Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
LAS VEGAS – This time there was a winner.
Twelve months after leaving this same T-Mobile Arena with a controversial draw after a fight that many ringside felt opponent Gennady Golovkin had won, Canelo Alvarez edged the rematch by taking a majority decision win on scorecards that accurately reflected the extreme closeness of a contest fought with tremendous skill and will over 12 high-caliber rounds.
Judge Glenn Feldman saw the contest as a draw. But he was marginally overruled by Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti, who had it for Alvarez by the slimmest of margins: 115-113, seven rounds to five. While each fighter can point to a handful rounds that he won, the winning margins even within most of those rounds were razor-thin. It is entirely possible that the result may ultimately have come down to just one or two clear, clean punches that were enough to earn Canelo a round and, thus, the fight.
If there was a consensus expectation among professional predictors during fight week, it was that this time Alvarez, despite his promises that he would knock Golovkin out, would move around the ring, seek to avoid exchanges, and look to box. It didn’t take long for that prediction to go up in smoke.
At the first bell, Golovkin marched forward to center ring. Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) marched forward to meet him; and there he stayed for much of the fight. Indeed, for long stretches, Canelo was the one stalking forward and looking to dig power punches inside; Golovkin, uncharacteristically, circled and retreated, trying to keep his foe at range.
The bout effectively unfolded in three acts.
Over the first four rounds, the contest was close, even and largely cagey, Golovkin edging the segment primarily by being busier and more accurate with the jab, and by rounds three and four beginning to add body punches to the mix as he loosened up. The middle act, which Golovkin had won comprehensively a year ago, this time went almost equally strongly to Alvarez, who began to let loose with power punches in the fifth, and tore into Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) in the sixth and seventh, unleashing uppercuts to the Kazakh’s body and head as the older man showed signs of apparent wear, at one point retreating in seeming discomfort from the Mexican’s relentless body assault.
Part way through the eighth, however, Golovkin appeared to press the reset button, and emerged from the ninth evidently aware of the need for greater urgency. Suddenly, Golovkin looked lighter on his feet, pivoting into position to land fierce punches to Canelo’s head. A right hand from Golovkin sent spray flying from Canelo’s head, and then the Kazakh knocked his opponent to the ropes and zeroed in with badly-intentioned combinations. Canelo responded, fighting Golovkin back to the center of the ring before Golovkin responded with two fierce hooks. In the 11th, Canelo’s back was against the ropes on a consistent basis for the first time in the fight, and his head movement, which had enabled him to slip much of Golovkin’s assault early, was almost non-existent. Again, however, Canelo dug deep at the end of the round; and in the 12th, the two men battled weariness as much as each other, forcing themselves to continue flinging punches at each other as the crowd of 21,965 roared. Weisfeld and Moretti gave that round to Canelo, which was enough to seal a 115-113 result on both their cards and avoid another draw.
“I’m very excited, very emotional,” said a relieved Canelo, who had been nursing a cut above his left eye since early in the contest. “It was a great fight, but at the end we got the victory for Mexico. He didn’t hit me a lot. I’m a great fighter, and I showed it tonight. If the people want it, we’ll do it again. For now, I want to rest. But we’ll do it again for sure.”
“I’m not going to say who won tonight,” responded Golovkin. “Because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges. I thought it was a very fun fight for the fans. I thought I fought better than he did.”
“We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around,” added Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez. “I had it close going into the 12th. We had good judges, who saw it from different angles. I can’t complain about the decision but it’s close enough to warrant a third fight. Canelo fought a good fight. Congratulations.”