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Klitschko – Fury: Mind Games, Round One

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DUSSELDORF – “Some things are always the same at these press conferences, but some things are also always new,” said Wladimir Klitschko at some point during the extended conversation, some incendiary, between he and Tyson Fury at their initial media gathering.

That statement is quite true, and in this instance some of those new things cast a better illumination on what to expect from each personality as the Klitschko – Fury saga unfolds.

It seemed appropriate that the participants emphasized mental aspects of their contest, which appears to pit opposite personality types who may actually be of more similar philosophies than they generally present.

If mind games are the first meaningful engagement before a fight itself, then Klitschko’s heavyweight title defense on October 24th at ESPRIT Arena could be quite unique.

Unique, as in a slugging scenario in which the usually unflappable Klitschko faces serious problems. Klitschko was the usual epitome of class, but he seemed a little uptight, out of character.

Fury might have stung him with some eye-to-eye criticism, but that also seemed to fuel Klitschko’s ferocity in a dangerous way. By the final third of the nearly three-hour session, he eyed Fury like a shark.

Trying to evaluate fighters’ psyches as they attempt to get into each other’s head is often an exercise in folly, but if such psychological analysis could always be accurately determined before the first punches land it would sure help tell me which way to bet.

When they glanced calmly at each other arriving on the podium, Klitschko leaned over to shake hands and Fury responded with a polite smile, indicating a mellow demeanor. His team was very respectful to Klitschko and to their German hosts.

Until provoked, Fury’s comments were relatively mild. “I have to give credit to the older champion for taking on a challenge like myself. I’m just wondering, after I beat him, does his TV deal roll over to me?” pondered Fury, not so much tongue in cheek as money in bank.

An opening, super hi-def montage with multiple clips of Fury making derogatory remarks made Fury look bemused. Klitschko’s montage showed numerous prefight promises by previous opponents. In case anybody missed the point there were high slow motion replays of each challenger’s face getting rearranged.

It was the champion who shook matters up later, repeating passive-aggressive prods like, “Fury right now isn’t everything he shows, just portions. I hope it’s going to get more entertaining because I was a little disappointed. Is this it? He didn’t throw the table, or a microphone or maybe a shoe? We used to get flying shoes here (Shannon Briggs).”

Interesting that the European urban dictionary seems to define those press conference outbursts as “Amerikanisch”.

For his part, Klitschko offered biographical musings on a wide range of subjects. He is an aged vintage, Fury is a shot and a beer.

“It was always challenging to find the right key to beating my opponents, but it is also motivation to myself,” continued Klitschko reflectively, while Fury seemed to suppress a yawn. “He really means what he’s talking about and he’s definitely not coming here just to be present and be on the canvas.” Those words didn’t hide the unspoken dismissal of the challenger’s chances.

“The first time I heard about Tyson Fury was a running joke about a guy punching himself in the face,” said Klitschko as Fury began to look less cordial. “He sings, he dances, he’s a cool dude, so entertaining. Some people adore him and some say they can’t stand him.”

When Klitschko stated “I haven’t seen much (film) of his fights, only a little bit.” Fury growled, “He’s lying.”

Maybe we lost it in translation, but it sounded like Wlad almost took a swipe at beloved mentor Emanuel Steward, when Klitschko referenced Papa Kronk’s supposed prediction of fighters like Fury becoming champion someday.

Therein lies what we believe was the reason for Dr. Steelhammer’s more aggressive than usual stance at the press conference. It seemed like he felt a lack of respect from Fury, the media, maybe even the fans.

“Anybody can become champion quick, for one fight. It’s very tough to be champion for a long, long time,” said Klitschko, staring harshly.
“I think this is going to be the toughest fight of your life, I think it is not going to be simple for you. I also believe I am going to face one of my toughest opponents. Just your size and your stance, switching from southpaw to regular, is going to be a challenge. But I’ll be ready, that I can promise. I wish you fast healing.”

Fury understood that announced butt-kicking time. A subdued light in his eyes turned into fire as he became incensed, little by little.

Klitschko’s shtick on this cranial chessboard cited sports psychology academics, referencing “therapy” to make unstable Fury a better person ala Klitschko’s fight against David Haye. Not the most brazen posture, but it incensed Fury, who launched into a raging half soliloquy on Klitscko’s lack of fistic virtue.

“It’s a personal mission for me to rid boxing of a boring person like you,” Said Fury. “I could have fallen asleep listening to your sheepish talk. I ain’t interested in all the titles, all the belts you’ve got on that table. I’m interested in breaking your face in, that’s what I‘m interested in.

“Your jab and grab style, surely all of Europe wants to see you get beaten, and the rest of the world will see you get beaten. You have about as much charisma as my underpants, zero.

“You’re a ‘sports psychologist’, speaks 37 different languages, so what? You’re still a boring person. I am the new blood in the division, you’re an old man. You’ve got grey hair like my trainer and my manager. You’ve got wrinkles in your face. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had Botox as well. It is what it is, you look old.

“You can have as many idiots on that television as you want, all them stupid Americans that’s got no gas. They run out of steam after five rounds. It’s a known fact that if you take these American guys six or seven rounds they fall on the ground, out of energy. I have the American style with the European conditioning, and that equals you’re (“in trouble”).

“History does not lie. History says all old champions move over for the new ones. Is this man better than all the great champions of the past? I think not. And all the great champions of the past, at 39 years old, are on the decline. You are nothing and you’re getting knocked out.

“I don’t care about being a role model, I don’t care about going down in history. All I care bout is beating you. I dream about knocking your head off. How dare you mention my name in the same sentence with David Haye.

“I’ll hire you to be my therapist after I knock you out because you’ll need a job. I’m unpredictable, and all you types hate unpredictability. So right now I’m already inside your mind. How’s that for psychology?”

The suddenly heated rhetoric concluded, Klitschko acted pleased that Fury was finally pumping the promotion. Still, intensity lingered. Fury delivered an impersonal, hilariously filthy one-liner that he was probably saving to close the show, so how much of his indignation was actually sincere remains unclear.

But their second handshake was much less cordial than the first. As in ice cold.

As they next made their way onto the bright stadium field for photos, Fury paused amidst a mass of multi-colored seats to glance toward the open roof, a pair of gigantic fight posters underneath. Contemplating that looming image was one of the few times Fury looked completely serious all afternoon.

From the sound and look of things with just a few people around, Fury was respectful of Klitschko but had gotten under his skin.

There was another serious moment for Fury as he waited between TV interviews, watching Klitschko, twenty feet away, interact seamlessly with the media. “Look at him,” Fury said, almost wistfully, listing Klitschko’s achievements. “I can’t be that guy. I don’t want to be that guy.”

First impression odds considering only physiques and personas observed at press conference and photo shoot: pick ‘em.

Odds including prior knowledge of fighter performances: Klitschko 5 – 1 favorite.

Odds considering only Klitschko performance against Bryant Jennings: Klitschko – 250 (almost 3-1 favorite).

Odds considering only Fury performance against Steve Cunningham: Klitschko 10 – 1 favorite.

Odds on Fury to impress: 2 – 1 for.

Odds on Klitschko to impress: 3 – 1 for.

Klitschko by decision: even / pick ‘em.

Klitschko by KO: 3 – 1 for.

Fury by Decision: 15 – 1 against.

Fury by KO: 5 – 1 against.

Draw: 50-1 against.

Disqualification: 5 – 1 against.

Visiting Brits to handle their beer as well as the locals: 1000 – 1 against.

At first glance, this bout looks anywhere between one of Klitschko’s patented dominant performances and one of his surprising debacles. It would be careless of him to use any different method than he has recently. Can Fury force him out of that conking comfort zone?

Fury’s uncovered arms looked bigger than Klitschko’s while Klitschko was in a slightly padded suit.

Which brings us back to early predictions. Obviously, each man will likely play true to their general form, without many exchanges during the first minutes. The more typically they fight, the more it favors Klitschko, and his chances for a late round KO, but something hints this will not be a typical Klitschko fight.

Don’t be surprised if Klitschko switches stances or charges out more aggressively, especially if there are any new additions to his training camp. If Fury responds well to some unusual tactic, it is not impossible to visualize a multi-knockdown brawl, maybe the first one in either Klitschko’s career in which each fighter gets dropped.

As they were walking off the pitch, somebody asked Fury, who’d been playing around with a soccer ball photo prop, how he was with the football.

“I’m great at everything I do,” he replied sternly, then smiled with a nod and a wink.

The real Fury is somewhere between that casually intense character who narrowed his gaze at Klitschko on the pitch and the guy who took a humble, extended glance at his own image on the huge arena billboards.

That’s pretty serious elevation, even if you’re 6’8.

Whether that guy can generate near enough power or pressure to make things interesting, let alone highly competitive, against an elite champion like Klitschko is just one of many factors probably on each fighter’s mind, right about now.

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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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