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Gatti-Robinson All But Forgotten As Gatti-Ward Legend Ascends



There are some names that are meant to be coupled forever: Sonny and Cher, Magic and Bird, Bonnie and Clyde, Romeo and Juliet, Tracy and Hepburn, DiMaggio and Williams, Borg and McEnroe.

And, of course, Ali and Frazier.

Arch-rivalries, and arch-alliances, stir the soul and fuel the imagination. That is as true in sports as it is entertainment, crime and literature, and there is no realm of athletic competition that lends itself to such mental associations as much as boxing, which pits one individual against another. When a clash of figurative titans is repeated often enough, it takes on the trappings of legend, more so than can ever be the case with single confrontations, or when teammates are involved. If Ali-Frazier is accepted as the gold standard, then the next level, just slightly down from the summit, consists of such revered series as Zale-Graziano, Pep-Saddler, Robinson-LaMotta, Holyfield-Bowe and maybe a few others.

Now ask yourself this: When anyone mentions the late action hero, Arturo Gatti, which opponent immediately comes to mind? The answer, in most cases, has become obvious.

“Irish” Micky Ward.

But while the Gatti-Ward trilogy continues to ascend in the pantheon of boxing’s most acclaimed rivalries, with ample justification, the effect is the gradual diminishment of other bouts involving Gatti that also were so fiercely competitive they also deserve to be carefully stored away in fans’ memories as if they were family heirlooms. Gatti-Ward, Parts I, II and II, is terrific when considered as stand-alone segments or in its entirety, but not so much that the names of Wilson Rodriguez, Angel Manfredy and Rafael Ruelas deserve to be pushed off to the side, gathering dust.

But the principal victim of the continuing rise of Gatti-Ward is Ivan Robinson, who made the mistake – he didn’t know it was a mistake at the time – of winning both of his immensely entertaining slugfests with Gatti in 1998, the first of which was voted Fight of the Year by both the Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring magazine, although the rematch was a virtual carbon copy of the original.

If Robinson could have peered into the future, like some sort of pugilistic Nostradamus, he might have recognized that it would have served him better to have split those two fights with Gatti, creating a huge public demand for a rubber match. He would have recognized that he needed to take up golf and play a few well-publicized rounds with Gatti, and later on to agree to train the Italian-born, Montreal-reared, Jersey City-based fighter in the closing stages of his career. But it was Ward who did all that, and the back story of his friendship with Gatti took on a life of its own, each intersection of their lives embellishing what had taken place inside the ropes.

Dec. 12 marks the 16th anniversary of Robinson’s second bout with Gatti in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, a fight so exhilarating that it left the combatants physically and mentally drained, but everyone else in attendance and those watching on HBO craving a third meeting that, alas, was not to be.

Lou DiBella, then the senior vice president of HBO Sports who later would form his promotional company and serve as an adviser to Ward, was almost hyperventilating after Robinson’s razor-thin, unanimous 10-round decision, which would have ended in a majority draw had not referee Benji Esteves deducted a penalty point from Gatti in the eighth round for low blows. Gatti got the nod on the official cards by margins of 97-92 and 95-94 (twice).

“This is unbelievable,” DiBella said after the last punch had been fired, and probably landed. “You have to go back to Zale-Graziano, something like that, to even find something to compare to it. I mean, it’s ridiculous.

“It doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe these guys should just fight each other all the time.”

An interesting suggestion, but one in stark contrast to the scene in the ring after the final bell had sounded. After the traditional postfight hug of exhausted and respectful rivals, Robinson’s manager, Eddie Woods, announced on-camera that his guy had forever concluded his business with Gatti.

“We ain’t fighting Gatti again,” Woods said with an air of finality.

Asked if he went along with what Woods had said, Robinson wearily agreed. “You heard my manager. There won’t be a Robinson-Gatti III.”

Interestingly, after Robinson failed to take advantage of the opportunity that had been afforded him by his back-to-back conquests of Gatti – the Philadelphia lightweight lost a one-sided decision to Manfredy in his next bout four months later – two things became increasingly apparent. One, having twice gone to hell and back against Gatti while wearing a gasoline overcoat, Robinson was never the same as he had been on those two supercharged nights. And two, as his newfound star power began to ebb and Gatti remained a box-office draw and HBO staple, that third meeting he had said he would never consider became the object of a desperate quest that would not reach fruition.

“I know I can get another fight with Gatti,” Robinson said on Aug. 17, 2004, after he lost a desultory eight-round split decision to journeyman Reggie Nash at the Valley Forge (Pa.) Convention Center. “If I can just put together a couple of good wins …”

But it didn’t happen for Robinson, whose fast-handed style at his peak was so likened to that of another Philly fighter, two-division world champion and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Meldrick Taylor, that some took to calling him “Meldrick Lite.” Robinson, whose preferred nickname is “Mighty,” was 27-2 after his second points nod over Gatti, but just 5-10-2 following the second Gatti fight, finishing with a record of 32-12-2 with 12 victories inside the distance.

It was a good career, all things considered, good enough to earn Robinson enshrinement in both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Boxing Halls of Fame. Still, the lingering impression is that Robinson too often was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rated No. 1 by USA Boxing in the 132-pound weight class heading into the 1992 U.S. Olympic boxing trials, he lost a controversial decision to Julian Wheeler and then another in the box-offs, thus failing to gain inclusion on the American team that competed in Barcelona, Spain. He also likely made a likely misstep by declining, at Woods’ urging, to accept a high-visibility bout with Oscar De La Hoya in Madison Square Garden because his manager believed he wasn’t quite ready for a matchup with the “Golden Boy,” whom Robinson had faced several times in the amateurs. Jesse James Leija got the MSG gig with the emerging superstar instead, and Robinson never again got the chance to mix it up with De La Hoya.

In what would prove to be his only shot at a world championship, Robinson lost a unanimous decision to IBF lightweight titlist Philip Holiday of South Africa on Dec. 21, 1996, in Uncasville, Conn. He was released by his promotional company, Main Events, following his third-round stoppage by Israel Cardona on July 1, 1997, and he was viewed by as damaged goods, or at least in decline, when he was offered an HBO date against Gatti, who was coming off an eighth-round stoppage defeat, on cuts, in another slam-bam war against Manfredy on Jan. 17, 1998.

Hardly anyone expected what took place that night in Boardwalk Hall on Aug. 22, 1998. But Pat Lynch, Gatti’s longtime manager, had an uneasy feeling that Robinson might be something more than a mere bounce-back opponent for his man.

“Eddie Woods will tell you I didn’t want the (first) fight with Ivan,” Lynch recalled when interviewed for this story. “I thought he was a little too slick and too good a boxer for Arturo. I had watched a tape that Carl Moretti (then a Main Events executive) had given me of a fight Ivan had lost to some Spanish kid (Manuel De Leon), where Ivan didn’t look that good. But even so, you could see flashes of that skill, that slickness. I thought to myself, `Maybe this is not a guy we want to fight right now.’

“So, yeah, I always looked at Ivan as someone who would be a really difficult opponent for Arturo because of his style. I wasn’t surprised that he was as tough as I thought he’d be. What did surprise me was the way he stood in there and traded with Arturo. He didn’t run and make Arturo go after him. He was right there.”

Robinson, then 27, had decided beforehand that his best strategy was to meet Gatti head-on. If he lost, and was lackluster in doing so, his chance of regaining semi-elite status might be gone forever. And, besides, he knew that Gatti, as big a puncher and as much of a shock absorber as he was, was available to be hit. So why not just turn it loose?

Second seconds into the first round, Gatti’s left eye was discolored and puffy. That eye began to bleed in Round 3, but Gatti recovered enough to floor Robinson in the fourth and the action remained fast and furious to the final bell. When it was over, Robinson, a 5-1 underdog, had won by margins of 98-93 and 96-94 on the scorecards submitted by Melvin Lathan and Steve Weisfeld, respectively, with Ed Leahy going with Gatti by 96-93.

“Exceptional. Exceptional,” said Lathan, who is now heads the New York State Athletic Commission. “I don’t think I breathed the whole 10 rounds. Just wonderful.”

Said a tired but very happy Robinson: “This was my best fight, even though it wasn’t a championship fight. I thought I would get him out of there, but he always came back. He’s like a stick of dynamite.”

There was an instant demand for a rematch, of course, and Robinson, who made $51,000 for the first fight, snagged a career-high $400,000 payday for the do-over, which he imagined would be fought more on his terms.

“I could have made the first fight a lot easier,” Robinson said as the days to the rematch counted down. “(Trainer) Butch (Cathay) was telling me that after every round. But in that fight, I had something to prove. Six months ago, nobody knew who Ivan Robinson was. Everybody had written me off.

“I know I have the best chin in the lightweight division. I wanted to prove – not to the fans, but to myself – that I could take Arturo’s best shot. That’s why, at times, I stood there with him and got hurt. And you kind of get lured into that because, well, Gatti is just so easy to hit. There wasn’t a problem hitting Gatti then. There won’t be a problem hitting him now. There’s never been a problem hitting Gatti. The question I had in my mind was whether I could withstand his pressure. I’ve done that. For this second fight, I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.”

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Gatti again turned the heat up on Robinson, and the same kind of war was fought at close distance. As was the case the first time, the Philadelphia in Robinson was brought out when he was challenged.

“I learned from being in the first fight that when you hurt Arturo, I guess that makes him mad,” Robinson said. “It makes him go deeper into the gas tank.”

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Now saddled with a three-bout losing streak, it was thought that Gatti was the fighter that needed to be rebuilt; Robinson was seen as the hot property. But Robinson was easily outpointed his next time out by Manfredy while Gatti continued to be what DiBella called “The Human Highlight Reel.” Their paths separated, Robinson drifting toward lesser revelance and Gatti moving on to megafights with De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the trilogy with Ward and eventual induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Asked for his memories of Robinson, DiBella said, “He was a warrior, and a quality fighter. Those two fights with Gatti brought the very best out of him.

“But Gatti was the draw. He was the HBO fighter. Even though Ivan won those fights, you didn’t see him gain anything from that. It wasn’t like he started getting all these big fights with big-name fighters. His career didn’t take off all of a sudden because of him beating Gatti twice. Gatti was still that guy. He could lose a fight or even a couple of fights and still be someone everyone wanted to see more of.”

Lynch also thinks that maybe Gatti-Robinson has been somewhat shortchanged by history, at least in comparison to Gatti-Ward.

“I think maybe that has been the case,” Lynch said. “I think those two fights have been kind of lost. Arturo’s fights with Ivan were just incredible. They were very competitive, the crowd was on its feet pretty much from the beginning of each fight through the end. It’s just that everybody was so sold on Arturo’s trilogy with ward, which deserves everything that it gets. But that doesn’t change the fact that Arturo’s fights with Ivan were great, great fights.”

Prior to his Nov. 13, 2012, induction into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, Robinson said he didn’t think Ward had bumped him all the way out of the spotlight as far as co-billing with Gatti is concerned.

“I’m pleased that so many people recognize what I did in my fights with Gatti,” he said. “I will always love Gatti. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be as known as I am today. And I don’t (begrudge) Micky Ward for the acclaim he gets for his fights with Gatti. They were great fights and he deserves all the praise for what he did.

“My only regret is that me and Micky Ward never fought. I wanted to fight him, he didn’t want to fight me. I guess it was about money; it usually is when a fight doesn’t get made. But don’t get me wrong. I love Micky Ward, too. I’m just glad to be in the mix of fighters who are always mentioned for being in great fights like the ones we had with Gatti.”

Now 43, Robinson is still in boxing as a trainer, working with young fighters at the Harrowgate Boxing Club in Philly. He said he is blessed to be in good health, and he is too busy with looking ahead to fret about what he might or might not have done in the past.

“I always felt that I was a great fighter,” he said. “I had some losses that I shouldn’t have had before Gatti, and that’s on me. But when I was able to get in that position again, I relished it. I thought I could beat Gatti, and I did. I did it twice. He was going to have to kill me to beat me. I think he did more in the first fight than he did in the second fight. After the fourth round of the second fight, I think he knew there was nothing he could do to beat me.

“I was a good fighter then, a smart fighter. I got what I could get and then I got out. Everything else is what it is. I got to be satisfied with that.”


Feature Articles

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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