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“MONEY MAY” AND THE PROFITABLE POWER OF HATE

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The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep, make another man sing

Change a hawk to a little white dove

More than a feeling, that’s the power of love

“The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis, 1983

Lewis, front man for the News, the San Francisco-based rock group that had a string of hits in the 1980s, is correct. The power of love is indeed a curious thing. They say it makes the world go ’round, and those in its thrall know that to be the case, perhaps especially in those instances when their affection is unrequited and the world goes spinning off its axis. Even human beings with fragile feelings that have been stomped on in the romantic ring can hope to fall head-over-heels again, with a more fortuitous outcome.

There may not be a correspondingly familiar ode to the benefits of hatred, although an obvious candidate might be whatever in-your-face tune served as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s entrance music for Saturday’s record-shattering pay-per-view clash with Manny Pacquiao at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. More than anyone who has ever laced up a pair of padded gloves, Mayweather understands the immense profitability in being the arch-villain in a sport where inflammatory words and dubious conduct, when leavened with liberal splashes of actual talent, can make a boxer with something less than a fan-friendly approach almost unfathomably rich and powerful.

The mad stampede for fringe and even non-boxing fans to purchase $99.95 PPV subscriptions for May-Pac – and, in some instances, much more than that for tickets inside the 16,700-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena – is not so much an indication that boxing has regained all of the relevance it has squandered since its most recent golden age in the Huey Lewis-tinged 1980s. A social-media poll conducted prior to the main event, which was jointly televised by HBO and Showtime, indicated that a whopping 67 percent of respondents believed Pacquiao, a 2-to-1 underdog, would win. Was that an indication of a deep conviction in the capabilities of, or widespread hero-worship for, the Fab Filipino? Maybe, to some degree, but more likely it was further proof that significant chunks of the global population are fascinated by the reality and even the perception of evil. Mayweather, and other proudly defiant “bad guys” who flaunt their misdeeds, understand all too well there is gold to be mined from those who profess intense dislike of a fighter, yet shell out for live-action tickets or PPV in the hopes of actually seeing the objects of their scorn receive a bloody comeuppance inside the ropes.

Unfortunately for those who count themselves in that vast and growing number – call them perpetually grumpy members of the “haters gotta hate” club – Mayweather is not temperamentally or stylistically disposed to feed their revenge fantasies by engaging in slugfests at close quarters. All of which makes the deflated expectations left in the wake of the highest-grossing prizefight of all time, another unanimous-decision victory for the man known as “Money May,” so inexplicable. Did anyone really expect Mayweather, one leopard who is never going to change his spots to satisfy the more primal instincts of the public, to be anything other than what he is, has always been and probably always will be? In terms of rip-roaring, two-way action, the No. 1 fight of all time from a bottom-line perspective didn’t come close to cracking the top 100 of fights most fans will fondly file away in their memory banks.

Put it this way: Mayweather (48-0, 27 KOs), who will have made somewhere between $150 million and $180 million when all the financial returns are tallied, not only will be laughing all the way to the bank, he’ll be splitting a gut. When it comes to tolerance and even acceptance of reprehensible behavior, there is nothing remotely comparable to boxing, at once the most exhilarating and most exasperating of all sporting enterprises. The evidence of that is everywhere, like candy eggs on Easter left in such conspicuous places that even a nearsighted kindergartner could find them with ease.

Domestic abuse, such a hot-button topic in the NFL in the wake of the image-tarnishing episodes that led to the suspensions of star running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, among others, was but a briefly mentioned dark cloud that floated over May-Pay and was quickly dispersed. Where Rice and Peterson were barred by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from doing what they do best, in a professional sense, after the news leaked of Rice’s knockout of his fiancée (now wife) in a casino elevator and Peterson’s mark-leaving paddling of his toddler son, Mayweather – who has served prison time for one of several such offenses – has never been suspended or even formally reprimanded by boxing’s sanctioning bodies. It is a double-standard that, to its detriment, sets boxing apart from other sports that at least strive to present a veneer of outrage when its athletes are judged guilty of transgressions against society.

Thus has it always been because, well, boxing is boxing. The late, great New York sports columnist, Jimmy Cannon, once deemed it as the principal come-on in the “red light district of sports,” and that description if as true now, or nearly so, as it has ever been. If sanctimonious reformers were to separate the fight game’s saints from the sinners, the International Boxing Hall of Fame would have a considerably reduced membership, and the next main event coming to an arena near you might be less compelling if one or both of the scheduled participants was deemed to have too many warts on their out-of-the-ring resumes.

None of this is to suggest that Mayweather, so obviously gifted, is undeserving of the acclaim or the wealth he has accumulated. He is the most accomplished fighter of his generation, if not necessarily the most entertaining, and if he chooses to spend millions of dollars on more jewelry than Elizabeth Taylor ever had, or on a fleet of luxury cars, or on the care and maintenance of a small army of fawning yes-men, that is his right. But perhaps it should give John Q. Public pause before he opens his wallet for Mayweather’s next PPV extravaganza. It has been said that we, the people, get the government that we deserve, which in these times is a searing indictment if ever there was one, and that reasoning can be applied to the selection of those athletes we choose as our heroic role models or villainous objects of derision. In most cases, fighters on either side of that imaginary fence probably don’t care so long as the check is large enough and clears.

Boxing has always sold itself in part on the basis of natural conflicts – black vs. white, stylist vs. slugger, one nationality vs. another – and there has been a tendency to gravitate toward those miscreants who frequently veer onto the wild side. Does anyone believe that Mike Tyson would have been just as much a can’t-miss attraction had he been a choir boy in his personal life when not dispatching opponents with fearsome ferocity? We keep up with the Kardashians (although I don’t) because their lives are ongoing train wrecks, not models of domestic tranquility.

Those who are cast in the role of black-hatted villain sometimes do so because, while it may be against their true nature, it suits their purposes to play along. Others are predestined to act out because it is at the essence of their being. Mike Tyson may have owned white tigers, but that didn’t make them – or him – purring kitties disposed to restrict their messes to a convenient litter box.

Ten years ago, before Mayweather brutally dispatched an outclassed Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, I wrote that “At 28, he still has the angelic countenance and glowing smile of a cute sitcom kid. Now try imagining Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a fourth-grader. The image that pops into at least some people’s minds is not so much of a rough ’n’ tumble boxing great but of Emmanuel Lewis, crawling onto Alex Karras’ lap during an episode of `Webster.’”

Mayweather’s face is still reminiscent of that younger version of himself, but then, as now, he never was going to be confused with Webster. “Every time I fight I go in there with a chip on my shoulder,” he said at the time, and that chip has enlarged to the size of a log. He is exactly who he wants to be, and that is probably not the person sitcom dad Karras would have wanted crawling onto his lap at any age. Mayweather doesn’t attempt to conceal his colossal ego and he answers to no one but himself. As far as he is concerned, if you don’t appreciate him for who and what he is, well, that’s your problem. As a rejected Kirk Douglas said to Janet Leigh in “The Vikings,” an entertaining 1958 movie about marauding Norsemen, “If I can’t have your love, I’ll take your hate.” And why not? Hate, in boxing, sells just as well as love. Sometimes even more so.

Some of you profess to hate Mayweather because he lacks even the faintest trace of humility. Others hate him because he waves stacks of $100 bills at the camera as he leans against the shiny new Ferrari he has just added to his collection of ultra-pricey rides, still another reminder of the fabulous wealth he has and that you don’t. And, yeah, some of you hate him because he has slapped around “on six occasions” the mother of three of his four children, Josie Harris, who describes herself as a “battered woman” in constant fear of what might happen whenever Mayweather comes around.

But those of you who fall into any of those categories are still apt to want to see his next fight, maybe because he is so skilled at what he does or maybe because you want to witness the night, should it ever come, when the calculating beast is finally brought to heel.

It was almost understandable that Tyson, at his unhinged best, attracted such a following because he was danger personified and that is a powerful aphrodisiac to the masses. We looked and could not turn away because we understood that a knockout – swift, emphatic, devastating – was imminent.

Mayweather is cut from a different cloth, which makes his status as the foremost cash cow in boxing history somewhat perplexing. His thing is as much about making the other guy look bad as about making himself look good, and there were times when his movement, laser-accurate punching and ring generalship reduced the very capable Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) to whiffing on clumsy lunges, rendering hollow “PacMan’s” protestations that he thought he deserved to get the decision.

“No one can get me to say Sugar Ray Robinson or anybody else was or is better than me,” Mayweather said before his May 1, 2010, bout with Shane Mosley. “No one was better. No one is better. Maybe no one else ever will be better.”

If there is a contemporary fighter to whom I would compare Mayweather, it would be the ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins, who came to understand that boxing’s subtle nuances can be as or more effective than full-frontal assaults. You just have to know what to look for, and to appreciate it when you are afforded the opportunity to glimpse it. Anyone who can’t appreciate the artistry of either man simply does not understand what they’re watching as they systematically break down opponents. If you prefer Jerry Lee Lewis setting fire to his piano at a honky-tonk bar to Van Cliburn in concert in Carnegie Hall, Hopkins and Mayweather probably aren’t your cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t much to admire and appreciate about their level of craftsmanship.

Mayweather gave us another such technically flawless performance, but it was to be expected that many viewers who had hoped to get heaping measures of blood and guts came away disappointed, maybe even angry. As round by round passed into history, there was a creeping sense of “We waited six years for THIS?”

Not that any negative feedback is apt to concern Mayweather. Anyone with a complaint can kiss that part of his anatomy where the sun don’t shine. It is his world, and he figures that it is our privilege to be allowed to occasionally drop in for a visit.

“It’s all about money, power and respect,” Hopkins said in 2003, in a remark about himself that could just as easily have been said about Mayweather circa 2015. “You get the money, you got the power and the respect.”

You also get a fair amount of contempt. But where would boxing be if there was nothing but love and niceties simmering in the cauldron of competition?

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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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