LAS VEGAS – Gennady Golovkin got what he wanted. After taunting Canelo Alvarez for months for running in their first fight, which was scored a draw, Alvarez surprised Golovkin by standing in the middle of the ring and fighting.
There was no running. There was no excessive lateral movement. Golovkin said he wanted Mexican style and he got Mexican style.
And yet, he couldn’t come up with the win.
Alvarez won a taut decision in an entertaining though hardly classic fight, winning the 12th round on the cards of judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld to pull out the majority decision and capture the WBA-WBC and linear middleweight titles before a festive crowd of 21,965 at T-Mobile Arena.
For Golovkin, that had to sting the most. Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez complained about Alvarez’s style in their first fight, a split draw in the same ring a year earlier, when Alvarez used his lateral movement.
For Alvarez, that was boxing. To Golovkin and Sanchez, it was running. In one pre-fight interview, Golovkin was asked if there was anything that Alvarez did better than he expected in the first bout, Golovkin said, “He ran.”
This time around, Alvarez found the center of the ring and stood and fought. It was Golovkin who seemed to fade in the middle rounds. It was Golovkin who came into the fight regarded as one of the hardest punchers in the sport, who went 24 rounds with a fighter who moved up in weight to fight him and couldn’t score a knockdown.
“I really didn’t think that was a proper, great Mexican boxing style,” Golovkin said, via an interpreter. “Yes, he wasn’t running away from me or running around, but that doesn’t mean that he won this fight. He didn’t do anything special.”
Ah, but there’s the rub. Alvarez went toe-to-toe with the guy whom his promoters loved to paint as the most feared man in boxing. He wasn’t knocked down. He wasn’t ever significantly buzzed. He took Golovkin’s fastball on the chin, particularly in the best exchange of the fight in the 11th, and never wavered.
Golovkin has one of the best chins in the sport’s history, and he showed that on Saturday when he didn’t so much as flinch when he was clipped with a clean straight right from Alvarez.
But let’s be fair: Alvarez has a great chin, too. And after beating Golovkin at his own game, he and trainers Eddy and Jose “Chepo” Reynoso deserve enormous credit.
Former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, now a partner in Alvarez promoter Golden Boy Promotions, attributed Alvarez’s win to his ability to think on his feet and stand his ground when the situation called for it.
“He stood in the center of the ring because he knew he was faster and he knew he’d think quicker,” Hopkins said. “… It wasn’t the age difference, though that played a little part, but it was the speed. And when he needed to hold his ground, he held his ground. He got hit with some shots, but he showed he could withstand those punches. Triple-G realized that and everybody in this building could see that he was getting tired.”
The problem for Golovkin is that the many B-level fighters, such as Dominic Wade and Willie Monroe, would crumple when he caught them with one of his flush shots. In his two fights against Alvarez, he wasn’t able to land as many of them and those that did, Alvarez took with no issues.
Alvarez also had Golovkin in retreat for a good amount of the middle part of the fight.
“I’m satisfied with the victory and I’m satisfied with how we did it,” Alvarez said of staring the monster down. “When we analyzed the fight, [standing toe-to-toe with him] was a key to the victory.”
David Lemieux, who knocked out Spike O’Sullivan in the first round on the undercard, said he thought Alvarez won.
He alluded to Golovkin’s age as a factor. Golovkin is 36, and though he insisted he felt like he was 25, he didn’t have the same energy he had when he was 25.
“Of course [Golovkin] isn’t the same guy he was five years ago, but he did well,” Sanchez said. “You just have to credit Canelo.”
Alvarez fought brilliantly, but it’s fair to say that Golovkin was somewhat disappointing. He was being compared by many to some of the best who ever lived and, by that admittedly large standard, he couldn’t measure up.
He’s going to beat most fighters, but Alvarez isn’t just another guy. He’s one of the best in the game and showed he has the ability to fight whichever way makes the most sense.
This time, it was the guy who once had the highest knockout percentage in middleweight history who, for large parts of the fight, was on the retreat.
“It was I who pushed him back,” Alvarez said. “It was I who was the most aggressive.”
Eddy Reynoso said they determined the best strategy was to push Golovkin back and blunt Golovkin’s charge. Alvarez pulled it off perfectly.
He fought the Mexican style that Golovkin said he wanted. Turns out, it was Golovkin who couldn’t handle it.