Gen­nady Golovkin and Canelo Ál­varez fight to con­tro­ver­sial split draw

The Guardian Australia - - Technology / Sport - Kevin Mitchell in Las Vegas

The two best fight­ers in the world are still the two best fight­ers in the world, and there ought not be much ar­gu­ment over the drawn 12-rounder be­tween Gen­nady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Ál­varez, al­though the man­ner of get­ting there on the score­cards was bizarre.

The some­times ec­cen­tric Adalaide Byrd gave a pal­pa­bly closer fight 118-110 to the Mex­i­can, Dave Moretti had it a more sen­si­ble 115-113 to Golovkin and Don Trella had enough ev­i­dence to jus­tify a 114-114 draw. And that glow of sat­is­fac­tion at ring­side might have been the smiles of the TV ex­ec­u­tives and casino heavy­weights who know they will now do it all over again.

Golovkin keeps his WBC, WBA and IBF belts, as well as the lesser IBO ti­tle, and Ál­varez is still the Ring’s ac­knowl­edged king as well as the lin­eal cham­pion, by virtue over his win against Miguel Cotto in 2015. The last undis­puted world mid­dleweight cham­pion was Bernard Hop­kins, the busi­ness part­ner and one-time tor­men­tor of Ál­varez’s pro­moter, Os­car De La Hoya.

But the 22,358 fans in the TMo­bile Arena were not in­ter­ested in that his­tory; they wanted new stuff. They wanted a de­fin­i­tive an­swer to the ques­tion: who is the best mid­dleweight in box­ing?

From where the Guardian sat ring­side, the an­swer should have been Golovkin, but not by a lot: seven rounds to four, with one even. A cou­ple of those rounds were close and tough to call. And the ex­changes were of­ten so in­tense it was dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate them.

Yet that hardly excuses the de­plorable score of Byrd, who is an ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cial in Ne­vada. This was not a good night for her. It was, how­ever, a ter­rific night for the sport.

Even though Golovkin had the belts, Ál­varez held the cards when they divided up the guar­an­teed loot: $5m to $3m, and he has De La Hoya to thank for that. The pro­moter in­sisted be­fore­hand this was “not about the money”, but “a his­tory fight”. Up to a point – and cer-

tainly when they were throw­ing and duck­ing leather, the only thoughts on their minds were sur­vival and vic­tory, in com­pet­ing lev­els of in­ten­sity.

De La Hoya also pre­dicted “eight or nine rounds of hell” for both men. He was not wrong there.

There was the most cur­sory glance be­tween the fight­ers when they touched gloves, but the cir­cum­spec­tion lasted only as long as it took Ál­varez to fire off the first sharp blows and edge the first round. A rhythm had al­ready been set in place: Golovkin stalking be­hind the stiffest jab in the di­vi­sion and Ál­varez wait­ing for gaps. Each brought con­trast­ing but mesh­ing skills, in ad­di­tion to ex­cel­lent records.

With clin­i­cal ruth­less­ness, Golovkin had shred­ded the am­bi­tions of his 37 pre­vi­ous op­po­nents, among them Matthew Mack­lin in 2013, Martin Mur­ray two years ago and, most re­cently, Kell Brook last year. He also de­stroyed Wil­lie Mon­roe Jr, who lost to Billy Joe Saun­ders in Lon­don on Satur­day in what ap­peared from a dis­tance to be 12 scrappy and some­times dull rounds for the un­beaten Bri­tish mid­dleweight’s WBO ti­tle.

As for Ál­varez, four Bri­tish chal­lengers have tried and failed against him: Matthew Hat­ton and Ryan Rhodes (back to back in 2011 at light­mid­dle), Amir Khan – so vi­ciously knocked out in this ring last year – and Liam Smith, whom he stopped in nine rounds in Texas a year ago.

But the name that stands out on the Mex­i­can’s card is that of Floyd May­weather Jr, against whom all fight­ers at or around th­ese weights must be judged. Ál­varez, de­spite his early start in the pro­fes­sional sport at 15, was not good enough when they fought in 2013 to break down the fortress May­weather had built around him. He is a dif­fer­ent cus­tomer now.

Ál­varez’s quicker fists es­tab­lished early dom­i­nance, while four-belt cham­pion Golovkin took a while to find his range and tempo. Eight years younger and a split-sec­ond quicker, Ál­varez walked on to a heavy right in the third but the nat­u­ral coun­ter­puncher was beat­ing the knock­out artist to the punch.

Golovkin warmed to his work in the fourth and Ál­varez un­wisely took a pep­per­ing on the ropes, shak­ing his head de­fi­antly. Maybe the con­cus­sive power of the Kazakh’s fists were do­ing the job with­out the spec­tac­u­lar buzz of some of his pre­vi­ous work, but Ál­varez was clearly feel­ing the weight of them, as so many be­fore him had.

The chal­lenger’s head now snapped back with mo­not­o­nous reg­u­lar­ity, and his hand-speed dipped around the half­way mark. Ál­varez’s judg­ment also blurred as he con­tin­ued to take need­less risks.

Golovkin, hav­ing re­dis­cov­ered the snap and en­ergy that had drained from him in his last fight against Daniel Ja­cobs, was the boss again. Ál­varez’s face was grow­ing puffy, but his pride was solid. Con­stantly on the back foot, he had his right hand cocked for an equaliser. It did not al­ways come when he wanted it to.

The younger man’s swings were grow­ing wild and weary, and his legs were as heavy as his heart. Golovkin kept his shots short and dis­ci­plined, al­though he walked on to a de­cent up­per­cut near the end of the eighth, which he still won clearly.

What had ear­lier been a chal­lenge was now a rou­tine ex­er­cise in pain dis­pens­ing for Golovkin. When Ál­varez de­cided to trade, it was the cham­pion who reaped the div­i­dend, but the Mex­i­can got home with a sin­gle right hand that turned his op­po­nent’s jaw side­ways in the ninth – the sort that lev­elled Khan here in cen­tre ring.

Ál­varez steeled him­self for a rear­guard as­sault to save the fight. But Golovkin was the big­ger man, and fresher. Yet the Mex­i­can would not be de­nied. He found his tar­get and stag­gered his man with a tremen­dous right in the tenth.

Al­though the last two rounds were as close as they were fre­netic, it was Golovkin who held his nerve.

Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez, echoed the wider sen­ti­ment when he said ring­side, “No sur­prises. We knew go­ing in it was go­ing to be a war. Canelo was very re­silient.”

Golovkin, in his charm­ing and trun­cated English, de­scribed the fight as, “a drama show”, adding, “Of course I want the re­match. This was a real fight. Look, I still have all the belts. I’m still the cham­pion.”

Adams’ US de­but scup­pered as op­po­nent fails blood test

For Nicola Adams, the dou­ble Olympic gold medal­list, the evening went flat an hour be­fore she was due to start the show in mid-af­ter­noon against the Hun­gar­ian Alexan­dra Vlajk when she was in­formed her op­po­nent had failed a blood test.

The cheeri­est soul in sport kept smil­ing, shrugged her shoul­ders and said, “It’s just one of those things.” Un­for­tu­nately, it co­in­cided with her first visit to Las Vegas and her third pro­fes­sional fight. She got to see very lit­tle of the gar­ish desert phe­nom­e­non but hopes to re­turn one day. She hopes her next fight will be in Leeds on 21 Oc­to­ber on the Josh War­ring­ton un­der­card.

Gen­nady Golovkin and con­nects with a right to Canelo Ál­varez fought to a con­tro­ver­sial draw on Satur­day night. Pho­to­graph: John Locher/AP

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