showed some big time whiskers along the way, adding a meat and potatoes element. As expected, Alvarez was quicker in the early going and showed off better head movement. Golovkin seemed a bit more defensively responsible here than he’d been for his fights with Kell Brook or Daniel Jacobs. He took some big shots but picked off and slipped his share. Where he proved vulnerable was to the body and he was respectful enough of Alvarez’s pop to give up his own vaunted rib work.
Both men showed character to go with their chins. Alvarez, who started off well in the first three rounds seemed to slowly begin losing control in the last minute of round three. By the time they arrived at round ten, it was clear Alvarez had fallen behind. He dug deep in the first minute of the tenth, and in spots of the twelfth, to stay in the fight and make a winner’s statement.
It probably shouldn’t have been enough for a draw, but it’s easy to see how one could fairly get there.
Golovkin has found in his last three fights, not surprisingly against arguably his three most talented foes, that he is more than just a big puncher. His relentlessness and heavy hands reduced Alvarez to spot fighting for much of the night. When Alvarez did fire, he landed some eye catching stuff but he Golovkin was outworking and outlanding him for long stretches.
Both men dug in and the fans got a show for it.
A rematch is clearly the richest fight for both men. It would have been desirable no matter the outcome Saturday but what we got was turgid. We got no real winner, no real loser, and no real third score.
Run it back and get the judges right next time.
Who knows what could happen in a rematch. Just look what happened a week ago…
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Sor Rungvisai B/Post: B; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez B+; Sor Rungvisai A/Post: B; A+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B; Sor Rungvisai B-/Post: C; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A+; Sor Rungvisai A/Post: A; A+
Some overdue comments are in order for the surprising and explosive end of not only the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai-Roman Gonzalez rematch but also the end in some respects of the Roman Gonzalez era below bantamweight. Gonzalez may be back and win a back fight or two but in the lightest classes, moreso than in larger classes where it is also still true, nine years between first title win and first definitive loss is a long time.
Rising through boxing’s four lightest divisions, Gonzalez found the man who could defeat him in Thailand’s Sor Rungvisai. In the pre-fight report card, it was wondered after two deep, digging efforts in his last two fights at what point Gonzalez might hit the wall.
It was in the main event of the excellent “SuperFly” card.
Give Sor Rungvisai every bit of credit for that. He landed the right hooks that dropped and ultimately stopped Gonzalez, sending the future Hall of Famer out on his shield. Gonzalez showed, to the last, that he was willing to go until someone made him stop. It was the difference in a close win over Cuadras, could and maybe should have been the difference in the debatable first Sor Rungvisai fight, and sent him face first into his fate.
While both were 30, Sor Rungvisai’s edge in size, and lesser workload over the years, made him the younger man in the ring and now he has a chance to carve a deeper place.
It’s hard not to be happy for Sor Rungvisai as the excitement continues at Jr. bantamweight. He is staring at a mandatory challenge from Juan Francisco Estrada (who was solid in defeating Cuadras on the undercard) and the winner of that can unify with Naoya Inoue.
They’ll all owe a little of that to Gonzalez. Someone had to be the fulcrum point for HBO to look at the flyweight division, something they’ve rarely done outside the occasional pay-per-view show or promoter time buy on one of their sub-networks. Gonzalez reigned for nearly seven years through weight classes before HBO made room for him as the co-star to Gennady Golovkin.
It paid off for his divisions on September 9th and could keep paying off for fans for several years. It’s a veritable golden era at 115 lbs. right now.
Enjoy it. They don’t come along often in any class.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 35-14
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]