Box­ing’s luck of the draw

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @RonBorges

LAS VE­GAS — In the fi­nal sec­onds of last night’s mid­dleweight ti­tle fight no­body seemed to care any­more who won. In­stead the sell­out crowd at the T-Mo­bile Arena rose as one and be­gan to cheer both Gen­nady Golovkin and Canelo Al­varez as they tore at each other like two ra­bid dogs, each try­ing with his last full mea­sure to find the punch that would bring them vic­tory. As it turned out, nei­ther did.

Af­ter 12 rounds of fierce bat­tling, mostly at close quar­ters, Golovkin and Al­varez were still stand­ing and Golovkin was still mid­dleweight cham­pion but not be­cause he won. Be­cause no­body won.

Judge Adalaide Byrd scored the bout a lop­sided 118-110 for Al­varez while Dave Moretti saw it a 115113 vic­tory for Golovkin and judge Don Trella scored the fight 114-114. The Her­ald card also had a draw. The crowd was not as con­vinced, boo­ing when Al­varez was in­ter­viewed in the ring af­ter the de­ci­sion was an­nounced, for what it was dif­fi­cult to say.

Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) came into the fight con­sid­ered one of the big­gest punch­ers in box­ing, but he never hurt Al­varez, although he did of­ten force the for­mer ju­nior mid­dleweight cham­pion to move back into the ropes, us­ing his su­pe­rior size to pin him in, although he did no real dam­age there.

Al­varez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) landed the fight’s big­gest punches, es­pe­cially to the body, but of­ten wasn’t busy enough or crafty enough to keep Golovkin at bay. On the flip side, the WBA-WBC-IBF cham­pion was never able to hurt Al­varez no­tice­ably, although he did tire him out as the rounds wore on and Al­varez too of­ten found him­self with his back against the ropes, look­ing to counter punch.

He did that, but not enough to take the play away from Golovkin, or of­ten enough to win. Then again, Golovkin didn’t ap­pear to do enough to make a clear state­ment him­self that he was the su­pe­rior man. So, in the end, the judges seemed to get it right, even though Byrd was so far off she made the three of them right by be­ing wildly wrong her­self, as she so of­ten is.

In the end though, box­ing got what it needed. It got a highly com­pet­i­tive and highly en­ter­tain­ing fight be­tween two guys who came to the ring look­ing to throw punches and break the other’s spirit. They suc­ceeded in the for­mer, but not in the lat­ter, which is why by mid­night there was al­ready talk of do­ing it again, if the two were amenable to it. And why not?

Both fight­ers were cau­tious in the opening round but Al­varez twice caught Golovkin with solid coun­ters when he missed wildly with right hooks. Golovkin was not snap­ping his jab as ef­fec­tively as ex­pected, of­ten fall­ing short as he tried to find the right punch­ing dis­tance but couldn’t quite zone in.

Golovkin ap­peared to be la­bor­ing early, his accuracy off, although he did land one hard right hand in Round 2 that caused Al­varez’ eyes to widen as he moved away. Whether Golovkin noted that or not, he be­gan to press in closer in Round 3 and scored, although he paid for it at one point when Al­varez ripped an up­per­cut in the cen­ter of the ring that caught him squarely.

Al­varez kept try­ing to land to the body with mixed suc­cess while Golovkin con­tin­ued to come for­ward, with cau­tious ag­gres­sion. As he closed the dis­tance he twice pinned Al­varez on the ropes in Round 4, but was sur­pris­ingly less than ag­gres­sive, scor­ing but not throw­ing with the bad intentions so of­ten seen in prior fights.

He got Al­varez in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion early in Round 5 and again scored and mid­way through the round pinned him against the ropes again and this time strafed him with a solid right-left com­bi­na­tion. Al­varez waved him in, shak­ing his head. Sec­onds later, Golovkin snapped his head around with a hard right to the jaw and the cham­pion bore in, look­ing like he now felt he had the ad­van­tage.

Golovkin opened the sixth round the same way, but he caught a crush­ing body shot from Al­varez that backed him up and had the crowd roar­ing “Canelo!” Al­varez soon af­ter landed a hard right, but Golovkin be­gan to at­tack him again, skip­ping to­ward him and seem­ingly now anx­ious to en­gage as Al­varez kept back­ing into the corner or be­ing forced to the ropes by Golovkin’s phys­i­cal­ity.

This was the fight pat­tern pre­dicted by Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, who thought Golovkin’s su­pe­rior size and power would wear the smaller man down. Golovkin fought the sev­enth round as if he agreed, con­stantly bor­ing in as Al­varez kept re­treat­ing to the ropes.

Al­varez seemed too of­ten in re­treat and un­will­ing to chal­lenge Golovkin with the jab, but late in Round 8 he landed his best punch of the fight, a sting­ing up­per­cut to the point of the chin that had Golovkin’s head snap­ping back and his feet quickly re­treat­ing.

Round 9 was sim­i­lar with Golovkin car­ry­ing most of the round but Al­varez nail­ing him with a big right hook af­ter Golovkin landed two punches. That hook sent the seat fly­ing from Golovkin’s head but he quickly moved for­ward again.

With one round to go the fight seemed to be tilt­ing to­ward Golovkin, but not by much even though he had been the ag­gres­sor for most of the fight. The two fought as if each felt it was that way in the fi­nal three min­utes, Al­varez nail­ing Golovkin early with a hard right and a four-punch com­bi­na­tion. Soon af­ter he hit him with a three-punch com­bi­na­tions as well but Golovkin came back and scored on the in­side once again.

With 15 sec­onds to go the crowd stood and roared for both men, ap­pre­ci­at­ing not the man they fa­vored when the night be­gan but the ef­fort of them both. The cheers were well earned by them both.

AP PHOTO

SIX, TWO AND EVEN: Canelo Al­varez and Gen­nady Golovkin staged an out­stand­ing fight last night in Las Ve­gas, but one where judg­ing was again cen­ter stage.

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