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The Night Andrew Golota Forever Became “The Foul Pole”



He could have been great. Or maybe not.

The only thing that is indisputable about former heavyweight contender Andrew Golota is that he will forever be remembered as one of the dirtiest, most mentally unhinged fighters ever to lace up a pair of padded gloves. So often did Golota’s seemingly vast potential dissolve amid a barrage of low blows, head-butts, neck bites and bizarre behavior that the Polish-born, Chicago-based fighter came to be known as “The Foul Pole,” a nickname that might be the most appropriate nom de guerre in boxing history.

Golota is 47 now, his last bout coming on Feb. 23, 2013, when he was knocked out in six rounds by another then-45-year-old, Przemyslav Saleta, in Gdansk, Poland. It was the last of three consecutive defeats, all inside the distance, for Golota, who took a 41-9-1 record into retirement where, one would hope, he finally has found the peace that evaded him as a lightning rod for controversy and scandal. Thirty-three of his victories were by KO or stoppage, as were six of his nine losses. But it is the manner of four of those setbacks, and even of a couple of his successes, that have made the seven-time Polish national amateur champion and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist such an enduringly curious figure.

This Saturday marks the 19th anniversary of one of Golota’s infamous meltdowns, the first of his two disqualification losses to Riddick Bowe, each of which he appeared to be winning handily. When referee Wayne Kelly — who had already assessed Golota three penalty points for repeated low blows — DQ’d the 10-to-1 underdog in the seventh round as Bowe writhed on the canvas, clutching his groin, it ignited an ugly, half-hour riot in Madison Square Garden that resulted in 22 injuries, 16 arrests, heightened security for future events in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and a $250,000 fine levied by the New York State Athletic Commission against Bowe’s excitable manager, Rock Newman, for leading an in-ring assault on Golota. One member of Bowe’s unwieldy entourage, Jason Harris, struck Golota in the back of the head with a walkie-talkie, inflicting a nasty gash. Two other credential-bearing Bowe supporters, Stephen and William Wright, were taken into custody by police.

Outraged by what he claimed was “premeditation” by Golota to maim his fighter, Newman taunted Golota and his handlers throughout the scheduled 12-round bout. It was a powder keg primed to blow up, and eventually it did.

“It was a very ugly night for everyone who was involved in the staging of the event,” a chastened Newman told reporters after he was socked with that quarter-million-dollar fine. “I wholeheartedly and very sincerely apologize for the pain, grief, anguish and embarrassment it has caused all of us.”

The thing is, given the combustible histories of Golota and Newman, it was not only possible that the fight could take a nasty turn, it probably should have been expected. There was, for instance, the night that Bowe and Elijah Tillery began jawing at one another after the first round of their 1991 bout in Atlantic City. Refusing to return to his corner, Tillery aimed several kicks at Bowe’s legs, Bowe fired back with his fists and Newman, who had jumped onto the ring apron, grabbed Tillery around the neck and flipped him over the ropes. Although there was ample blame to go around, it was Tillery who got the loss via disqualification.

Golota, meanwhile, was establishing his own bona fides as someone who was not adverse to bending the rules to the point of their breaking. He bit Samson Po’uha’s neck during a clinch in their May 16, 1995, bout, and flagrantly head-butted Danell Nicholson on March 15, 1996. In each instance he somehow managed to avoid disqualification, going on to win both fights on technical knockouts.

But it was that ill-fated night at the Garden against Bowe that forever cemented Golota’s reputation as “The Foul Pole,” and set the stage for more, similarly egregious incidents that forever tarred him as a near-lunatic and, worse, a quitter.

After Kelly waved a halt to the foulfest, Golota’s 74-year-old trainer, Lou Duva, was trampled in the ensuing melee. Duva, who had a history of coronary trouble, was rushed by ambulance to NYU Hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition.

Duva might actually have fared better than some of the 11,252 spectators who found themselves caught up in a flash riot. Fistfights between supporters of the two fighters broke out throughout the arena and additional police had to be called in to assist the Garden’s overmatched security force. Even those who were trying to avoid the expanding violence couldn’t always steer clear. One woman, wandering around with both eyes nearly swollen shut, cried to no one in particular, “Look what they did to me.”

Why had Golota elected to frequently target Bowe’s not-so-protective cup, despite the urging of Duva and other members of his corner team to keep his punches up? At the time of the DQ, Golota, because of the three point deductions, led on the official scorecards by margins of 67-65 (twice) and 67-66. He certainly looked the part of an elite heavyweight, although it must be noted that Bowe, who had gone into training a couple of months earlier at an unsvelte 272 pounds, did himself no favors by coming in overweight and underprepared.

Several weeks after Bowe-Golota I, Larry Hazzard, executive director of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, weighed in on still another missed opportunity for a sport that had a chance to legitimately shine on the Big Apple’s brightly lit stage.

“What boxing needs is a high-visibility fight where an underdog pulls off a big upset,” Hazzard opined. “I love upsets. Look at all the excitement that was generated when Buster Douglas knocked off Mike Tyson in Tokyo. And you know what? We almost had that a few weeks ago. Andrew Golota beating up Riddick Bowe at Madison Square Garden was the closest thing we’ve had to Douglas beating up Tyson. It could have been the most spectacular night boxing has had in some time. Instead, it disintegrated into a disqualification loss and a postfight riot. Almost instantly, something great became something horrible. Upsets are good, but riots definitely are not good.”

So it was on to the rematch, on Dec. 14, 1996, in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, with Bowe again favored, this time by 4-to-1, the feeling being that he would commit himself to training harder and thus being in peak condition. In any case, the hope was that the nastiness of five months earlier could be avoided. There was no way another disqualification could occur, right?

Golota, as it turned out, was a leopard perhaps incapable of changing its spots. Part II was a virtual replay of the original, with referee Eddie Cotton taking over for Kelly and again penalizing Golota for infractions that were too frequent and severe to have been happenstance.

As had been the case in their first encounter, Golota was putting considerable distance between himself and Bowe on the scorecards, even with a pair of point deductions from Cotton (one for head-butting, another for low blows).

All he had to do was avoid doing something stupid. He couldn’t do it.

Golota did the unthinkable moments just before the end of the ninth of 10 scheduled rounds, blatantly slamming Bowe with two punches to the cup, the two-time former champion again slumping to the canvas in agony. Cotton had no alternative but to wave the fight to a halt and award Bowe another DQ win.

An incensed Duva screamed “You can be champion of the world!” at Golota. “The only guy stopping you is you! Nobody but you!”

Golota, sobbing, said, “I stupid. I stupid.”

“I’m going to ask Andrew, in no uncertain way, if he wants to continue fighting,” a more composed Duva said at the postfight press conference. “But if he does want to go on, it’s going to have to be like Frank Sinatra. He’ll have to do it my way.

“He has all the tools to do it the right way. Why the hell does he have to resort to that other stuff? Does he want to fight like a fighter, or like a brawler in a bar or an alley? We have to get that straightened out.”

The two blown chances against Bowe – who last month was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, a distinction that forever will be denied Golota – would have been enough to establish him as a screw-up to end all screw-ups. But there would be more stumbles, more missteps, more stains upon a legacy that soon would be beyond repair.

Even with the back-to-back DQ losses to Bowe, Golota received a shot at WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in his next bout, on Oct. 4, 1997, in Boardwalk Hall. Given Golota’s growing legend as a loose cannon, the jokes were flying fast and furious. One of the better ones advised fans to “Watch a fight for the heavyweight crown, and the family jewels.”

“What’s his best weapon?” cracked Lewis when asked about Golota. “His best weapons are his jab, his left hook and his punch to the balls.”

Duva, still in Golota’s corner, said he was satisfied that the 6-4, 240-pounder had finally harnessed his inner demons. Asked if he had recommended that Golota receive psychological testing, Capn’ Lou said, “Every time we approached him on the subject he said, `You talker. You handle it.’ So I’ve been teaching him how to say, `Excuse me. Pardon me.’ A lot of good stuff.”

Unfortunately for Golota, he didn’t get much of a chance to display the low blows of old or his newfound manners. He was blown away in the first round, nudging his career to the edge of irrelevance. But he rebounded from the Lewis debacle to post six straight wins, again putting him into a high-profile bout, this time against rising contender Michael Grant on Nov. 20, 1999, in Boardwalk Hall.

Once more, Golota looked strong early, flooring the undefeated Grant with a right hand in the first round and gradually building a substantial lead on points. But after being floored by Grant in the 10th round, Golota, who beat the count, twice refused to respond when referee Randy Neumann asked him if he was all right. Asked a third time if he wanted to continue, Golota said “No,” and turned his back. For many fight fans, someone being DQ’ed can be accepted under certain conditions; giving up, especially in a tussle you’re winning, is unforgivable.

“He got caught with one (good punch) and he quit,” said Golota’s manager, Ziggy Rozalski, “but he has nothing to be ashamed of.” That certainly would have to be considered the minority viewpoint.

It’s a funny thing about fame and notoriety, however. There is always another door that can be opened, if your name still holds some box-office magic. And whose name had more residual magic than that of Mike Tyson, maybe the only man in boxing with a reputation as sullied as Golota’s? Their Oct. 20, 2000, meeting, at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.), was labeled “Bad Boys,” a nod toward not only Golota, but to Tyson, who had chomped Evander Holyfield’s ears on his way to a disqualification loss even more outrageous than Golota’s double-DQs against Bowe. The volcanic Tyson also was cited for a failed attempt to break Frans Botha’s arm, the slugging of Orlin Norris well after the bell and, in his last fight prior to Golota, knocking down referee John Coyle when Tyson attempted to continue pounding Lou Savarese after a first-round stoppage had been declared.

By then Al Certo, best known as the trainer of two-division former world champ Buddy McGirt, had replaced Duva as Golota’s chief second. And, unlike Duva, Certo was amenable to Golota returning to his rules-flaunting roots.

“Neither I nor Golota wants a dirty fight,” Certo said. “Golota will play by the rules as long as he can. But if it gets dirty, Golota is a master at that. So, if Golota wants to body-slam Tyson, that is his business. I am not teaching him anything that he does not already know. Golota wrote the book himself.”

ESPN color analyst Teddy Atlas, who trained the young Tyson when both were at Cus D’Amato’s Catskill, N.Y., compound, figured the outcome hinged on which head case was mentally weaker. He did not discount the possibility that that might be Tyson.

“Tyson is always unsure of himself, and he always wants to know he has some kind of edge,” Atlas offered. “Tyson can sense a guy who’s intimidated, so he’s bargaining that he will be able to walk right out and get rid of Golota. He’s hoping Golota will just be waiting to be executed, so to speak. Tyson has gotten used to that, and he’s gotten weak with it.

“But I can tell you that it’s very possible and likely that if Golota is not intimidated – and the early part of the fight will tell everything – Tyson will become intimidated. Tyson is a very scared, fractured guy. He talks all of this stuff to scare other people so they won’t find out how scared he is.”

Perhaps, if the Golota who took it to Bowe twice before going off the rails had shown up, Atlas’ assessment would have been proven correct. But it was Golota who cracked early. He complained that referee Frank Garza had not penalized Tyson for head-butting, and he refused to come out for the third round of the scheduled 10-rounder. He even shoved Certo away when the veteran trainer attempted to insert his mouthpiece.

“I’m sorry for all my fans who count on me,” Golota said, nearly in tears. “It was not my day. But he head-butt me, you know? And nobody took care of this, you know? Nobody gave him a warning.”

Showtime executive Jay Larkin wasn’t buying any of it. His position was that Golota had more dog in him than the Westminster Kennel Club.

“I’ve never seen a more blatant act of cowardice,” Larkin fumed. “He will never fight on Showtime again.”

But Tommy Brooks, Tyson’s trainer, was more forgiving of Golota’s apparent act of surrender. It was, Brooks suggested, a sign of a deeper, more distressing condition.

“I never would have guessed that from Andrew,” Brooks said. “I truly believe that Andrew is not a coward. I think he suffers from anxiety attacks and I believe he was having one there.”

After his return to Chicago, Golota underwent a thorough medical examination that appeared to justify his decision to stop fighting. Neurosurgeon Wesley Yapor issued a statement that Golota had suffered a concussion, a fractured left cheekbone and a herniated disk between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.

“There was extreme danger of sustaining another several blow to the head,” Dr. Yapor said, which posed a “threat of paralysis.”

It’s likely the good doctor’s explanation did not fully appease the 20 million Poles who stayed up to 4 a.m. in that country to watch Golota attempt to take down Tyson. But at least Golota came away with a non-loss on his record, the initial ruling of a second-round TKO for Iron Mike changed to a no-contest after Tyson tested positive for marijuana.

Incredibly, Golota got one more chance at the big time, or a reasonable facsimile. On Nov. 13, 2004, he challenged IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd in Madison Square Garden, the site of his first DQ defeat against Riddick Bowe nearly eight years earlier.

“We live in a capitalistic society,” reasoned MSG boss Charles Dolan. “This is a commercial undertaking for (promoter) Don King and the Garden. Golota is – in large part because of his unsavory reputation – an attraction. He’s notorious, and because of that he has the ability to put butts in seats. People are going to come out and see the train wreck. The same can be said of Tyson. That long has been part of both fighters’ appeal. They’re unpredictable. There’s an element of the absurd to each of them.”

Byrd retained his IBF strap on a split draw and, although he continued to hang around on the fringes for a few more years, the absurdity had ended for “The Foul Pole.” The train wreck of his career was no longer must-see TV.

But you have to wonder, what if he hadn’t gone goofy in the two fights with Bowe? Or run up the white flag against Grant and Tyson? When he was at his best, he could have been – should have been – a threat to anyone. Did a lack of talent do him in? Was it the anxiety attacks to which Brooks alluded? Some sort of mental defect or disorder?

Those are questions that provide only speculative answers, as is the case with another should-have-been-better-than-he-was heavyweight contender, Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi, whose prime was locked away behind prison walls.

Sometimes the toughest opponent to conquer is the one raging about inside a fighter’s own mind.


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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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