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June Is Month of Triumph, Travails For Irish Fighters

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My last name has been a cause of some confusion to those boxing buffs inclined to jump to convenient conclusions. More than a few times, I have been asked, “So what are you? Mexican or Puerto Rican?” To which I reply, “I’m actually Spanish-English-French-Irish-Swedish.” That answer always leaves the questioner looking just a bit perplexed. But maybe it shouldn’t; it would seem that there aren’t that many blue-eyed, fair-complexioned Mexicans and Puerto Ricans for whom I might be mistaken.

The Irish-Swedish part owes to my paternal grandmother, and in a nod to her I chose Patrick as my confirmation name in seventh grade, as it is a popular choice by parents of male children in both those countries. My late father is of primarily Latin descent (Mom was of French-English lineage), but, interestingly, Dad (whose given name also is Bernard) was nicknamed Jack during his boxing days, because, during his very fine amateur career, someone thought his crouching style, and penchant for leaping left hooks, was somewhat reminiscent of Jack Dempsey. With just six pro bouts, which resulted in a nondescript 4-1-1 record (with one KO victory), no one should ever have confused my father, a welterweight, with the “Manassas Mauler,” but I did find it fascinating that the surname Dempsey is of Irish origin, and an anglicized form of O’Diomasigh.

As TSS readers know, I periodically do look-back pieces that tie in with the anniversaries of notable fights involving notable fighters. As June draws near its end, I found it curious that the sixth month of the calendar year is so heavily dotted with such fights involving Irish or Irish-American boxers. On June 11, 1982, Larry Holmes defended his WBC heavyweight championship with a 13th-round stoppage of Gerry Cooney in the sweltering outdoor ring at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace; 23 years later, on that same date, a lumbering Irishman named Kevin McBride ended the career of an out-of-shape, disinterested Mike Tyson, who quit on his stool after six rounds in Washington, D.C.

On June 18, 1941, Joe Louis, making his 18th defense of the heavyweight championship, might have caught a break when the much lighter Billy Conn, ahead on two of the three official scorecards and even on the other, decided to go for the knockout in the 13th round at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Conn’s boldness backfired when he was starched at the 2:58 mark of that round. Asked why he hadn’t tried to continue outboxing the dangerous Louis, Conn, who had relinquished his light heavyweight title to challenge the “Brown Bomber,” famously replied, “What’s the use of being Irish if you can’t be stupid?”

Conn, who was taken out in eight rounds in his rematch with Louis in 1946, also posed this question to the longest-reigning heavyweight champ after their celebrated first match. “Why couldn’t you let me hold the title for a year or so?” Conn asked.

“You had the title for 12 rounds and you couldn’t hold onto it,” the great Louis replied.

Another date to remember is June 23, 1969, when “Irish” Jerry Quarry slugged it out with Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden, for Smokin’ Joe’s New York State Athletic Association “world” heavyweight title, which was also recognized by Pennsylvania, Maine, Illinois, Texas and Massachusetts. The courageous but cut-prone Quarry gave as good as he got for a while, but in a humdinger of a scrap that was named Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine, Quarry, bleeding badly over his right eye, was not allowed to come out for the eighth round by referee Arthur Mercante.

It has been said that Quarry was a philosophical disciple of the unfortunate Conn in that he attempted to outbox Muhammad Ali (who defeated him twice) and overpower Frazier (against whom he also was 0-2), but that is a misrepresentation. Quarry went right at both of those all-time greats, but came up short. It should be noted, however, that Quarry likely have been at least an alphabet champion in a later era, and that he was more than capable enough to handily outpoint feared contender Ron Lyle and blow out the power-punching Earnie Shavers in one round.

In the forewords to “Hard Times: The Triumph and Tragedy of `Irish’ Jerry Quarry,” co-authored by Steve Springer and Blake Chavez, another elite heavyweight from that period, George Foreman, says that “Jerry Quarry was the best heavyweight fighter never to have won a championship belt. When I became heavyweight champion of the world, I dodged him purposely … He fought toe to toe with heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, twice. He fought heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali twice. He outboxed two-time heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. He outpunched Earnie Shavers. He destroyed Mac Foster and schooled Ron Lyle.”

As June melts into July, it should be noted that the upcoming month is largely reserved for some of the high points of the legendary heavyweight champion with that Irish surname. On June 2, 1921, Jack Dempsey knocked out Georges Carpentier in Jersey City, N.J., to retain his title in the first round of what was then the first million-dollar gate; on July 4, 1919, Dempsey flattened Jess Willard, also in four rounds, in Toledo, Ohio, to win the championship; on July 4, 1923, he outpointed Tommy Gibbons over 15 rounds in Shelby, Montana; on July 21, 1927, he starched Jack Sharkey in seven rounds in New York City, and on July 27, 1918, he needed only 23 seconds of the first round to blow away Fred Fulton in Harrison, N.J.

Not ceding the entirety of July to the incomparable Dempsey, one of my favorite fighters, “Irish” Micky Ward, took a 10-round decision over Emanuel Augustus on July 13, 2001, in Hampton Beach, N.H., which was so action-packed it was named Fight of the Year by The Ring.

What do all these fights, and fighters, have in common? It got me to thinking. There are certain generic groupings that instantly call to mind certain characteristics. Philadelphia fighters are said to come out of their mothers’ wombs firing that city’s signature punch, the left hook; Mexican fighters are acknowledged as being tougher than a 50-cent steak, and resistant to ever taking a backward step. If those generalizations are at least somewhat accurate, shouldn’t Irish fighters also have their own category? And what would be the most common trait, the thread that ties them together?

I asked Gerry Cooney, who, like Quarry, might have been a world champion, and a good one, if he had come along at a different time, if there are certain traits, in and out of the ring, that are common to fighters who are Irish to any appreciable degree.

“All fighters, whatever their background, fight their hearts out,” “Gentleman Gerry” responded. “I always fought my heart out. I fought to win. Jerry Quarry was the same way. But, really, all fighters are that way.

“But, sure, I’m proud to be an Irish-American. The Irish take pride in being tough guys.”

That toughness likely is an inherited quality. Remember, the Irish who came to America sought to escape economic hardship in their homeland (the Irish potato famine and a resistance, in some cases, to real or imagined British authority). Those who arrived on these shores often were relegated to manual labor and continued second-class citizenship, as was the case with other ethnicities arriving on these shores. And if boxing is proof of anything, it is that hard times make for hard men. Remember the Ron Howard-directed 1992 movie about Irish immigrants in the late 19th century, “Far and Away”? Tom Cruise played the role of Joseph Donnelly, a poor lad from the old country who earned his respect and a decent wage in a strange new land as a bare-knuckle fighter in bouts staged in waterfront saloons.

Donnelly is a fictionalized version of such very real Irish fighters as John L. Sullivan, Jim Corbett, Dempsey, Gene Tunney, James J. Braddock, Conn, Mickey Walker and Tommy Loughran, whose ideological successors were Quarry, Cooney, Barry McGuigan, Ward,  Wayne McCullough, John Duddy and Andy Lee.

The Irish have had more than their fair share of successes inside the ropes, to be sure, but their golden linings frequently have been obscured by dark clouds; even Dempsey had his Long Count, Conn his failed bid to put away Louis, Quarry his of-fer against Ali and Frazier, Cooney his courageous but doomed challenge of Holmes. Ward’s fights were pure entertainment, but he lost two of three in his epic trilogy with Arturo Gatti and never quite attained elite status. One of the more poignant stories I ever reported was that of Seamus McDonagh, the Pierce Brosnan lookalike who was stopped in four rounds by a pre-championship Evander Holyfield, lost himself in the bottle and gravitated westward, where he operated a shoeshine stand in San Francisco, showing patrons a wallet-sized photo of himself in action against Holyfield to anyone who expressed even a mild interest in boxing.

Then again, perhaps my interest in Irish boxers owes in part to the fact I am a writer, and the Irish are a people who, if anything, are better known for their mastery of the written word than their determination with padded gloves on their fists. Among the celebrated men of letters to have come from the Emerald Isle are James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and William Butler Yeats.

It is my Irish-Swedish grandmother, who died when I was in grade school, who encouraged me as much as anyone to read the classics and to write about anything and everything that drew my attention. Perhaps she intrinsically understood that one of my favorite things was to watch the “Friday Night Fights” with her son, the ex-fighter, and from that bonding experience a career in boxing journalism might someday evolve for Bernard the younger. Then again, probably not.

We are all the products of multiple influences, of genetic splicing, of curiosities cast as a wide net and eventually narrowed to one or two specialized interests. When I look at my red-haired grandchildren (well, two of them, anyway), I see that part of myself that was passed on by my Grandma Lala and somewhere along the way brushed up against fighters like Jerry Quarry and Micky Ward.

In Quarry biography, there is a reference to his last fight of any real significance, in which the used-up and cut-up former contender is stopped in four rounds by Ken Norton. As a despondent Quarry laid on a table in his dressing room, Bill Slayton, Norton’s trainer, came by to extend his well wishes.

“The doctors had him on the table because he was all busted up,” Slayton is quoted as saying. Jerry asked him, “Did I disgrace myself?” To which Slaton replied, “You fought like an Irishman.”

Then, as now, that should be taken as a compliment.

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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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