By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Gennady Golovkin's still not satisfied.
But nearly everyone else is.
When the consensus middleweight champion left the T-Mobile Arena ring after a bout with Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16, 2017, he was happy he'd retained his cadre of belts via split-decision draw but frustrated he'd been denied a win many ringsiders felt he'd earned.
Fast forward 364 days to Canelo-GGG II and it was a familiar vibe for the Kazakhstan native.
The difference the second time was the post-fight duffel bag was a great deal lighter without the WBA (super), WBC, IBF and IBO belts – and his cinnamon-haired opponent had every reason to celebrate, rather than rationalize, the result.
Golovkin and his entourage hightailed it to the locker room following a majority-decision loss that cost the then-36-year-old both his title jewelry and the unbeaten resume he'd been polishing for the last 13 years, eschewing the traditional post-fight interview with Max Kellerman.
His petulant reaction, however, did little to kill the buzz nearly everyone else was enjoying after 36 more minutes of gloved combat that certainly equaled, and in many ways exceeded, the original.
And the almost universal reaction in the aftermath?
Yeah, these guys have got to get together again.
“It wasn't a case of either fighter dominating,” said Doug Fischer, The Ring's editor-in-chief who steered his company's pay-per-view broadcast.
“We've got to have a third one,” Fischer said. “If you're a boxing fan, you've got to clamor for a trilogy here.”
For ample evidence, look no further than the scorecards.
Unlike Episode 1, when Adalaide Byrd's ridiculous 118-110 vote for Alvarez became the fight's biggest takeaway, the back-and-forth nature of the sequel was accurately interpreted by the judges.
Glenn Feldman scored it six rounds apiece to end at 114-114 but was overruled by Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti, each of whom saw it 115-113 (seven rounds to five) for Alvarez.
For the record, I scored both fights 116-112. First for Golovkin, then for Alvarez.
In the sequel, both Weisfeld and Moretti scored the 12th round for the winner, who landed 21 punches to Golovkin's 20 in the final three minutes, according to CompuBox. If either had leaned the other way, the result could have been a second straight draw.
The deposed champ doesn't agree, but it's really better that it didn't end the same way.
Where consecutive stalemates may have left an inconclusive feeling for fans clamoring for a winner, the threadbare decision in Alvarez's favor simultaneously solidified his standing as the sport's top active attraction and amped up the enmity that had already developed between the formerly amiable rivals.
They embraced following their second final bell, but the bitterness symbolized by Golovkin's quick exit was precisely the kind of accelerant that fuels promotional hype machines perpetually seeking new angles.
Alvarez was quickly on board for a third match, telling Kellerman: "If the people want another fight, we'll do it again. We'll do it again, no doubt."
Golovkin, upon returning with a weekend obliteration of Steve Rolls, echoed the sentiments.
And assuming they ultimately sign contracts, the two rivals will enter rarified air reserved for some of the sport's most recognized pairs and guarantee that they'll be prominently mentioned on one another's International Boxing Hall of Fame plaques.
After all, heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier laid much of the foundation for their careers over 41 rounds in the ring between 1971 and 1975, while welterweights Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran did the same across three fights of their own from 1980 to 1989.
The careers of Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward were defined by their three apocalyptic fights across 13 months in 2002 and 2003, and Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez took it a step further, fighting four times in three weight divisions between 2004 and 2012.
Of course, there's no guarantee a third encounter will rise to those levels.
For evidence of that point, see the third run-throughs of Pacquiao-Morales and Rios-Alvarado.
But given the finesse of their first encounter and the ferocity of their second, it's pretty close to a lock that Alvarez and Golovkin – who combined to throw 1,501 punches, landing 436 – will find something worthwhile to offer the paying customers regardless of the venue.
And for Golovkin, it's the only way to finally leave a ring content.
"It's easy when you're winning," said Kevin Kelley, a former featherweight champion. "He could do another fight and get himself a chance to show what happened (in the rematch) was wrong.
“The only chance he has to do that is with a trilogy."
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
IBF featherweight title – Leeds, England
Josh Warrington (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Kid Galahad (No. 1 IBF/No. 11 IWBR)
Warrington (28-0, 6 KO): Second title defense; Three of six career KO/TKO wins in Leeds (11-0, 3 KO)
Galahad (26-0, 15 KO): First title fight; Four of eight 12-rounders have ended inside the distance
Fitzbitz says: Warrington was a nice fighter heading into 2018, but he had a transformational year with wins over a pair of title-level guys at 126. He’s superior here, too. Warrington by decision (90/10)
WBA flyweight title – Kiev, Ukraine
Artem Dalakian (champion/No. 7 IWBR) vs. Sarawut Thawornkham (No. 1 WBA/No. 74 IWBR)
Dalakian (18-0, 13 KO): Third title defense; Seven KO/TKO wins in 10 career 12-round fights
Thawornkham (20-1, 15 KO): First title fight; Lost only career fight outside of Thailand
Fitzbitz says: Dalakian is a rugged commodity at 112 pounds and has been at his best in championship-distance fights. His Thai foe here is younger, but nowhere near as accomplished. Dalakian in 9 (90/10)
WBO junior heavyweight title/Vacant WBC cruiserweight title – Riga, Latvia
Krzysztof Glowacki (WBO champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Mairis Briedis (No. 2 WBO/No. 2 IWBR)
Glowacki (31-1, 19 KO): First WBO title defense; Held WBO title in 2015-16 (one defense)
Briedis (25-1, 18 KO): Fourth title fight (2-1); Held WBC title in 2017-18 (one defense)
Fitzbitz says: It’s an intriguing matchup of high-enders who fell short against Usyk. Now that he’s out of the way, it’s time for Briedis to rejoin the belted class. A good, close one. Briedis by decision (65/35)
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Lerena, Valdez)
2019 picks record: 47-8 (85.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,058-351 (75.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.