LAS VEGAS — Thankfully, Saturday was the end of the rivalry between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, because the judges just can’t seem to get it right when those two are in the ring.
Alvarez cruised to a one-sided victory over Golovkin in their rubber match at T-Mobile Arena, winning a unanimous decision to retain his undisputed super middleweight championship.
Alvarez reasonably won 10 rounds and you could easily have given him 11 or even all 12 rounds. Golovkin didn’t have the fire that marked his Hall of Fame career. He threw few punches, never had Alvarez in difficulty and didn’t seem able to unholster his weapons.
Yet, Steve Weisfeld and David Sutherland each had it 115-113 for Alvarez, meaning if Golovkin had won one more round Saturday that, once again, it would have been a draw. And anyone who saw that fight knows it wasn’t a draw. Those scores are egregiously bad, nearly as bad as Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 card in favor of Canelo from 2017.
Dave Moretti, one of the best judges’ ever, had it 116-112, which was too close but at least he wasn’t one round from a draw.
The build-up was marked by animosity as the two traded taunts. Alvarez repeatedly said he was going to go for the knockout because he didn’t care for how Golovkin spoke about him. And Alvarez indeed was firing fastballs at Golovkin from the outset, looking for the kill shot.
It never came, but he thoroughly beat up Golovkin and the scores made it look like a cliffhanger. It was a cliffhanger in much the same way the 1940 NFL championship game was a cliffhanger when the Bears defeated the Redskins, 73-0.
Golovkin wasn’t in that fight ever and never gave Alvarez an inkling of trouble. But after, he was pleased with his game plan.
“Strategy,” he said of his, ahem, comeback. “Second half, I feel not bad. It’s a good fight.”
Golovkin is one of the true good guys in boxing, but I’m sorry. It was not a good fight. You got more than your money’s worth if you bought the 2017 and 2018 bouts between them, but you gave a lot of that back on Saturday. It wasn’t competitive, it had little ebb and flow and there wasn’t a hint of drama.
But the judges … man.
There are epically bad scores in this sport on occasion and the cards of Weisfeld and Sutherland, in particular, enter that ignominious realm.
The sad part is, it took away from what Alvarez accomplished. He said he seriously injured his left hand during the fight but it was hard to tell during the bout.
When it ended, they embraced and spoke for a long time in the center of the ring. After DAZN concluded its interviews with them, they shook hands and embraced again. It was good to see that athletes of the highest level could put the beef behind them and move on. As Golovkin said repeatedly before the fight, they’re professional athletes. Alvarez was gracious following the bout, making it seem as if he’d struggled to pull out the win when the reality is anything but.
“Thank you so much my friend, thank you Golovkin, thank you for everything,” Alvarez said. “We gave the fans three good fights. Thank you for everything. Thank you so much for your support. I’ve gone through very difficult things in my life. Only thing you can do is continue to move forward. I’ve gone through difficult times with my defeat. But defeats can show how you can be great, how you can come back and show humility.”
Incredibly, Golovkin swept the final three rounds on Weisfeld’s card and won four of the final five on Sutherland’s. That was a mystery to the vocal crowd and anyone who paid more than scant attention to what was going on in the ring.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Alvarez said of Golovkin’s late rally. “I know him ... He’s a strong fighter. For me I’m just glad to share the ring with him. He’s a really good fighter. I’m glad to be involved in that kind of fight.”
Alvarez said Golovkin’s skill kept him from getting the knockout he promised. He moved to 58-2-2 in what had to be one of the most satisfying victories of his career. He was firing huge shots at Golovkin throughout, but Golovkin has a legendarily great chin and put it to good use. Canelo knew early on it would be difficult to get rid of his rival as he’d promised.
“First round, [I knew it would be hard],” Alvarez said of his hopes of a knockout. “I knew he’s tough. He’s a tough fighter. I need surgery. My left hand is not good. But I’m good. I’m a warrior. That’s why I’m here. I can’t hold a glass. It’s really bad. But I’m a warrior.”
Over his career and over three fights with Golovkin, he proved that.
And this is not meant to minimize Golovkin’s career, because he’s one of the best to ever do it and he should be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame the moment he becomes eligible. But he didn’t win Saturday’s bout and he wasn’t reasonably close.
The judges gave him a gift. They made it look closer than it was. They made a blowout look like a barnburner. Fortunately, the right guy won.
That wasn’t always the case in this series.