Canelo Alvarez climbed out of the mire of a year’s controversy to reclaim his kingdom as Mexico’s warrior hero by dethroning the long reigning Gennady Golovkin.
Triple G stalked away from the ring in the T-Mobile Arena without addressing the jubilant Mexican majority in the sell-out crowd, clearly believing he had been robbed again.
Although this rematch which was seethingly bitter in its build up it truly was close enough for him to embrace the younger man who had taken his crown.
Canelo Alvarez was hoisted aloft by his team and he held a finger to his lips as if to silence those who doubted him
The new champion embraced the former middleweight king after sharing a ring with him for another 12 epic rounds
Gennady Golovkin took some punishing punches but managed to walk through all Alvarez had to offer
The Mexican posed for celebratory photographs with his team in the ring after being given his new belts
That is how champions behave. Canelo, having withstood the hammer blows from the heaviest pound-for-pound puncher in the world was generous, also.
He applied his tourniquet to the bad blood which had flown down the Vegas Strip by hailing Golovkin as ‘a great fighter.’
JEFF POWELL’S SCORECARD:
Round 1: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 2: 10-9 Alvarez
Round 3: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 4: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 5: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 6: 10-9 Alvarez
Round 7: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 8: 10-9 Alvarez
Round 9: 10-10 draw
Round 10: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 11: 9-10 Golovkin
Round 12: 10-9 Alvarez
Final: 114-116 Golovkin
The valiant pair of them had given their all in a battle which became rousing the longer it went. Without quite touching the heights of an all-time classic, – with the legendary Tommy Hearns watching on as his successors went the punishing distance, this was thriller in its own right.
Perhaps Golovkin did pay the price once more for fighting in Canelo’s virtual home town. I had him winning 116-114. But some of the rounds were close and the prize only fell to Alvarez by dint of the scoring of the last round. Two of the judges gave the 12th to Canelo and that score prevented another draw, albeit a less contentious one this time.
So we ended up with two official cards of 115-113 with the third equal.
Fair enough, perhaps, given the closeness of some rounds but Golovkin’s immediate angst was understandable. He did the right thing later when he said: ‘I thought I did enough to win but I’m not complaining. Canelo fought a great fight and this why we have the judges. And the new judges were good judges.’
A champion to the bloodied end of his first defeat and his record hold on the WBA, WBC and IBO world middleweight belts.
Unfortunately for Britain’s WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders the decision does little to improve his prospects of a unification super-fight.
Canelo is likely to go on to a mandatory defence against David Lemieux, the Canadian who Saunders outclassed recently but who regained his place as No 1 challenger by flattening Ireland’s Spike O’Sullivan inside a round earlier in the night.
Golovkin started the fight well and landed a number of powerful shots against Alvarez but the Mexican held his ground
It was a close-run thing with a number of the rounds difficult to call, as reflected on the narrow judges scorecards
Golovkin seemed to be working more than his middleweight rival but Alvarez held his ground in the centre of the ring
Saunders could look to a big night against Golvkin but Canelo said immediately that he is open to a trilogy fight with Triple G. To add weight to that prospect, Golovkin’s trainer said: ‘It was close enough to warrant a third fight.’
Golovkin, who had eight stitches inserted in an eye cut, said of a third fight: ‘Under the right conditions, yes. ‘ Then he added: ‘I’m not going to say who I thought win. Canelo has the victory and he fought a good fight. I thought I did well and it was an exciting fight for the fans.’
Money, as well as courage, still talks in the ring.
So eager was Golovkin to get his mitts on Canelo that he insisted the national anthems of Kazakhstan, Mexico and the USA were played before the first pay-per-view fight on the card, a full three hours before the main event.
Triple G did not want to be kept waiting in the ring while three long anthems were performed just before the first bell.
For this he was accused by Team Canelo of being unpatriotic, just one of the many barbs and insults fired in the angry build up.
A scattering of a couple of hundred fans stood to applaud the singers as we all settled down to a long wait for the big one.
Golovkin’s face told the story of some nasty shots but he showed his typical drive and never-say-die attitude
Both men’s conditioning was pushed to the limit over 12 rounds but they showed remarkable fitness to battle to the end
Alvarez landed some big punches of his own but GGG showed off his famously unshakeable chin
When Triple G’s arrival at his dressing room came up on the giant screens there was sustained booing from those of the thousands of Mexicans in town to celebrate their country’s Independence Day already inside the arena.
He just smiled at the hubbub outside, accustomed as he is to fighting abroad. In fact, he has never fought in his homeland during his professional career.
Golovkin had to be patient. Key fights on the undercard produced quick knock-outs and there was a gap of more than an hour-and-a-half after the chief supporting bout.
They tried to keep everyone awake with thudding music and appeals for the rival supporters, in the American way, to ‘make some noise.’
There was plenty of that as Canelo came to the ring, to a rousing Mariachi singing of Mexico Lindo – Mexico the Beautiful.
As in the first fight Golovkin dictated the opening with his jab. Canelo landed a couple of body shots but lost the first round, which ended with a sporting nod from Golovkin.
Canelo stepped up a gear in the second, much more even round. The Triple G jab still effective but some solid lefts from the Mexican probably edged the round.
The third was a highly technical round. Both were fencing for the opening and Triple G found a couple for left hooks to steal this one.
Golovkin was beginning to go for it now and stopped Alvarez in his tracks, first with a left uppercut, then a big right cross.
The fifth was a steadier round interspersed with some wild misses from both. Golovkin was still the busier though and Canelo needed to up the pace to stop the fight slipping away from him.
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas played host to one of the fights of the year and the fans were kept on the edge of their seats
It was a compelling fight for all 12 rounds and there is even the possibility that there could be a third encounter
Alvarez slipped to the canvas and the referee correctly ruled that it wasn’t a knockdown before they continued
There was better work from Canelo in the sixth with his jab, a couple of crisp rights and a strong finish get him back into it.
Canelo certainly engaged more than a year ago but found it hard to unlock the puzzle of Golovkin, who got marginally the better of the finishing flurries in the seventh.
The eighth was by far Canelo’s best round and he brought the Mexican majority to their feet for the first time with a succession of clubbing rights.
At last they were warming up for the grudge battle they promised. Both land heavily with left and rights for the first big even round on my card.
Canelo lasted better this time and started the tenth well, only to be pounded in the middle of the round by a furious assault from Golovkin, then again at the end after rallying heroically.
Golovkin went for the KO he craved again in the penultimate round, but once Canelo battled bravely on.
Canelo went down but only with a slip from fatigue. Canelo finished the stronger and, praise be, they embraced like gladiators at the end of thunderous final round.
Alvarez’s majority decision win came in front of thousands of his supporters on Mexico’s Independence Day
The 28-year-old has plenty of options ahead of him and could face mandatory challenger David Lemeux