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WHO DO YA LIKE? Broner vs. Maidana?

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SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 12, 2013) -San Antonio solidified itself as a boxing powerhouse in 2013, so it’s only fitting that the home of the Alamo will host the final blockbuster boxing event of the year when Adrien “The Problem” Broner faces Marcos “El Chino” Maidana this Saturday, Dec. 14, live on SHOWTIME® (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

“I put San Antonio with New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles as one of the top boxing cities in the country,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said during Thursday’s final press conference for “DANGER ZONE: Broner vs. Maidana.”

And the third SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING event to emanate from San Antonio this year might be the best yet. Saturday’s telecast features four can’t-miss world championship fights with each fighter facing potentially the toughest test of their respective careers.

Here’s what the fighters, trainers and promoters had to say during Thursday’s final press conference:

ADRIEN BRONER, WBA Welterweight World Champion

“If he makes a mistake and I have a chance to get him out of there I’m going to get him out of there. If I just beat him to death, then I beat him to death.

“Who doesn’t want to see a young star on the rise like Adrien Broner fight a guy like Marcos Maidana, a hard puncher, a knockout artist with 31 knockouts? Who doesn’t want to see that? There’s always that ‘what if?’

“It’s going to be a hell of a fight. I don’t go for knockouts but I really feel I’m going to knock this guy out; I’m going to be his first stoppage. I’m going to stop this guy and we’re going to move on to the next one.

“Maidana is a good fighter, a hell of a fighter, but he’s not on my level. My career is going to the rooftop. It’s going to skyrocket. But this is just the beginning. It starts here.

“I don’t even think I’ve showed all of my abilities yet. Maidana is a different type of fighter and he might bring something else out of Adrien Broner that the world hasn’t seen yet. Or he might be a regular fighter after I make him look the way I make him look.

“Every boxer wants to be where I am right now. I am the person who is going to take over boxing after Floyd Mayweather. Everybody wants this position. So I don’t get mad when I hear that Keith Thurman wants to fight me – he’s supposed to. Who doesn’t want to be where I am.

“On Dec. 14 we’re worried about Maidana. I respect his coach; I respect him as a fighter. People say I’m being bashful, I’m being respectful. I can’t talk trash to someone who doesn’t speak English. He’s looking at me crazy right now and I don’t know if he’s faking or not. He’s a very respectful guy so I have to respect him, but on Dec. 14 I’m going to beat his ass. I’m going to beat his ass for sure. We can be friends after that.

“I’m not coming to play. It’s going to be the AB show and I’m going to be victorious. We don’t think about losing.

“I don’t watch tape but I’ve seen him a couple of times. Everybody knows Maidana makes a lot of mistakes and you can’t make mistakes with Broner.

“You never know. Maybe I have to sit in there and brawl it out with this guy for 12 rounds. Maybe I mess him up in two. Maybe one.”

MARCOS MAIDANA, Former WBA Super Lightweight World Champion

“I want to thank my team for working hand-in-hand with me, for all their help and support and for working so close with me. Thank you to Sebastian Contursi, Robert Garcia, Cecilio Flores and my right hand, my cousin “Pileta,” that’s been with me all the way.

“I’m ready for this fight; I’ve trained hard and I’m certain I have what it takes to come out victorious on Saturday.

“They might say Broner is one of the best, but I don’ think he is. He’s definitely different to any other opponents I’ve fought, but I’m prepared. I’m ready for him.

“I’m going to hit him hard, very hard, with all I have and I’ll get busy with him. I hope he’s ready, because I am.

“This is the hardest fight of my life. I respect Broner, but I don’t underestimate him. On Saturday, I’ll do my part; I’ll do what I came here for – to fight with my heart and do my best.

“I’m not a trash talker. I’m not that kind of guy and I’m not going to get into that. It’s just not my thing.”

KEITH THURMAN, WBA Interim Welterweight World Champion

“I’m just trying to bring the excitement. This card is called the “Danger Zone” and it’s a guaranteed fact that every time you come into the ring with Keith “One Time” Thurman you’re automatically stepping into the Danger Zone.

“This is the last fight of the year and the last fight of the year is my favorite fight of the year. I like to call it the icing on the cake. I’ve been training really hard for this fight. Soto is a real tough opponent. He gave (Andre) Berto his all. He claims he has a new passion for the sport. I believe the man. I saw it when he fought. I saw his passion and I’m truly looking forward to this fight.

“Christmas came early and I have two presents for Soto right here-my right and my left-two real nice packages. Like I said, this is going to be the icing on the cake.

“Last year I ended with a tremendous victory and I don’t think this fight is going to go the distance. I’m looking forward to putting him down on that blue canvas and make sure he gets to sleep real nice. “One Time,” every time.

“My promoters have been testing me and I’ve been passing every test with flying colors. So I’m ready for the world of boxing. I’m not afraid to lose, I’m not afraid to get beat. I want go out old school and fight the best of the best.

“My KO ratio is phenomenal, but, as a matter of fact, I’m disappointed that I didn’t knock out everybody. I’m the kind of guy that wants to knockout everybody. I’m “One Time,” every time. And that’s what I’m bringing Saturday night.

“I’m on the up and up. I’m on my way to the top. So this fight is important to get not just a victory but a KO victory so I can keep representing “One Time” Thurman.”

“I’m not afraid to put it all on the line. I’ve got “O” and I’m not afraid to let it go.

JESUS SOTO KARASS, Welterweight Contender

“It’s a very important fight for me, especially with the holidays coming up. I’d like to go enjoy the time off with a win.

“My promoters and manager put me against the best. I fight the best and the best comes out of me.

A lot of people don’t believe in me and they don’t think I have what it takes to beat Keith Thurman. But I’ve proven them wrong before and the people will respect me after the fight.

“I’ve been on big cards before. But my job is to go out and win and give the fans what they want. I’m coming to knock him out. If he wants to box I’m going to take him to school. My heart is in this fight.

“I’ve worked really, really hard for this fight. I’ve trained at the Ponce De Leon Gym in Monterrey, Calif., and this Saturday I’m going to show it in the ring.

“There’s not much to say, other than to those that don’t believe I’m worthy to be here, just wait to see me on the ring on December 14.

“For all the people that don’t believe in me, for all those that think I shouldn’t be in this position, I’m going to show everybody on Saturday night what I’m made off and I’m going to do it well.

“I want to thank Keith Thurman and his team for giving me the opportunity to fight for a world title again.”

LEO SANTA CRUZ, WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion

“I’m just excited to be on a great undercard with Maidana and Broner. I’ve trained really hard to be on these guys’ level and I want to defend my title. I know Cesar is a great fighter and that he has everything it takes to become a champion. And I’ve trained hard to give him a great war. We’re going to leave it all in the ring. May the best man win.

“I closed out 2012 with a great win on CBS and I’m excited to do the same this year on SHOWTIME.”

CESAR SEDA, Super Bantamweight Title Challenger

“I want to let you know that you are going to witness a great show on Dec. 14

“From my part, I’ve prepared very well and I assure you, you are going to see a great fight on Saturday night. I hope to see you all there.”

BEIBUT SHUMENOV, WBA Super Light Heavyweight World Champion

“It’s great to be involved in an event like this, one of boxing’s best of the year. I had a great training camp and can’t wait to show the American boxing fans what I am all about.

“I know Tamas is undefeated, he’s very ambitious and he came here to take what’s mine. But I’m not going to let him take my title. I’m going to fight hard for what’s mine. And I’m going to show the world that I’m the best light heavyweight champion of the world.”

TAMAS KOVACS, Light Heavyweight Contender

“This is a very big opportunity for me. This is the fight of my life.

“I’ve been training and preparing for this fight since September. On Saturday, I’m coming out with all I have.

“It took me forty hours to get to San Antonio. It was a difficult trip, but it was worth it. This is the fight of

my life. This is my chance and I’m going to take it.

“I know Shumenov is a good boxer, but I’m good and also clever. So, he better watch out.”

ROBERT GARCIA, Maidana’s Trainer

“Maidana is very happy to be here. We know we are facing a great champion, but Chino [Maidana] knows what he has to do, and he’s ready to do it. Come Saturday night, we are going to give the fans a great fight.

MIKE STAFFORD, Broner’s Trainer

“For this fight Adrien is going to show you something special. He’s going to give you a Christmas present. He had a great camp and this kid is something special. I want to thank Team Maidana for signing the contract. I know it is not easy to commit to fighting a guy like this [looking at Adrien Broner], he’s truly the best.”

RICARDO “DINAMITA” ALVAREZ

“I’m thankful for this fight, this is my first time fighting here. I’m thankful for my promoters, my camp, my friends and my family for all their support.

“December 14 at the Alamodome is going to be a good night for me, it’s my debut in United States and I’m really excited. ”

RICHARD SCHAEFER, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions

“It’s been a great year in boxing and a great year for boxing in San Antonio with spectacular events here in San Antonio. Thanks to the fans for embracing these fights. We promise to keep bringing the big fights and price the big fights appropriately starting at $10. This is our Christmas gift to the great fans in San Antonio.

“We would not be here without Mike Battah and James Leija, a very enthusiastic team to work with.

“Big thank you to Matt Black and Les Moonves along with Stephen Espinoza and their entire team for all their hard work in this incredible year for Golden Boy Promotions. ”

MIKE BATTAH, President of Leija-Battah Promotions

“Welcome everyone to San Antonio from all over the world, very much appreciate your help in building up our business. I made a commitment to San Antonio to build boxing here. Our commitment will continue, it’s great to work with Richard and Golden Boy. Our commitment will stay and continue to grow.

“We have the will to build boxing; we have the skills the structure and the organization.

“One of the biggest cards in Texas in many years, fans will see a terrific night of boxing.

“JESSE” JAMES LEIJA, Texas Boxing Legend, Leija-Battah Promotions

“Want to thanks GBP for giving us this opportunity to prove ourselves. Mike Battah is an incredible businessman and a great partner. Also want to thank the fans of San Antonio, best fans in the world. This is truly an early Christmas gift for the fans to come out and enjoy the fights. We have the top fighters from Golden Boy Promotions on this card.

“Leo Santa Cruz, one of my favorite fighters is in a very tough fight against Cesar Seda.

“Continue to support these events and we will continue to bring the biggest events here to one of the greatest cities in the world.

NICHOLS LANGELLA, General Manager of the Alamodome

“We’re very proud to host this event. It takes a terrific passion and enthusiasm to put on this show. Thanks to James Leija, Mike Battah and Golden Boy for putting this tremendous event together.”

“DANGER ZONE: Broner vs. Maidana,a 12-round fight for Broner’s WBA Welterweight World Championship taking place on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Leija*Battah Promotions and sponsored by Corona, AT&T, Grudge Match and Casamigos Tequila. In the 12-round co-featured attraction, Keith Thurman will defend his interim WBA Welterweight World Championship against Jesus Soto Karass. Leo Santa Cruz will put his WBC Super Bantamweight World title on the line against Cesar Seda in a 12-round bout and Beibut Shumenov faces Tamas Kovacs in a 12-round clash for Shumenov’s WBA Super & IBA Light Heavyweight World titles. The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast will air live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and can be heard in Spanish using secondary audio programming (SAP). Preliminary bouts will air live on SHOWTIME EXTREME® at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

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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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