GOLOVKIN vs CANELO

The full story as GGG meets Al­varez for grudge re­match in Las Ve­gas

Boxing News - - Contents - Matt Christie @Mattcbox­ingnews

‘IT WAS MY PLAN TO STAND AND TRADE FROM THE START’

THE first card was read out. One-hun­dred-and-fouteen to one-hun­dred-and-four­teen. A draw. As the next scores were an­nounced, two iden­ti­cal tal­lies of 115-113, Gen­nady

Golovkin did not move. It was al­most like he knew what was com­ing. Then the in­evitable. Saul “Canelo” Al­varez was the win­ner. The new mid­dleweight cham­pion of the world.

But there was noth­ing new about the con­tro­versy that fol­lowed. Noth­ing new about the heartache Golovkin was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. It was al­most a year to the day that the Kazak was forced to ac­cept a draw against Al­varez in one of most in­fa­mous Las Ve­gas heists in box­ing his­tory. And stand­ing in­side the same ring, un­der the same T-mo­bile Arena lights, Golovkin must have felt like he had been jobbed again. In­deed, it was im­pos­si­ble not to feel sym­pa­thy for a 36-year-old man who seems des­tined to re­main in Canelo’s back pocket.

But while so much about the se­quel was the same, the fight it­self was dif­fer­ent. It was bet­ter. More ex­cit­ing. Ma­jes­ti­cally sk­il­ful yet oh so bru­tal in de­liv­ery. Canelo, ex­pected to re­treat, boxed pre­dom­i­nantly on the front foot. Golovkin, al­ways the fighter, be­came the boxer. And taken as 36 min­utes and not 72, as a bat­tle rather than the war, Al­varez be­ing hailed the win­ner was not an out­ra­geous con­clu­sion.

Box­ing News scored the bout 115-114 in Golovkin’s favour, six rounds to five with one even. Six “GGG” rounds that could eas­ily have been seven or even eight. Five Canelo rounds that could have been four or six. But, most telling of all, one even round that could have been 12. It was a des­per­ately close en­counter. One that Gen­nady ap­peared to edge, but with ev­ery round so tight, per­haps only de­cided by a soli­tary eye-catch­ing punch, it re­ally could have gone ei­ther way. Which is why, when view­ing this bout as one bout and noth­ing more, Canelo Al­varez de­serves credit for emerg­ing from a hel­la­cious rum­ble with the most feared mid­dleweight of re­cent years with his arms raised.

The prob­lem is, of course, we can’t ig­nore what came be­fore. Canelo vs GGG is a deeply com­pelling story, an ac­cu­rate tale of box­ing at its best and worst. The excitement and brav­ery and ring artistry. The lu­di­crous card of 118-110 in Canelo’s favour in 2017. The mind-bog­gling gen­eros­ity Al­varez has re­ceived from of­fi­cials in the past. The ³

fact that, from all six of­fi­cial scores across the two bouts, only one was handed to Golovkin. That even af­ter his gift draw in the opener and, far worse, af­ter fail­ing a test for per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drug clen­buterol in the in­terim, Canelo Al­varez, the chal­lenger, was not only granted a quick re­turn, he re­mained the A-side. Golovkin, the cham­pion who de­served bet­ter, again had to play sec­ond fid­dle to the Mex­i­can king of Las Ve­gas. Truth is, out here in Sin City, GGG never re­ally stood a chance.

Par­tic­u­larly when one con­sid­ers the re­silience of his op­po­nent. Golovkin is a thun­der­ous puncher, one used to end­ing mat­ters dra­mat­i­cally and not need­ing to bother with judges’ opin­ions. There were times in the first en­counter when Al­varez seemed on the brink of un­rav­el­ling un­der that power. One year ago, Canelo found him­self be­ing over­run dur­ing the mid­dle rounds. No choice but to put his back to the ropes and sur­vive the on­slaught com­ing his way. Back then, the suc­cess he had was with clever counter-punch­ing, by be­ing the quicker of hand and foot. De­spite pre-fight prom­ises that he was go­ing to knock out Golovkin, it was pre­sumed he would look to stick and move and try to box his way to vic­tory. That he opted not to, in­stead choos­ing to stand his ground in the eye of the storm, says plenty about the new WBC and WBA boss.

“Un­for­tu­nately we didn’t get the knock­out but thank God we walked away with the vic­tory,” said Al­varez. “I did ev­ery­thing I could to com­plete my ob­jec­tive. We worked so hard for that. It was my plan to stand and trade from the be­gin­ning. I wanted the knock­out.” The tac­tics adopted by Al­varez and his team were ex­cel­lent, ir­re­spec­tive of whether you feel they de­served vic­tory. Canelo, per­haps spurred by stand­ing up to the best his ri­val could of­fer in the first fight, chose not to back away. In do­ing so he not only stopped GGG from march­ing for­ward, from feel­ing like the boss, from build­ing up steam, he found space to at­tack the body in a man­ner that tired the Kazak like never be­fore. But by re­main­ing close, he took plenty of pun­ish­ment him­self. By putting him­self in punch­ing range he ac­cepted, in ef­fect, that he would get tagged by his op­po­nent in the hope of land­ing the more spec­tac­u­lar blows him­self. And though he suc­ceeded to a point – Canelo in full flight is an im­pres­sive sight – he sure got tagged a lot. The Golovkin jab, flu­ent and on point, was the most pro­lific punch of the re­match.

“We con­trolled the fight with all the jabs,” said Gen­nady. “Just be­cause he wasn’t run­ning didn’t mean we were not con­trol­ling the fight, we were.”

The sup­port Canelo re­ceived in the arena should not be over­looked ei­ther. Dur­ing the first six rounds, which were scored ex­actly the same by judges Dave Moretti, Steve We­is­feld and Glenn Feld­man (four-two to Al­varez), it was ob­vi­ous that the roars of ap­proval com­ing from the crowd did not al­ways match the ac­tion within it. A sub­lime left hook from Golovkin in the fourth, a punch that jerked the Mex­i­can’s head side­ward, did not gen­er­ate the noisy ap­pre­ci­a­tion that a way­ward Canelo right hand gar­nered in the same round.

But Al­varez earnt ap­plause too. And re­mem­ber that this was ex­actly the Canelo that Golovkin and his team were crav­ing. A sta­tion­ary one. A ‘stand and fight’ one. And, wow, did he stand and fight. The afore­men­tioned at­tacks to the body were supreme, but per­haps the most im­pres­sive thing about Canelo was his up­per body move­ment. Whereas in the first fight he would em­ploy quick feet, this time a quick waist, which would bend and pivot and draw the op­por­tu­nity to counter, ex­hib­ited the ex­cep­tional tal­ent he is. Also con­sider that Golovkin, with a smaller op­po­nent right there in front of him, was un­will­ing to let rip be­cause he more than likely knew he would get pun­ished.

All that said, this was a more im­pres­sive GGG than in fight one. He boxed beau­ti­fully at times, and it wasn’t just the jab, it was the lead right hands which picked at Canelo, it was the sub­tle foot­work to get into po­si­tion to land them. The up­per­cut that cracked into the Mex­i­can’s square jaw sev­eral times. The blur­ring right mitt that sent sweat fly­ing from its mark. In short, for fight two, Canelo brought out the best in Golovkin, at least this age­ing Golovkin, and vice versa. And when one ex­am­ines what the best of these two has done to count­less oth­ers, the bru­tal knock­outs, the sav­age fin­ishes, the high­light-reel blowouts, it is awe-in­spir­ing that not a sin­gle knock­down was scored. Jake Lamotta, the orig­i­nal Su­per Jaw, would have been look­ing down in awe.

Cu­ri­ously, that wholly un­wel­come draw last year was per­haps the fairest out­come in the re­turn given the ac­tion that came be­fore. But if you’re go­ing to look at the whole story, and you should, the per­cep­tion changes. The in­jus­tice, the drug con­tro­versy and Canelo get­ting ev­ery­thing in his favour from the open­ing page, Golovkin – the peo­ple’s cham­pion – de­served to win a fight the ma­jor­ity at ring­side had him win­ning.

Think about it. Re­ally think about it. Seven months ago the man whose arm was raised in what is be­ing touted as the big­gest fight of the year was be­ing told he had failed a drug test. He had clen­buterol in his sys­tem. This is not the time to de­bate the ben­e­fits of the sub­stance or ex­cuse Al­varez be­cause he sup­pos­edly ate con­tam­i­nated meat. Nor, frankly, is it time to lam­bast the Mex­i­can for cheat­ing. That has been and gone. De­spite WBC boss Mauri­cio Su­laiman’s fight week claims to Box­ing

News that they know the res­tau­rant where Canelo ate the tainted beef, the lack of ev­i­dence to sup­port such fan­ci­ful claims sug­gests we will never know for sure.

What we do know is this: Canelo was re­spon­si­ble for the drug be­ing in­side of him. But he should not be blamed for be­ing al­lowed to fight. The is­sue here is how the sport dealt with the sit­u­a­tion. That he was per­mit­ted to be one-part of box­ing’s sup­posed mar­quee event in the same year he so pub­licly screwed up is ut­terly ridicu­lous. It’s lit­tle won­der half of the world’s box­ing fans are now scream­ing fix af­ter he won the fight.

But ap­plaud that fight we must. Ap­plaud the ef­forts of both fight­ers, too. Stripped down to its bare bones it was a spe­cial en­counter. One that, in nor­mal cir­cum­stances, would scream tril­ogy. But Golovkin, now he’s lost the belts and sig­nif­i­cant bar­gain­ing power, must ask him­self if he re­ally wants to go through this again. If he’s will­ing to give even more ground in Canelo Land.

THE VER­DICT Bril­liant fight. Two supreme fight­ers. Just a shame there is so much more to it than that.

TURN OVER For the rest of the big bill, fea­tur­ing Jaime Mun­guia, Ro­man Gon­za­lez and more...

IF YOU LOOK AT THE WHOLE STORY, THE PER­CEP­TION CHANGES

Pho­tos: AC­TION IMAGES/AN­DREW COULDRIDGE & JOE CAMPOREALE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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Pho­tos: JOE CAMPOREALE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

SKILL LEVEL: Canelo stands in range to land his lead hook

Pho­tos: JOE CAMPOREALE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

STRONG: Golovkin dashes a pow­er­ful cross into Canelo’s jaw

NEW KING: Canelo cel­e­brates with his team

CHAP­TER CLOSED: Af­ter a bit­ter build up Canelo and Golovkin em­brace

HEAD ON: Canelo meets Golovkin [left] in the cen­tre of the ring

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