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HBO Pushing Hard To Impress With Fall Season

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I plead guilty, your honor.

I spend too much time pondering, at times worrying about the state of the sport, about the fights we don’t see, the stars I fear aren’t going to be present to lead the way when the Mayweathers and Pacquiaos exit the stage, the nichification of the sport to which, I must remind myself frequently, all others aspire to.

I will state, for the record, that I’ve been doing less public and solitary kvetching of late, though, because the sport is doing what it does tend to do, decade after decade. The sport is replenishing itself, and athletes are doing what the best of them do: elevating themselves, performing at a level and with such drama that they demand our attention.

I was reminded of many of the positive aspects of the sport, and the athletes, and the programming options available to such shameless addicts of the savage art and science of pugilism on Thursday, when I visited HBO headquarters, and chatted with some of the boxing brain-trust there. I got some intel on their upcoming slate, which they are referring to as their “Fall Season,” and I left the building intrigued by the cablers’ year-end push, and impressed with the commitment to larger blocks of content, and value, they are offering.

While I am in confession mode, I will also admit found myself thinking of that Tony Soprano line, referring to his ever-dubious mother, Livia: “Livia is like the woman with a Virginia ham under each arm, crying ’cause she hasn’t got any bread.” That popped up when I picked up on the move towards bundling some of the 24/7s, Face Offs and 2 Days with live fights, and “forcing” me to stay up past a wise bed-time, or succumb to the temptation to DVR, for the next day. Yeah, I was feeling bad for myself because I don’t have the stamina I used to. Cry me a river, Woods…

HBO is kicking off this “Fall Season” on Saturday, Sept. 28. Julio Chavez Jr. gets back on the bus against a journeyman seeking to bury his “Friday Night Fights” tag, Bryan Vera.

One of those new brigade of bombers which HBO is making more of a push to feature, yes, perhaps at the expense of some of those pugilist-specialists who aren’t as likely to manufacture a SportsCenter highlight (cough cough Rigo), will also appear, Haitian-born Canadian Adonis Stevenson (21-1 with 18 KOs). The light heavy is in against Tavoris Cloud (24-1), who is in a semi-crossroads fight, after dropping a UD to Bernard Hopkins in March. And then fans of the heavyweights get a chance to exult in a heavyweight tangle, pitting basketballer size Tyson Fury (21-0) against David Haye (26-2), who always draws numbers, most of them eyeballs belonging to people hoping his foe will shut his cocky puss. The fights will unfold in CA, and Montreal and England, which tells me the company is, I could argue, perhaps somewhat re-energized, looking to hustle that much harder to go where they need to go to snag solid fights.

Do I love the slotting of Vera in against Junior? I don’t…but as was pointed out, Junior has been off a long time, a year come fight night, so if he’s got a coat of rust on him, 23-6 Vera could well be right there with the 46-1 son of the legend. As a fan, I’m hoping that Vera pleasantly surprises me.

I will have an extra Pepsi during those bouts, so I can stay up for first installment of the Marquez/Bradley 24/7, which is slated to begin at 12:30 AM, immediately following the three-bout slate. (The promo stuff says Bradley/Marquez, but I got to give a nod to the longevity of the Mexican, and place his name first, sorry for the indulgence.)

HBO comes back strong and hard with another tripleheader on Oct. 5, with old fan fave Miguel Cotto (37-4; 32 years old, one could argue perhaps an “old” 32) coming back to his old stomping grounds after dating Showtime for a spell. Some fans are thinking his opponent, Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3), isn’t of the caliber to give Cotto a workout, but along the lines of the Vera choice, I suspect Rodriguez will be as amped for a fight as he ever has been. Sometimes, you give a “lesser” light a chance, and you get magic, because that “lesser” grade boxer gives the performance of a lifetime, as they are so eager to get to the next level. (See, Provodnikov, Ruslan). By the way, I do get thee sense that HBO is on board with a Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez tangle early next year. I’d like your thoughts, readers, on what you think of that pairing, in our Forum.

Nebraska’s top boxer, Terence Crawford (21-0), gets another crack on air, against Andrey Klimov (16-0), in a battle of unbeaten lightweights. And to satisfy the vocal souls who have bemoaned the lack of Klitschkos on HBO, the Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin scrap will be shown, in an afternoon telecast, from Moscow. I could see Klitschko (60-3) showing more of a beast mode, trying to prove that the 26-0 Povetkin isn’t actually all that different, skills-wise, than the parade of lessers little brother has been hammering since he last lost, in 2004, to Lamon Brewster. The second Marquez-Bradley 24/7 will unspool after the bouts. The orgy of content continues with Max Kellerman’s “Face-Off” placing 34-1 Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2) in close quarters. That we are seeing a “Face-Off” on a non-PPV fight is, again, a signal that a quest to provide greater value to fight fans is an HBO imperative. HBO just started collecting footage for that, I was told. For the record, this is the first time HBO will do live back to back tripleheaders, so read into that what you will, about their commitment to value and degree of competitiveness, what with Showtime stepping up their game, and budget, this year.

You can check out the weigh-in to the Marquez-Bradley event, which is being offered on pay-per-view on Oct. 12, at 6 PM Eastern the day before on HBO. That weigh-in spot will be an hour, not a half hour, as has been recent tradition. By the way, Orlando Salido will battle Orlando Cruz for the vacant WBO featherweight title in Vegas, on the PPV undercard. (Cue the Golden Boy devotees, who think Top Rank could and should dodo a better job stepping up their PPV undercard game lol. As always, I counsel those folks to see how the bouts play out, and reserve your contempt after proper investigation.)

The very next week, a bout that almost definitely promises ebbs and flows of the variety which conjures Fight of the Year chatter, Mike Alvarado-Ruslan Provodnikov, runs from the First Bank Center, in Colorado. Top Rank, the Marquez-Bradley packager, is the promoter. Both fighters were told that Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward will run following their bout, and I am told, both broke into a grin, cognizant of the symbolism and honor involved. You don’t think both Alvarado and Ruslan won’t entertain the notion that they’d like to surpass the immensity of drama found in Gatti-Ward I? After that threequel gets the Legendary treatment, a 2 Days: Mikey Garcia will run. A 1:15 AM start time is the tentative target for that.

Jim Lampley will do his sixth “The Fight Game” on Friday, Oct. 25. Note that will kick off at 8:30 PM; and you can bet Lampley will have an extra bump of adrenaline from having it on primetime. He’ll be able to look back at HBO’s recent run, and also ahead to marquee matchups.

HBO has a date locked in, on Nov. 2. The Bieber faced destroyer Gennady Golovkin (27-0; pictured above in HBO photo, prior to demolition of Matthew Macklin June 29) will meet up with Brownsville badass Curtis Stevens (25-3), himself on a KO run, having dropped and stopped three of his last four foes in round one. Stevens politicked hard and got this gig; will he come to regret that, and ask himself, I should have been careful what I asked for? There is an open slot for another bout on that doubleheader, which will unfold at Madison Square Garden’s Theater. I put on my matchmaker hat, and offered a name: how about Sergey Kovalev glove up on that night, as well? Golovkin, and Kovalev, who impressed with a thorough demolition job on Nathan Cleverly on Aug. 17…The buzz around that card would be ludicrous. The HBO gang was as intrigued by that Golovkin plus Kovalev doubleheader as I was, I dare say. It will be up to Team Kovalev, and promoter Kathy Duva to see if the concept could reach fruition, but since Stevens is a Main Events boxer, it seems a near no brainer.

Kellerman’s Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios “Face-Off” will air following the MSG fights, and I am told, to my relief, that Brandon the Badass appeared in this session. He looked like a happy tourist when he and Manny did their press tour, but his gameface and snarliness, I hear, kicked up in the studio with Manny and Max.

The momentum continues on Saturday, November 9, with 32-0 Mikey Garcia topping a Boxing After Dark. Nonito Donaire (31-2), too, will hop in the ring, in his first fight back after getting the short end against Guillermo Rigondeaux in April. Garcia and Donaire are both up against TBD as of this writing. WBO super feather champ Rocky Martinez, the 27-1 Puerto Rican, is in the mix to meet Garcia.

Donaire’s wife, Rachel, reports to TSS that the boxer is of top grade as a daddy to their baby, Jarel, born on July 16. “The baby is an angel,” she said. “And how is Nonito at changing diapers? He’s real fast at it!” Does she have any idea on who he will fight? “We heard November 9 but an opponent isn’t set because no one wants to fight him at 126. He can’t make 122 anymore.”

Demetrius Andrade gets the chance to up his buzz factor, against Vanes Martirosyan in the night’s TV opener. The Pacquiao-Rios 24/7 kicks off following this tripleheader, Manny-iacs must know. Part two of that documercial runs the following Saturday, Nov. 16. HBO has a date for a fight on Nov. 16, and by process of elimination, it seems like the return of Andre Ward to the ring seems a good bet to headline. It would be a year since he last fought for a fee, as the Oakland resident tore his right shoulder training to fight Kelly Pavlik, and has been rehabbing and getting the rust off since a Jan. 4 surgery. It looked like he had risen to another level, with an offensive extravaganza against Chad Dawson on Sept. 8, 2012 (TKO10) win and it’s a shame he wasn’t able to quickly capitalize on the momentum. I dialed up his promoter, Dan Goossen, to try and get some intel. “By early next week, Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest I should have a handle on Andre’s next fight,” Goossen said. “It would be premature to target any specific date right now.” Dmitri Sartison, a 30-2 Kazahkstani German resident who held the WBA world super middle crown, in 2009-2010, is in the mix to get the Ward comeback slot. Sartison fights tomorrow (Saturday), in Germany, against 38-14-4 Baker Barakat, and Goossen said he will have his eye on that one, and hopes Team HBO will too. Ward has been off for a year, the promoter said, and had a major surgery, so while he doesn’t seek an ESPN level foe for the Ward return, he also wants to factor in the layoff. “Nobody has had to twist Andre’s arm to fight the toughest opponents,” Goossen said in reference to anyone who might be seeking Ward to come back against a top 5 type. “But we have to make sure everything is fine with the shoulder.”

Whoever fills that Nov. 16 dance card, the second episode of Pacquiao/Rios 24/7 will run after the live event.

Anyone reading this likely knows that on Nov. 23, Manny Pacquiao will tell the world if he’s still a top tier fighter, or has been irrevocably altered, by age, and/or by a Juan Manuel Marquez right hand, when he meets Brandon Rios in Macau. Don’t worry yourselves over the time difference–Macau is 13 hours ahead of us EST–and just know that the Top Rank PPV will start at 9 PM, as per usual.

HBO is saving a time block for live fights for Saturday, Nov. 30, a doubleheader. Could Ward appear? Or Kovalev, perhaps? Perhaps. We are likely to get one more live card in December, I was informed.

Readers, talk to me. Thoughts? Are you feeling the HBO push toward adding value? What fights from that Fall Season that I touched on are you most pumped for? What suggestions do you have for some of the open slots? Weigh in, in our Forum!

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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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