Alvarez’s non-controversial win what boxing needed
LAS VEGAS — Boxing doesn’t just thrive on controversy, it literally breathes through it, and sometimes relies on argument and conjecture to keep itself relevant.
On Saturday, though, at the end of a tumultuous year in the rivalry between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, the sport could be grateful that there was nothing that smelled fishy seeping out of T-Mobile Arena and into the Las Vegas night.
There will be dispute, sure, with some believing Golovkin was the man who deserved the judging decision at the end of a rematch that produced 12 rounds of intensity and raw effort, and not his Mexican foe.
Even more thought a draw, the same outcome as the initial bout between the pair a year earlier, was how it should have been scored. Yet there was no travesty here, no cries of “fix” and no cause for an inquisition. Alvarez won by the narrowest of margins, so slim that if just one judge has scored just one round differently, the outcome would have been all-square once more.
That is how it goes sometimes. It doesn’t feel fair for Golovkin, one of the all-time greatest middleweights. He got the short end of the decision last September following a fight most thought he won, then was forced to wait and stew after Alvarez got popped for a banned substance while claiming it resulted from eating tainted meat. But boxing isn’t fair. The decision won’t be universally popular, but it was arrived at fairly. At least there is nothing to suggest otherwise.
Boxing didn’t need another scandal. Not here, not in a showdown between the two biggest active names in the business. It didn’t need another joke of a scorecard like the 118-110 farce Adalaide Byrd awarded to Alvarez last time. It needed a fight that made the fans feel like their money had been well spent, especially if, as hinted, Floyd Mayweather — the master of over-promising and under-delivering entertainment — does indeed return to the ring.
This was worth the price. It might not have been an all-time classic but it was rugged and fierce and left no doubt that each fighter had given everything he had. Alvarez, defensive-minded and always ready to retreat a year ago, turned things on its head by becoming the persistent aggressor, stalking forward and forcing the action. Golovkin responded with heart and energy late, coming within a whisker of turning it around with a final surge when all looked lost.
For the nuanced and experienced boxing supporter, it had the intrigue of seeing a complete shift in mindset and tactical approach from Alvarez, a factor that likely made the ultimate difference. For the casual fans who likes their entertainment to be of the “rock ’em, sock ’em robots” variety, there were enough rounds where flurried blows rained down.
And for those who like their fight sports sprinkled with a liberal dose of reality-TV style drama, the build-up offered every narrative a script writer could have dreamed up.
“These guys were separated by one round over two fights,” Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez said. “So hopefully we can do it again.”
A third fight does have some appeal, but for it to hold most interest it likely needs to happen quickly. Already, there a some signs of Golovkin, 36, beginning to slow, especially when Alvarez pushed the pace during the middle rounds. The man from Kazakhstan will go down as one of the very best middleweights of all time, and can probably extend his physical peak for another 12 months or so. Any more than that, and the forces of Father Time would make this rivalry too imbalanced, with Alvarez at 28 and appearing to get stronger.
If a trilogy bout takes place, the narrative has already been set. Next time there would surely be less trash talking, less surrounding plot lines, less distraction. It doesn’t need it. All that jazz never really sat naturally with these two anyways, and they’re at their most compelling when they’re doing what they do best: Fighting.
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno.