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Hopkins Wants To Thrash King As Much As Cloud



Try as he might, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is finding it difficult to generate much animosity toward IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud, whom he challenges in the HBO-televised main event March 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Despite their 17-year age gap and decidedly different points of origin, Hopkins, 48, feels a certain kinship toward Cloud. It’s hard to work yourself into a frothing rage in preparation of a fight with someone you sort of relate to.

“I heard this guy talking about his mom’s refrigerator being repossessed, about how they had to put their food in a washtub and fill it up with ice to keep it from spoiling,” Hopkins (photo above by Hogan Photos), a child of poverty who grew up on the mean streets of North Philadelphia, said of Cloud, who hails from Tallahassee, Fla. “I’ve been watching that tape for a couple of months. I’m from North Philly, but I know where he’s coming from. He said he used to live in a room with 15 people, and he ain’t never going back to that again.

“I know how that is. That means my ass had better get ready for this guy because he’s hungry, too.”

And the roaches that presumably are a familiar sight to kids living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions? Hopkins recalls times when he had to brush them off stale slices of bread, and those when he and other family members ate cold beans straight out of the can because the gas in their shabby apartment had been shut off.

“Oh, man, those were our buddies, as long as they didn’t take all of (the food),” Hopkins said of co-existing with vermin. “You expect them to be in there. You were sharing space with things with a lot of legs and people with two legs. Whoever got there first got to eat.”

But if Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) can’t find a legitimate reason to be mad at Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), he has to be mad at somebody, because, well, that is how boxing’s ageless wonder has stayed at or near the top of an unforgiving profession when most fighters are long since retired and whiling away the hours in rocking chairs, not in gyms while getting ready for another tough bout. Fortunately for B-Hop, taking on Cloud – a victory would enable Hopkins to break his own record, set against Jean Pascal on May 21, 2011, of becoming the oldest man ever to win a widely recognized world title – provides him with just such a target for vengeance and retribution.

That would be Hopkins’ former promoter, Don King, who promotes Cloud.

“Cloud believes he is the best, that he can beat anybody,” Hopkins said. “I’m not surprised he took the fight. I am surprised King agreed to it because Cloud losing to me will shut down what’s left of King’s company. He’s pretty much down to Cloud. Cloud is Don King’s last big hope.

“Who would have thought that I would have stayed around long enough to destroy Don King? I started the process with Tito (Trinidad). Look, I made a history of beating Don King fighters. Robert Allen, John David Jackson, William Joppy, Keith Holmes, Trinidad. That’s five so far. There’s probably more.”

To Hopkins’ way of thinking – and this is a proud, obstinate guy who never forgets real or imagined slights – King became an enemy during the run-up to, and aftermath of, what likely was the ex-con from Philadelphia’s most important ring success, the 12th-round stoppage of the unbeaten and favored Trinidad on Sept. 29, 2001, in Madison Square Garden. His Hairness ostensibly promoted both fighters, but King’s continual waving of the Puerto Rican flag, and smiling shouts of “Viva, Puerto Rico!” left no doubt in Hopkins’ mind that his best interests were not exactly the promoter’s priority.

Then there was the matter of the newly created Sugar Ray Robinson Award, which was to be presented to the winner of the unified middleweight championship. Hopkins was the IBF and WBC 160-pound champion going in, Trinidad the WBA champ.

“They already had engraved Tito’s name on that thing,” recalled Hopkins, 3-1 underdog that night. “If he had won, they would have given it to him right there in the ring. I had to wait a week to get it.”

But Don King is hardly alone when it comes to inclusion on the list of the former promoters, managers and advisers who have raised Hopkins’ ire. Maybe it’s remnants of his five-year forced incarceration on an armed robbery conviction, but B-Hop – who, to his credit, has never run afoul of the law since his parole a quarter-century ago – does seem to have problems with certain authority figures. Just ask Dan Goossen and Lou DiBella, or examine transcripts of the profane rants toward Hopkins uttered by Butch Lewis, who passed away on July 23, 2011. All once had warm spots in their hearts for Hopkins which turned icy cold, and all engaged him in dueling lawsuits.

“I have a track record I’m proud of,” Lewis said when he was sued by Hopkins. “I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty with every fighter I’ve ever had, in terms of contractual commitments. But I don’t want anybody to confuse my being a nice guy with weakness. I’m not going to let that (bleeper-bleeper) kick me in the ass and take it when I’m doing right.”

And there is this from Goossen, the president of now-defunct America Presents when it promoted Hopkins and was also involved in acrimonious legal action with the legendarily hard-to-satisfy boxer.

“One of my biggest disappointments in 20 years of boxing is Bernard Hopkins,” Goossen said in 2000 (Hopkins’ contract with America Presents expired on June 30, 1999) as the charges and counter-charges were being sorted by lawyers. “He’s right up there with Michael Nunn. I always felt Michael Nunn had the ability to be one of the greatest fighters ever, and I had the same feeling about Bernard. But Nunn never achieved greatness, based upon his own decisions, and it’s too late for him now.

“With Hopkins, who has greatness written all over him, it’s getting harder and harder to believe it’s ever going to happen. I wanted to have a good relationship with the guy and enjoy it, but, well, Bernard is Bernard. I’m not going to get into a war of words with Bernard Hopkins. I’m saddened by the direction he has taken in his career. I’m proud of what we were trying to do to advance that career. He wasn’t happy with what we did; we are.”

But perhaps the most bitter split involved Lou DiBella, the former senior vice president of HBO Sports who for a time served as Hopkins’ adviser. DiBella shed tears of joy the night Hopkins dispatched Trinidad, but the relationship took a nasty turn when Hopkins accused his onetime friend of extorting $50,000 from him for a spot in an HBO-televised fight bout against Syd Vanderpool on May 13, 2000, in Indianapolis, Ind. Interestingly, that fight – Hopkins retained his IBF middleweight title on a clear-cut unanimous decision – took place 16½ months before B-Hop and DiBella expressed their undying love for one another in the glow of that big night in the Garden against Trinidad.

DiBella points out that he won a $610,000 defamation judgment against Hopkins, who continued to loudly pronounce his contention that his version of what had transpired was correct. That led to a tense situation heading into the first meeting of Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, who was promoted by DiBella Entertainment. Taylor, on a razor-thin split decision, wrested the middleweight championship from Hopkins on July 16, 2005, in addition to ending his division-record streak of 20 successful defenses.

“I’ve got a personal reason why I want to clock this guy (Taylor), but I got it under control. It ain’t reckless,” Hopkins said prior to the grudge match. “I take all fights personal, but this one’s extremely personal. It’s a fight that motivates me more than any fight I ever fought. In this fight, there’s no (attorneys raising) objections. There ain’t no (judges) presiding. I am the judge, the jury and the executioner. This is me being able to get my vindication (against DiBella).”

DiBella fired right back. “What he did hurt me in every way,” he said of Hopkins. “It hurt my family, hurt my marriage, hurt my career, hurt my business.

“Look, Bernard Hopkins is a Hall of Famer. He’s the best middleweight of his era. In my estimation, he’s one of the five best middleweights of all time. I’m not sure Marvin Hagler would have beaten him. But he is a vile human being. Inside the ring, he’s a genius. Outside the ring, he’s a hateful, lying person.”

To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, allow Hopkins to retort against those he deems to have conspired against him.

“Yeah, I speak my mind,” Hopkins said when he was taking on Goossen in the courts. “I understand the politics of boxing and, in some people’s eyes, that makes me dangerous. But I can’t be bullied. Bully tactics don’t work on me. If you try to bully me, I fight back. Just because I can fight doesn’t mean I can’t think.

“How many stories have you heard about fighters who went broke? There are a lot of those. Now, how many stories have you heard about boxing promoter who went broke? There aren’t any. Promoters hold all the power, all the leverage and most of the money. That’s the way it’s always been. They’re not going to give up any of that power and leverage to any fighter, unless they absolutely have to.”

Leave it to each individual fan of the sport to determine who is right and who is wrong in these various disputes, or if there is a greater truth to be distilled from the succession of verbal wars outside the ropes. Maybe there are shades of gray, as is frequently the case whenever absolute truths are not immediately evident and therefore open to interpretation.

What does seem clear is that Hopkins’ rigid approach to the business of boxing is very much like his approach to the brutality of boxing, where a refusal to give ground is often – but not always – a plus.

Recently retired HBO ringside analyst Larry Merchant perhaps best summed up Hopkins, the fighter, in analyzing what had taken place in his 10th-round stoppage of No. 1 contender Antwun Echols in a foul-plagued brawl on Dec. 1, 2000.

“Gil Clancy once told me that, from a technical standpoint, today’s fighters and those from the 1930s and ’40s aren’t that dissimilar,” Merchant told a reporter minutes after that fight. “But he said those old-time guys, a lot of whom came out of the Depression, were hard men. When I look at Bernard Hopkins, I see a hard man.”

He is, undoubtedly, a hard man to deal with. Even those who marvel at his longevity, at his ring smarts and his determination, can be left exasperated and enraged. Striking deals with Bernard Hopkins that satisfy both parties can be as difficult as getting Israel and Iran to play nice.

“I know when someone’s trying to bum-rush me,” Hopkins said during another heated skirmish with a promoter. “Well, come on with it. I know about intimidation. I was taught it by Butch Lewis. The main thing I learned from Butch was this: Don’t trust anyone. I don’t trust anyone in boxing.”

Given Hopkins’ history, his ongoing relationship with Golden Boy Promotions – he has held an executive position with the company since Nov. 20, 2004, just 32 days after he knocked out company president Oscar De La Hoya – is as or more noteworthy than his 20 winning middleweight defenses or his capturing world titles deep into his 40s. A lot of people are waiting, waiting for the association to blow up in the same rancorous manner what marked so many of B-Hop’s previously ill-fated attempts at co-existence.

Even De La Hoya had harsh words prior to his ninth-round knockout by Hopkins on Sept. 18, 2004. “Hopkins is a bully. He talks about having been in prison and all this street stuff, and he thinks that’s going to intimidate me. But he’s wrong. He’s not going to win any battles before we get in the ring.”

For his part, Hopkins spoke about how he was going to rearrange De La Hoya’s matinee-idol mug. “Oscar has always been known for how handsome he is,” he said. “I’m envious of him. His nose is straight. Nobody’s really busted up Oscar. But for all of his fans who admire his Clark Gable looks, they’d better take their pictures of him now. It’s going to be one of those before-and-after deals after I get through with him.”

That De La Hoya and Hopkins should team up was quite the shock. Maybe it was De La Hoya’s way of showing appreciation that the takeout shot by Hopkins was a left hook to the liver, which did not oblige the losing fighter to seek the services of a plastic surgeon.

“Bernard Hopkins is one of the best fighters in recent history,” De La Hoya said when B-Hop joined Team Golden Boy. “His talent and skill in the ring are unquestioned, but what impressed me just as much is his charisma, vision for the future of boxing and deep love and respect for the sport.”

Hopkins, for his part, used the occasion to take a few shots at Bob Arum – who had just announced that his stepson, Todd duBoef, was taking over the day-to-day operations of Top Rank – and, yes, King.

“Perhaps Don King will get a whiff of this,” Hopkins said of the aging icons he hoped to remove from an entrenched position of power. “Those old dinosaurs will see that new, young blood is coming to town.”

There are those who would say that it’s Hopkins who is the last dinosaur. In any case, it’s likely he’ll be taking his last punch in the not-so-distant future. Cloud is a 3-1 favorite to be the guy to deliver that parting shot.

A lot of people will bid Hopkins, the living legend, a fond farewell then. And a lot of people will be saying goodbye, and good riddance, to Hopkins the legendary pain in the ass.


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



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



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



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

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