By Tris Dixon
SO that is that. Everything has been settled.
It might take a while for the dust to settle in the desert but we now officially know there is nothing much between Gennady Golovkin and new middleweight ruler Saul Alvarez and that if they meet again it will likely be close and competitive.
But we also know that if they have a third collision then the man they call ‘Triple G’ will be 37 and he will not improve while Alvarez knows he can get a decision whether he hits and moves or stays in the pocket.
We also know that they are the two best 160-pounders in the world today and with them in the ring together, doing what they do, we have a great advert for the sport.
When you factor in failed drug tests and erroneous scorecards the sport loses some of its Noble Art message, but in the ring they deliver genuine quality.
Let’s try to untangle what happened in the T-Mobile Arena.
Alvarez instantly tried to gain Golovkin’s respect in the opening round, something he had not managed in the build-up. He planted his feet and stood with GGG in an engaging rather than explosive first round.
But from the second onwards, both began to land eye-catching shots, not the sort that just flick an opponent’s hair back but the kind that makes it seem as though a fighter has stuck his hand in a live plug socket.
Golovkin leaned headfirst into a Mexican left hand in round two, a thumping punch.
Canelo’s hands looked noticeably faster and in the early going one wondered whether they could be the difference maker. He smashed a left into Golovkin’s side but took a thudding hook to his temple, the type that has laid waste for many lower calibre middleweights.
Alvarez let his hands go on the inside and was counterpunching smoothly. There was not much in it. Golovkin was straightforward, a blunt instrument snapping shots into Canelo’s face and stepping to the side, out of harm’s way.
Sometimes Canelo landed with bigger swings. They dazzled. Even if he was being outworked his shots stayed longer in the memory.
But Golovkin’s punches have not always been highlight reel, flashbulb shots. They just really hurt. Sometimes it has looked as though he has hardly made contact, but his opponents have fallen in sections or suddenly. He’s a battering ram rather than a sniper or bomber.
Regardless, he was landing jolting blows, including a stunning right uppercut in round four.
Through the middle rounds, it seemed as though Canelo tried to finish strongly, an age-old tactical ploy to sway judges, getting busy in the last 30 seconds.
And say what you want about PEDs and the Mexican but he showed a steel jaw. His breezeblock chin was not dented during some classy, vicious trading on the inside during the fifth.
Golovkin’s jab was busier and more industrious but he was starting to swell beneath both eyes while Canelo was cut over his left optic.
The Mexican started and finished the seventh well.
“Stay in the pocket, let’s fight this guy,” said Abel Sanchez in Golovkin’s corner.
Round eight might have been the pinnacle of the fight. They swapped shots, taking turns like kids on a seesaw.
The pace was hard and both were breathing heavily at the end of the frame.
“That’s the kind of fight I want,” added Sanchez, who implored Golovkin to look to the body more.
It was still difficult to split them but in round 10 Canelo was rattled, yet only to the point where he was forced to duck and dive rather than rock and roll.
He was looking ridiculously robust, even while under heavy fire.
He stood moved forwards with a stoic, Thanos-like quality.
And in round 11 Golovkin landed another right that would have decked many world leaders at 168lbs. I felt Canelo was doing enough to hang with Golovkin but not enough to lead him.
There was a touch of gloves before the 12th round. It was the type of fight that brings enemies closer together. They were sharing something quite special.
GGG’s face boasted the greater damage by the end but you don’t score based on that. It was absorbing until the final bell and they fell into one another’s arms.
They then both celebrated, puffing out their chests, saluting the crowd in their final attempts to affect the ballot papers.
Then came the decision that prompted Canelo to thank the heavens and Golovkin to storm from the ring.
Glenn Feldman delivered 114-114. Dave Moretti matched Steve Weisfeld with 115-113. I had the same score but for Golovkin and thought there were probably three ‘swing’ rounds that could have gone either way.
The outcome was not a disaster. It was not a robbery. The problem comes when there is an air of inevitability about the whole thing, that everyone knew that if there was to be any benefit of any doubt that the Kazakh would not be the recipient, be it over three minutes or 12 rounds.
The home fighter, on the home promoter’s show, in a home promoter’s fighting city… A Mexican on Mexico’s Independence Day… If the cards fell, they were going to fall with the Mexican facing up – and they did.
Maybe the scorecards will go against Alvarez one day, when he’s not the up and coming prospect [as he was against Floyd Mayweather] and when he’s not the franchise player [as he is now].
But he fought so hard and so well that you cannot take away from his achievements this time. Plenty of balanced judges felt he deserved the decision. It just it seems unlikely and almost implausible that from six rendered scorecards in two fights Golovkin won on just one of them.
On Saturday he threw more shots than the Mexican in all but three rounds. In the first fight he threw more in every round bar one. He landed more in eight out of 12 this time (one even) and 10 out of 12 last time (one even), too.
Yet he only won on a solitary scorecard in the two fights?
I’m not one who swears by fight stats, but they do often paint a broad portrait of what happens inside the ropes.
They show that both fights were close, but that GGG did more and earned more than he got.
Canelo is, of course, open to the idea of a third fight. Why wouldn’t he be? It will be his most lucrative option. Golovkin mirrored that sentiment.
But you can understand why he would not.
Would he go back to Nevada?
Would he go back to Vegas?
He would likely be 37 by the time they go again. Where is the advantage in that? Many felt Canelo was the more improved of the two this time, even if they did not believe he won.
But this time plenty did. It is the maths that still does not sit right with me. One in six scorecards for Golovkin? Not one official vote for him last night. What more does he have to do? Throw more? Land more? He’s statistically said to have done that in both fights. Get hit less? Maybe.
One could comprehend why he blew off the post-fight interview. You could feel his heartbreak and disappointment, with such little official acknowledgement for his efforts.
Through 24 CompuBox rounds he had been outlanded in just four of them.
So while I’m effusive in my praise of Alvarez, I also sympathise with the runner up.
You need a winner and a loser and in fights like that no one deserves a silver medal.
You can’t judge last night on what happened in a previous fight, but overall talks of robbery, hometown decisions, youth being favoured and the cash cow repeatedly getting the nod, well it paints a damming picture of boxing, one that has been hung on our wall of shame for years.
And that is certainly not where that fight belongs.
Not when the dust settles.