One Good Fight Deserves Another After Canelo vs. GGG Ends in Draw
Boxing finally got the fight it wanted. We just didn’t get the result we needed.
This was the fight that was supposed to provide a conclusive answer about who the best middleweight in the world truly is. Gennady Golovkin has been the consensus No. 1 for a few years, even though he’d been waiting for a chance to prove himself against the other top 160-pounders, who never seemed in much of a rush to face him. Canelo Alvarez is the lineal middleweight champion — the man who beat the man, and so on. But lineage isn’t everything. He hadn’t beaten Golovkin.
A win for Canelo would end any debate about being the champion without actually being the best in the division. A win for Golovkin, meanwhile, would mean he’d no longer merely be thought of as the de facto king of the division, but would finally have the victory to make it official.
There’s no end to the debate just yet. Indeed, the debate about Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin continued long after the official decision was announced — a draw that some felt was fair while others were left using another four-letter word beginning with the same letter.
That’s a shame. It was a close and competitive bout, enjoyable to watch for its action and drama, the twists and turns, each fighter needing to dig down and kick into a higher gear to keep the fight from slipping away.
Canelo started off strong. As expected, he came out looking to box and counter. Golovkin landed his jab but little else in the first. Canelo made Golovkin miss with most of the rest, blocking, moving away from or ducking underneath many of his right hands. Canelo occasionally would counter with a body shot or two or a right hand upstairs.
Canelo’s speed advantage was the story of those opening rounds. Golovkin began to amp up his activity, and therefore the pressure as well. He also finally began to go to the body in the fourth, attempting to take the wind out of Alvarez’s sails. Canelo intentionally went to the ropes in that round — along the lines of the maneuver he pulled against Liam Smith last year — but with less success. While Canelo dodged or blocked much of what came at him, it was still Golovkin scoring more in those moments.
Golovkin didn’t go to the body enough. He was credited with landing just eight body shots on the night, according to CompuBox. He was content to aim for the head, believing that his power would be the difference maker. Golovkin saw the fight begin to turn into more of what he was looking for in the fifth, including a big right hand that caught Canelo on the side of his head and neck. Canelo took it fine.
Golovkin’s power never put Canelo down nor broke him down. His tenacity and technique, however, had brought him back into the fight, seemingly evening things up on the scorecards and perhaps even building him a lead. Canelo still had to be smart. He was fighting in spots, boxing well, defending capably, limiting Golovkin and landing enough of his own to make some rounds more arguable than others.
The fight heated up in the ninth, Golovkin pushing Canelo backward, even after Canelo landed a huge right hand halfway through the round. Canelo had an early outburst in the first minute of the 10th, which may have been enough to get the nod on the scorecards. Canelo started the 12th stronger as well, only for Golovkin to rally back. It wasn’t enough for Golovkin to win the round, though.
That round turned out to be the difference between Golovkin winning and the actual end result.
One judge, Dave Moretti, had Golovkin ahead, 115-113, seven rounds to five. Don Trella had it even, 114-114, six rounds apiece. Had Trella scored Round 12 for Golovkin — or had he joined his fellow judges in scoring Round 7 for GGG — then Golovkin would’ve been announced the winner.
Those two judges at least were in range of reality. That can’t be said for judge Adalaide Byrd, whose ridiculous 118-110 score for Canelo meant she somehow saw 10 rounds in Alvarez’s favor and only two rounds for Golovkin. Much of the ire afterward went deservedly toward Byrd, who has a history of bad scorecards in big fights. Mind you, the fight still would’ve been a draw had she given another four rounds to Golovkin, as Trella had.
Not every draw is unacceptable. Not every debatable decision is a robbery. Not every close round is a certainty on the scorecards. So many on press row and on Twitter reported having Golovkin ahead at the end, the 116-112 winner. That, too, is a realistic score.
Most rounds are easy to score, but not always. A responsible observer is also going to note those swing rounds where the margin of victory is narrow. At the end of the fight, you need to look at those swing rounds and see what the potential range of acceptable scores would be.
Sometimes every round in a fight has a clear winner and loser. That wasn’t the case in Canelo vs. GGG. There were enough close rounds that you could score the fight 116-112 for Golovkin and still see a 114-114 as reasonable.
Nobody likes a draw. It’s not conclusive, even if it’s not controversial. That’s all the more reason to do it again.
It’s too early to know for certain that a rematch is next. Golovkin, who is now 37-0-1 with 33 knockouts, would of course like a second fight with Canelo to come sooner rather than later. It remains the biggest money fight available for Golovkin. He’s also 35 years old and would want to face Canelo again before time and wear and tear begin to take even more of a toll.
Alvarez, who is now 49-1-2 with 34 KOs, reportedly had a rematch clause in the contract that could be invoked in case of a loss or draw. There were no promises in the post-fight press conference. Alvarez and his team likely want to see what options are available — perhaps a lucrative rematch with Miguel Cotto instead before Cotto retires. Cotto’s wanted a second fight with Canelo since losing the middleweight championship to him in November 2015.
Canelo’s team made Golovkin wait nearly two years since then until the time was right, until they felt the fight was most marketable. It’s to their advantage to make Golovkin wait yet again.
That’s a shame. Both men deserve another chance to prove themselves the best middleweight in the world. The sooner that happens, the better — for them, for us, and for the rest of the fighters in the division (including Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Derevyanchenko) who are awaiting their shot at whoever comes out on top.