Boxing’s luck of the draw
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.
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.