It was one of the most eagerly awaited fights of 2017, and the Las Vegas gamblers left the casinos and swapped their chips for betting slips, as they headed for the T-Mobile Arena to see how the Golovkin v Alvarez encounter would pan out. After 12 rounds, both the boxers were shaking their heads and the crowd were booing as the judges ruled the bout a draw.
Was it really that close?
In the run up to the fight, both men were talking it up as being the biggest bout ever. This kind of hyperbole is hardly unusual, particularly when it is a box office encounter in Sin City, but even the more level-headed sports journalists knew this was going to be a close one, and that’s exactly how it panned out.
Alvarez started and finished the fight looking the stronger of the two, and also generated the most eye-catching and memorable moments, in front of a partisan crowd. The fight took place during Mexico’s Independence Day weekend, and plenty of Alvarez’s compatriots had taken the opportunity for a trip to Vegas.
Ultimately, though, even many of the Alvarez fans were forced to admit that their man had not done enough. Defending champion Golovkin put in a workmanlike performance, landing more punches throughout the encounter, and clearly had the better of the middle rounds.
As the bell sounded to end the final round, there was no real doubt that Golovkin had done what he needed to do to retain his title. This turned out to be the case, but not in the way that everyone was expecting, and the announcement of the draw was met with astonishment by fans, commentators and former professionals.
Going with the form? The view from the gambling sites
In the three days leading up to the showdown, betting sites were taking wagers from casual betters and professional gamblers alike. Sites like Leo Vegas saw a surge in visits to their sportsbook area, an innovation that brings that Vegas feel to the online experience, by blending traditional casino games with the ability to bet on the most popular sporting events.
These sites had the defending middleweight champion as warm favourite – hardly surprising for a man who had never been defeated since turning professional in 2006. Immediately prior to the fight, most had him at around 4/6 on, with Alvarez at 11/8. The draw is not typically a popular wager in boxing, but anyone who took it had the opportunity to collect some bumper winnings at 20/1.
So will the controversial ruling in the Golovkin Alvarez encounter cause a change in betting patterns? A great guide will be the forthcoming heavyweight encounter between Joseph Parker and Hughie Fury on 23 September in Manchester. Most agree that the fight will be too close to call – so are the betting sites offering shorter odds on a draw?
A glance through the odds suggests that the answer is no. Parker is slight favourite, but with typical odds of 8/11 and most bookies offering even money on Fury, there looks to be the proverbial cigarette paper between them. Yet most are offering 20/1, and some 25/1 on the draw. Traditionally, these are still quite short odds, but given the unpredictability of the outcome and the recent history in Vegas, many boxing fans might feel it is worth a small wager.
Why the controversy?
Given that the matchup was so closely contested, it might seem surprising that the result was met with such dismay across the boxing community. The biggest cause of complaint was that the result was skewed by one judge, who seemed to see things very differently from the others. Dave Moretti shared the view of most, when he scored it in favour of Golovkin at 115-113. Don Trella could not separate the combatants and had it at 114-114.
But it was the third judge, Adalaide Byrd, who surprised everyone, scoring the fight 118-110 in favour of the Mexican challenger. Byrd, the wife of Hall of Fame judge Robert Byrd, has 20 years experience, and has stood as an official in more than 400 professional fights.
This is not the first time she has courted controversy in a high profile bout. Back in 2008, Joe Calzaghe took on Bernard Hopkins for the light heavyweight title and it went the distance. Most saw Calzaghe as the clear winner, with judges Chuck Giampa and Ted Gimza scoring in 116-111 and 115-112 respectively, both in favour of the British fighter. But Byrd disagreed, and had Hopkins the 114-113 winner.
As the shock waves continue to reverberate, Byrd has been stood down from officiating in major fights. Bob Bennett, of the Nevada State Athletic Commission played down the decision, stating that Byrd would be taking “a small break,” and acknowledging that she had had “a bad night” in Vegas.
Golovkin was less diplomatic in his assessment, saying that Byrd’s scorecard was “terrible,” and adding that the incident was bad for the sport of boxing. His trainer, Abel Sanchez, agreed, suggesting that Byrd “needs to go back to school and learn how to judge a fight.”
Even Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar de la Hoya, was bemused by the whole situation and said that he was shocked by Byrd’s score.
Meanwhile, former professionals were also quick to share their opinions via social media. Audley Harrison said that there was “no justification” for the 118-110 score, and that the judging was bringing the sport down.
Floyd Mayweather Sr, a man always glad to share his opinion, described the scorecard as “ridiculous” and saw the overall fight as a draw.
As the dust settles over Nevada, Golovkin remains middleweight champion, so who will be his next challenger? The smart money is on a return to Vegas, and a showdown with Miguel Cotto, who was ringside at the weekend, having previously said he was keen to take on the winner.
The bookmakers are already studying the form, but one thing is certain – you would get long odds on a certain someone being on the judging panel!