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Euro Bureau Best of Last Year

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Euro Bureau Best of Last Year
BLASTS PAST – GrandpaGloves ’11hobbles into the graveyard of calendars while Boxing Baby 2012 begins the crawl. New Year’s blessings to all.

We must bury Boxing2011 with few wreaths of greatness, but we can also praisemany honorable and entertaining duke-outsduring that past twelve months. The game itself deserves “Fighter of the Year”consideration for once again making naysayers look like trolls, slithering around beneath the ringside seats.

Even a bad year in boxing is as goodas a normal year in most sports.

Still, with persistent negative images,perceived miscues or improprieties and, perhaps most damaging; stars’ questionable efforts in “championship” events, this certainlywasn’t amongst the best seasons ever.It really wasn’t a bad year overall for the brand worldwide though, whileregrettable that two of the very biggest, potentially classicfights in the global spotlight, Pacquiao -Mosley and Klitschko – Haye, were complete duds.

As always, there were thousands more good scores or calls than bad, but last year it seemed there were far moreunsatisfactory callsin fights of the very highest profile, like Floyd Mayweather Jr – Victor Ortizstateside or Yoan Pablo Hernandez – USS Cunningham in Germany. Around here, the weirdest sour ending was whenVitali Klitschko stopped Odlanier Solis on a one punchleg injury.Uncommon and uncanny.

In European territory, there was sustained interest in local titles and local prospects, with limited coverage of theUS scene. In Germany, and probablyBritain, Mayweather got muchmore ink and screen time than Manny Pacquiao. Then again, in 2011 Floyd had many of what you could call more “newsworthy” days than other fighters.

Around this continent and the UK there was plenty of good action at the ground level. Boxing remains a bigger consumersport here than in the States. Pay per view is limited or non-existent in most regions. That means almost every big fight is on free TV. Makes a difference. In Germany the amount of viewers is usually quitesubstantial, a trend probablycommonin nearby domains. The businessmodel, kind of like ’50s USA, is apparently good for the sport.

The K2 promotional express rolled on, setting the standard for class, like a precision luxury coup gliding down the autobahn at warp speed. Newer muggs like Alexander Povetkin, Robert Helenius, Tyson Fury, Hernandez, and Amir Kahn became more regular in the sports pages.In Germany, “Smokin'” Joe’s passing was widely noted with respect of an appropriate magnitude.

There seems to be enough punch for profit going around Germany to makeeveryone happy. At least three major broadcasting companies (possible affiliations unknown) transmit fights relatively often, and stronglysupport them through a related media umbrella which includes high-def live streams.

Klitschko stadium galas, while not as red-hot or expensivea ticketas a couple years back, fill tens of thousands of seatsthree orfour times a yearwith no visible decline in the demand for premium VIP packages (maybe it should be VEP: very expensive person). Sauerland Event, the area’s most active premium promotional outfit, regularlyputs onexcellent major title cards that average aroundfour to six thousand customers. The club fight typescene looks very popularat many local gyms, which sponsor bouts for a couple hundred people.

Here, boxing is mainstream enough that advertising campaigns present boxing based images as a desirable, marketable attribute. Fitness, fashion and general goods get the gloved-uptreatment.Michael Buffer has been prominently featured for many months in promos for one of the biggest retail companies in Germany.

There is probably more general boxing coverage in the UK than other parts of Europe I’ve seen, with regular profiles outside usual immediate or upcoming fight time frames. German media provides good coverage of many fights immediately preceding specific events. In Germany there are many celebrity-based photos of boxersamong daily paper tabloids. Unlike UK Page 3 types, Deutschland’stopless frauleins adornpage one ofsome city newspapers.

European boxing’scurrent stateof the artexists incomplete self sufficiency, stablity and withan ongoing,replenished talent pool. Top amateur prospects may be less protected than many of the future USstars I saw. Overall, through size alonethe talent pool around Germany is farmore shallow thana place likeLA or Vegas in terms of global impact. Between strong national programs at both amateur and pro levels there is a considerable migration of former Soviet Union state area prospects who head west for more optimal training conditions.

Professionally, at the novice to mid-prelim range things look muchthe same as in the US. Maybe its something in the water, wine or workoutsthat later separatesanemergence of trueworld class performers. In 2011, the ambassadors from these Europeanpartsdidn’t fare so well in global arenas.German star Arthur Abraham got spanked in the Super Sixwhile respected Sebastian Zbik and Serhiy Dzinzirukalso met defeat onUS shores. Abraham gets back on lighter horse in around a week. Dzinziruk, who got stopped by worthy champion Sergio Martinez and Zbik, narrowly outpointed by improving JC Chavez Jr wentback to the drawing board with new opportunities. Sebastian Sylvester, who lost his IBF middleweight belt to Daniel Geale then got stopped by Grzegorz Proska, may digress to a spoiler role.

Perhaps the most shocking differencein theGerman scene is that here, the cruiserweight division is very strong and entertaining. No, I did not stay too long in Amsterdamfor NewYears’ (just long enough, actually).

There are many solid cruisers who will never earn a title but are no easy notch, a bit like fringe heavyweightcontenders of the 70-80s.Guys who probably hit the ring fight nightwell over 200 poundslike Ola Alofabi orDenis Lebedov arethe fringes of the 2010s.Guys like Hernandezand Cunninghammight have won bouts against previous heavies like James Tillis,Joe Mesior Tyrell Biggs.

Differences in nationalapplication and results cause no major deficiencies in anyone’s product.It’s still two women ortwomen, generally braver andin better shape than the average citizen, getting into a ring and throwing hands.

Consistent levels of Vegas main events and featured undercard bouts apparently still dwarfthe euroscene atop the fistic food chain, but the overall spectacleis much the same. Some Klitschko VIP parties rival glitter gulch presentations. For the record, as a fight destination nothing matches Vegas in the 80s-90s,probably the modern era’sheight of boxingglamour. So far.

Thatsummit may remain unmatched, but there are many fine fights and fighters to observe in these parts nowadays. Here’s the best of what I saw firsthandlast year.

Fighter(s)of the Year : The Kbros split this one by way ofboth dominant and dubious distinction. From one perspective, nobody really came close to matching the level of exemplaryprofessionalism Wlad and Vit have maintained forrelative eons now, in everything from proper preparation to charitablesidelines. On the other side of the coin,during 2011 there were few major Euros who hadvery good years. Lebedev pounding Roy Jones or James Toney in Moscowain’t exactly a Renaissance.

Fight of the Year – I’m goingwith Marco Huck’s (pictured) frenzied10th round KOversusHugo Garayin Munich’s Olympic Ice Stadium last July. It was not the most finesse based exercise ever conducted between the strands, but it was one heck of a two-way brawlthat made the 4,404 or so fans in attendance loco. Both men were stunned multiple times during huge exchanges. Garay was a perfect foil, and made an upset look entirely possible more than a couple times. Icing on the conking cake was Huck’s way over the top entrance featuring a live performance by pop-rocker Sera Lee, complete with unisex dancing boxersusing flaming gloves. A live cartoon.

There was less of the essential mauling mayhem, but in terms of top level technique the runner-up nod goes to the controversialFelix Sturm-Matthew Macklin endurance contest. Sturm’s subsequent draw againstMartin Murray looked nearly as good on TV, andHernandez-Cunningham shaped up as a thriller before an accidental cut.

Round of the Year: Sturm- Macklin round 12.A great promotion with a full house of 19,000 inCologne. Excellent battle, arguablyup for grabs down the stretch. I gave the round to Sturm by a punch,but the fight to Macklin by a point. Runner up: Povetkin-Chagaev round 6. Yes it wasa bit ofa big boy slog, but well-fought overallbehind plenty of heavy thuds.Maybe it takes a strong bruiser like Chagaev to bring out the best in Povetkin.Reminiscent of ’80selimination waltzes featuring guys like Dokes,Weaver or Cobb.

Event of the Year : Vitali K – Adamek in Wroclaw, Poland, where the locals showed why their economy is growing. Students of boxing loremay recall the Dempsy-Gibbons fiasco in Shelby, Montana. This was the other side of the payoffcoin, in a still under construction stadium area to be used again for the 2012 European football/soccer tournament. It looked like almost everyone in town came for the spectacle.As a heavyweight fight, it was merely an impressive performance by the much larger, more experienced Kbro, who did what he was supposed to do against a brave but overmatched foe. Nothing extraordinary. As a cultural gathering, it was a rare scene of mass humanity with boxing at the center. The last time I observedanything like it was Lewis-Tyson in Memphis.It was later sad to hear that Adamekwas parting ways with Main Events, whose quiet efficiency contributed to both an amazing event and Adamek’s overall status in the ranks. Nothing in these parts came close as a runner up.

Debacle of the Year :Goes hands and happy pants downto the Klitschko-Haye fight. As a fight scene, Hamburg was the opposite of Wroclaw.Imagine. A chancefor redemption of the marketability mothballed heavyweight division ona single July evening in Hamburg. Evena near constant, chillingdownpour couldn’t drown the highly-anticipated showdown. Six or seven thousand visiting Brit fans completely outcheered the rest in a soaked crowd that looked around 38,000 deep. Despite the drenching, when the last prefight fireworks went off, there was real, electrified anticipation in the air. That lasted around four more minutes, to a point in round two when most of the stadium started figuring out they were not in for a classic. The soggy Britvocalists put more heart into their effortthan Haye did into his,and sang formore frames than he fought.

Prospective International Star : There are currently a pair of potential primo punchers on the rise : ’04 Olympic silver medalistandWBA”something or other”middleweighttitlist Gennady Golovkin and ’08 heavyweight gold medalist Rakhim “The Machine” Chakhkiev, a southpaw cruiserweight.Hernandez could also be considered, but almost all his potential competition is based in Germany and the usual suspects are pretty muchunknowns. Right now Chakhkiev looks like a future heavyweight force, maybe a Denis Boytsov typewithout the hand issues.

KO :Afolabi’shugeblastout ofTerry Dunstanon the Klitschko-Haye undercardwas the most obvious calluntil December, when Glovovkincreamed the reportedly never dropped Lajuan Simon, who’d looked solid against Abraham and Sylvester. Whatever your preference, bothshort hooks produced splattering, crowd joltingfirst round stoppages.

Progress: Fury and Helenius moved themselves to the front of the Klitschko sweepstakes pack by staying busy. Though defeated, Zbik and Dzinziruk went from being unknowns in America to being unknowns in America who are now only another decent effort away from being well -knownenough for agood payday.

Comeback: Haye. Completely unearned, but somehow he rosefrom July mockery tocomfirmed year-end mention as most likely contender for an early summer stadium fight against Kbro Vitali.

Class Act:The Klitschko brothers again. Whenthe main knock, year after year,istheir complete lack of competition, they’re doing something a lot better than everybody else.

 

Country to country, the Americas still seemsuperior in the manly art.All said, if everythinglooked equal on paper, I’d pick Latin American or USbased fighters over their European counterparts at least seven times out of ten.

It’s a good sign that the new year starts witha return of the sport to a foundational network. NBC’s Chambers-Liakhovich free cable broadcast could well be the event of next year, one way or another.

Thepositive perspective, as usual, is that there were lots of good fights all over the lumping landscape by honorable, well prepared performers who maintained boxing’s best traditions and highest standards.

The fight gameremained a vibrant piece of the social equation last year,andthe planet continued to spin as old calendars and old champions were replaced.

There is a lot of middle ground between thriving and starving.

Boxing’s bellymay be lean, but it isn’t under-nourished.

Euro Bureau Best of Last Year / Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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An Unofficial Judge Scored 9 Rounds for Canelo; Feel Free to Hoot and Holler

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auxiliary press

The auxiliary press section at the T-Mobile Arena is quite a distance from the boxing ring. I’ve been in auxiliary press sections before, but never one that was up so high. It was here that I found myself on Saturday night, peering down on the ring far below and like everyone else checking out the big screen between rounds for a closer look at key moments.

From this vantage point, the ring is both smaller and bigger. It’s bigger in the sense that it opens things up a bit. Your eyes see more space between the fighters and you are better able to judge which fighter is controlling the distance. Think of the picture from the overhead cam in a football game. Looking straight down, the playing field doesn’t look as congested. The holes that open for a North-South running back bursting into the secondary get wider and from this panorama you are better able to judge the work of the offensive line.

Having said that, this is really no place to adequately judge a boxing match, so I can be forgiven for scoring the fight 9-3 for Canelo. For what it’s worth, however, the fellow on my right had it the same. The fellow on my left had it somewhat tighter, but also scored it for Canelo. And for the record, neither of these guys were Hispanic so they weren’t blinded by tribal loyalty.

At the T-Mobile, when the main event ends, the scribes in the auxiliary press section are literally held hostage. They are prevented from going down to the post-fight press conference until the arena has thinned out.

This reporter couldn’t get his laptop to function properly and had no patience. I’m not comfortable working on my cellphone, so it was imperative that I get home in a jiff and be there when David Avila’s ringside report turned up in my e-mail. On a fight of this magnitude, the boss wants the bread-and-butter post-fight story up on the site in a hurry.

Aware of the hostage situation, and my own technological limitations, I had the foresight to scope out the arena for an escape route just in case I needed to get away fast. And so, before a hostage-taker could rope me in, I was off and running, scurrying down a little used staircase. I had my car parked in the right spot for a quick getaway, traffic was light, and I was home at my work desk in less than 30 minutes.

I didn’t wait around to hear the scores. To me it was a foregone conclusion that Canelo would have his hand raised. Heading home, I had the car radio tuned to an all-sports station. And when the scores came across the radio, I thought to myself, well, I was wrong and I was right. I thought GGG would win and I was wrong about that, but I was right, I thought to myself, that the judges would be disposed to give GGG the close rounds. In my mind, the scores (114-114 and 115-113 twice) gave GGG the best of it. Granted, several rounds were tough to score, but yet the fight wasn’t that close.

Au contraire !

To my amazement, the vast majority of those seated in the ringside press section scored the fight a draw or had it shaded toward Triple-G. In fact, according to one survey, which included those in the building and a select few watching at home or in a TV studio, only two of the 59 people that were polled had it for Canelo with 17 scoring it even. The most cantankerous of the GGG faction was ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas who apparently had it 117-112 and labeled the decision a robbery.

No I won’t defend my scoring. Let me see the fight on TV (and with the sound off, natch), and I’ll get back to you. But I’m still flabbergasted that my score was so out of whack with the consensus.

Odds and Ends

Although the fight was announced as a sellout, there were empty seats scattered around the arena. The announced attendance was 21,965, roughly 1,400 less than for the first encounter last September.

The first Canelo-GGG bout set the attendance record for an indoor fight in Nevada and came in third all-time in gate receipts, surpassed only by Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015 and Mayweather-McGregor in August of last year. But that’s a distant third to the leader. The gross gate for Canelo-GGG I ($27,059,850) was far below Mayweather-Pacquiao which raked in an astounding $72,198,500.

Although there’s more money in circulation each year and more fat cats willing to pay an enormous sum to attend a mega-fight, I doubt the Mayweather-Pacquiao record for gate receipts will be broken any time soon.

The crowd, needless to say, was skewed heavily toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. And while it’s often said that members of this ethnic group are true fight fans, the reality is that when they come to Las Vegas they act just like the Anglo high rollers, which is to say that they arrive at a big fight fashionably late.

When the first of the four PPV fights started, the arena was not more than 15 percent full. When the semi-main started, the arena was perhaps one-third full, notwithstanding the fact that it was a title fight featuring a boxer from Tijuana.

The old outdoor fights at Caesars Palace were thick with celebrities who were acknowledged by the ring announcer. Saturday’s fight at the T-Mobile was something of a throwback. The roll call included movie stars Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Mark Wahlberg, comedians Dave Chappelle and Cedric the Entertainer, and sports personalities Lebron James, Charles Barkley, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Triple H – to name just a few.

Standing in the ring as GGG and Canelo made their way from their dressing rooms was a fashionably dressed woman wearing a dress that one would associate with a Latin country. I assumed she was there to sing the Mexican National Anthem. In my younger days, the Mexican National Anthem was sung so often at big fights in Las Vegas that I could eventually mouth the words.

But no, there was no National Anthem whatsoever, neither U.S., nor Mexican, nor Kazakhstani. I was told that they did do anthems before the first of the preliminary fights. This would have been about 3:00 in the afternoon when there were not more than a few hundred people in the joint.

Was this a reaction to the brouhaha set in motion by Colin Kaepernick? That’s a fair assumption.

Not only were the anthems missing, but so also was Michael Buffer, a fixture at HBO shows for decades. I’m told that he now works exclusively for Eddie Hearn. He’ll be back on the job this coming Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London.

Joe Martinez, Buffer’s replacement, did a solid job, as did referee Benjy Estevez who was working his first big fight in Nevada. Of course, Canelo and GGG made it easy for him. No matter your opinion of the scoring, I think we can all agree that these two great warriors engaged in a very clean fight.

By all accounts, this was a very good fight for the bookies. The expectation that there would be late Canelo money in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day weekend wasn’t born out. At one establishment, the odds favoring GGG rose from 7/5 to 9/5 (minus-180) in the last few hours of betting. I’m told that it nicked above 2/1 at a few places offshore.

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How Much Is Left for Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez?

I first wrote about Roman Gonzalez in 2010. He was a baby-faced 105lb shotgun then, but was not widely known. I predicted that he would be the world’s number

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I first wrote about Roman Gonzalez in 2010. He was a baby-faced 105lb shotgun then, but was not widely known. I predicted that he would be the world’s number one fighter one day and also that when he eventually came undone, it would be against a southpaw.

I also predicted that, for Gonzalez, there would be no second act. Once undone, he would stay undone. Gonzalez was no Jake LaMotta, no sponge for acid, and to describe him as face first would be to do a disservice to the high guard and sleek slippage of punches that, even as a minimumweight, he was already exhibiting. I felt, however, that the purity of the violence he dealt in required a commitment that a hurtful defeat might undo. I also felt that super-flyweight would be his roof and that when he landed there he might find himself tangling with various immovable objects, where once give had been guaranteed.

So I was not surprised when southpaw superflyweight deluxe thug Srisaket Sor Rungvisai dropped him like a stone down a well late last year. I did have a bad feeling as regarded his comeback this weekend though.

An earlier aborted attempt at a return to action seemed to have been caused by the most disappointing of reasons, his perceived inability to make the 115lb limit in time. Once a fighter has decided to eat himself into the divisions above it’s rare to see him back at his old trim; the nightmarish vision of Gonzalez trying to compete with Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete reared its ugly head momentarily, but Gonzalez set to work and made the grade, like he so often has.

A fight with Moises Fuentes at 115lbs was his reward.

Quantifying this opponent is important. Fuentes had, at one time, been ranked among the very best light-flyweights in the world. He exited that division after winning a crackling match with perennial warmonger Francisco Rodriguez and then losing by knockout to Kosoei Tanaka. After straying dangerously close to 120lbs and splitting a pair with Ulises Lara, he struggled back down to 112lbs only to be brutalized by Japanese prospect Daigo Higa in a single round. The word “shot” started to be muttered in connection with Fuentes in the wake of this result.

Gonzalez meanwhile was being marooned on the wrong side of history in his native Nicaragua as the country fell down around his ears. The political disaster wrought upon his people left him in an isolated position politically and, undoubtedly, with severe personal financial problems of his own.

So there were two desperate men sharing the ring on the undercard of Golovkin-Alvarez contest but to my eye, Gonzalez-Fuentes was far and away the most interesting match.

Gonzalez looked old and dry during the referee’s instructions, his expression hangdog, new folds of expression on his once smooth features. He looked down, not unusual, but he radiated a sliver of defeat where once there had been only surety.

Until the bell rang.

Gonzalez, in his prime, was among the best combination punches of the modern era. This has always been his stated mode of expression, eight to twelve punches his declared and terrifying target and he has proven himself capable of landing at the lower end of this range. Nor are these the “mixing” punches of, say, Joe Calzaghe, who cuffed and slapped and looked to land a meaningful punch in among the a stream of less hurtful shots. Gonzalez meant business.

As business boomed and he became the lineal flyweight champion of the world, he continued to add layers. By the time of his flyweight reign he had developed one of the most dangerous right hands in the world. He shaped it in all ways, he threw it at all ranges, he targeted head, body, chest, and such was his balance and stance that he did all of this without selling the punch. When Gonzalez dipped his left shoulder to throw a left-hook or uppercut, he could instead transplant that punch with a straight right.

Certainly not all of the above was confirmed against Fuentes. He wasn’t buying the space like he used to, developing strange angles to begin the withering barrages that we saw in his prime, but we did see him throw the same explosive and unexpected combinations, sometimes leading with the left-uppercut, a suicide punch for many fighters. And we saw him use that right hand.

We saw him feint with it to open up for the left and we saw him use it as a prop punch for a hook or uppercut, and we finally saw him unleash it, on the button, for what may be the knockout of the year.  Gonzalez rounded the brave Fuentes up, cornered him, and then knocked him unconscious with a punch that traveled through the target and “frightened” Gonzalez into thinking that he had legitimately hurt the Mexican.

His relief when Fuentes returned to us, cross-eyed and confounded, but unharmed, was palpable.

My pre-fight wish was that Gonzalez would look very bad and be forced to consider retirement, or very good, thereby hoping that my final prediction would be denied and “Chocolatito” could be declared back in the title hunt.

Though what we got is certainly more the latter than the former, in truth it is neither.

Gonzalez’s speed of foot had begun to betray him even before Rungvisai pole-axed him and although he looked sprightly at times here, he’s not going to be as quick at 115lbs as he was at 108. More, he landed a lot of punches on Fuentes and Fuentes stood up to them. When Gonzalez hit that kind of stride at 112lbs, even burning heart warriors like Akira Yaegashi wilted; Fuentes was able to rally several times which was good for the contest but makes clear that Gonzalez left his truly destructive power behind when he left his flyweight title behind. Murderous in landing the perfect shot, clubbing super-flyweight foes into submission is going to remain extremely challenging.

So when he comes up against a meaningful challenger, he will have to defeat him with craft, guile, and what remains one of the most fluid offenses in the sport. Many of his potential opponents will be faster than him and some will be able to hit as hard or harder.

Gonzalez will no doubt be in pursuit of a strap. This leaves him with three choices.

Rungvisai, the legitimate champion, we know about. Gonzalez may want a third fight and given the weakness of the matches on the most recent HBO Superfly card, it is far from impossible that it can be made. If it was made next, Rungvisai must be considered a heavy favorite.

The wonderful Filipino Jerwin Ancajas, too, holds a strap at the weight and he, too, should be avoided unless Gonzalez is determined to undertake an all-or-nothing swoop at a fighter entering his prime. This contest is not unwinnable for Gonzalez, but all things considered, it would arguably be the very best victory of his career if he were to pull it off.

Finally, there is Englishman Khalid Yafai.

Yafai is the right man. He is the type of fighter that Gonzalez has specialized in breaking since he turned pro; a fleet-footed, clever boxer short on dig and high on flurries. Yafai is definitely good enough to stay ahead for spells, he might even be good enough to win seven rounds, but he is not going to brutalize Gonzalez while he does it.    Here is a fight for a strap that Gonzalez would be favored to win.

Alas, promotional vagaries also make it the most difficult to make. But perhaps Gonzalez will bide his time. There are other meaningful contests to be made in a sprightly division undergoing yet another quality iteration.  Perhaps Gonzalez will seek a rematch with old foe Juan Francisco Estrada, still dangerous but underwhelming in his most recent contest. Perhaps a battle of the veterans can be sold to HBO and Gonzalez can tangle with Donnie Nietes. Or maybe power-brokers would be more excited to see him in with another mysterious old man from foreign shores and Gonzalez-Kazuto Ioka can be made.

These are all exciting fights and most of them can be made with a minimum of fuss.

So it’s Roman Gonzalez then, perhaps not quite back, but certainly warming up in the wings. And if the division isn’t quite trembling, it can at least be said to have thrown a quick look over its shoulder into the gathering gloom.

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A Tactical Change Paid Dividends for Canelo Alvarez vs. GGG

This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s

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night Canelo

This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s three middleweight title belts at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And like their first fight last September that ended in a majority draw, the decision has provoked controversy.

The amazing thing about Canelo and GGG is how evenly they’re matched and difficult their fights are to score. I scored the rematch 6-5-1 Canelo, (after seeing the first meeting 8-4 GGG) but it was so close that it could as easily gone to Golovkin by a point. But let’s get one thing clear: This fight was too close to be considered a robbery regardless of who had their hand raised. And when you take into account that Canelo forced Golovkin to fight in retreat, landed the more eye-catching shots, worked his body from the onset, and that Golovkin’s face was much more puffed up and lumpy at the end (although Canelo was cut), no way was the decision in favor of Canelo an injustice.

Stylistically, GGG is an attacker and Canelo is a counter-puncher. However, Canelo answered Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez’s call and didn’t run. No, he didn’t run in the first fight either, but in this fight, unlike the first, Canelo moved forward and initiated the exchanges. Golovkin’s jab, which is always reliable, worked overtime and kept Canelo from owning the exchanges, but like most attackers, GGG can’t hit as hard or be as effective if forced back. And because of that Canelo had no reservation in regards to forcing the fight. So when looking at what stood out the most, it was Canelo’s more imaginative offense and body punching, thus forcing Golovkin to go away from what he’s done best and in every other fight of his career, and that no doubt influenced the judges. Moreover, Golovkin noticeably flinched a few times at feints and was unwilling to pay the price of going to the body entailed to win.

Prior to the rematch it was said in this space how two things would unfold when they met the second time. Quoting from the June 20th TSS preview:

Based on the strategic options for both, Canelo has more room to be better and change things up to level the fight. And then there’s the business side of the equation and I’ve been around too long to fathom that if it’s closer this time GGG will get the decision. A Canelo win sets the rubber match up perfectly because in the eyes of boxing fans and PPV buyers they’ll view them as being 1-1. For the reasons stated above, as much as I’d like to be wrong (and there’s no fun pouring cold water on something so widely anticipated), I don’t think that will be the case. It’s a monumental reach for me to think GGG can win a decision unless he beats Canelo beyond recognition – which I don’t believe he can. Therefore Canelo-GGG goes the distance and Alvarez, being more competitive this time, gets the decision and that sets up the rubber match for Cinco De Mayo weekend 2019.

The fact is, Canelo being the more versatile fighter completely flipped the script after fighting mostly in retreat and with his back to the ropes during most of their first encounter. His aggression and willingness to stand his ground the way GGG did the first time, projected that Canelo was the more willing fighter and he was obviously rewarded for that. Granted, Golovkin really dug down and showed his strong constitution during the second half of the fight after being told by his corner he was losing. He fought a terrific fight, as did Canelo, but it wasn’t enough for GGG because he left too many rounds up for grabs, which was suicide with Canelo forcing the fight.

The result shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, especially since the fight was so close and could come down to whose style you liked better or who you were rooting for. There was no definitive winner of this fight. Sure, a draw would’ve been a fair call. The problem with that, however, is that Team Golovkin knew they had to be more assertive and erase any semblance of doubt this time, due to GGG being excoriated in some circles for not getting off enough in the last bout and never slamming the door to prevent Canelo from tightening the fight with a rally, the way he did down the stretch. This time GGG got off a little more, but that was because he was mostly fighting to prevent Canelo from overwhelming him with his aggression. In a way it’s ironic how Canelo accepted the challenge and fought Golovkin in a more macho way and it knocked Golovkin off his game.

One tries not to be redundant, but like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB…..boxing is a business and is star driven. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a superstar fighter in the eyes of the boxing establishment and many fans. There’s no guesswork needed to grasp that it’s good for business for him to keep winning. His determination, skill and toughness exhibited against a monster like Golovkin might endear him to fans more than ever. Canelo fought a better fight than the first time and put to rest the rumor that he was aided by PEDS.

The net result is exactly what the boxing establishment, not the fans, needed. And that was a win for Canelo in a fight where it was tough to pick the winner with Canelo acting as more the predator than the prey. By forcing GGG to break more exchanges, working both the body and head, along with never appearing tired or overwhelmed, it was just enough to win the borderline rounds in the eyes of the judges and tilt the fight in his favor. In fact, Golovkin, over Canelo’s protest, had Dave Moretti as a judge for the fight. He was the only judge who scored the first clash for Gennady. And this time he scored it for Canelo and may have tipped his hand when he gave the 12th round to Canelo, perhaps knowing it could swing the fight in his favor….and it did.

This decision cannot be lambasted like others we’ve seen. GGG didn’t suffer a loss of esteem in losing and Canelo finally has a statement win over a marque fighter. They’ll fight a third time and it will be perceived as a rubber match. Golovkin will be almost another year older and less than what he was this past weekend and Canelo will win more conclusively while avoiding the young lions nipping at his heels named Charlo, Saunders and Andrade.

Because boxing is and always has been star driven, Gennady just can’t put enough separation between he and Canelo to get the decision. Their rematch is one of the few fights I’ve seen that really could’ve gone either way – it’s just that a push usually goes to the combatant who is better for business.

The next time there’s a real close fight on paper, and it’s unlikely to end in a knockout or stoppage, you must ask what result better sets up the next big bout. The formula isn’t fool proof. De La Hoya-Trinidad and Pacquiao-Bradley I are glaring exceptions, but more often than not you’ll cash your ticket. In this case a Canelo win sets up fight three more than a Golovkin win would’ve….and knowing GGG won’t walk away from the fortune at stake, he’ll go for it.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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