Following the Sept. 15 fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to have this discussion.
The bout was an instant classic between two of the best middleweights in the world, but there was a sense of discomfort when the fight went to the scorecards. We know what happened last time it was left it in the hands of the judges — we were given a disappointing split-draw verdict. This time wasn’t as bad, of course. There was not a 118-110 from Adelaide Byrd or anything even remotely close. However, as soon as they announced “And new…,” I immediately turned off the TV. It is simply disgusting to see what boxing has become.
Golovkin was undoubtedly screwed over in the pair’s first fight. It was a clear victory for “Triple G,” but instead the judges handed out the split draw. This generated interest for the rematch. It would not be an overstatement, though, to say that Golovkin was screwed over once again in the rematch.
No disrespect to Alvarez, who came prepared and fought his heart out. He pushed Golovkin back most of the fight, and it certainly seemed like Golovkin was pretty uncomfortable in there for a few rounds, especially early on in the contest. Yet, let’s look at the statistics: “GGG” threw far more punches and landed more than Alvarez, even when it came to jabs. Alvarez was able to land more power punches, mostly aimed at the body. Body shots are very important, and they did a lot of damage to Golovkin. We could clearly see “GGG” slow down. Alvarez invested in the body shots early, and they were extremely effective in the first six rounds or so. Also, it seemed like Alvarez’s game plan shook Golovkin a little bit. It was thoroughly surprising to see how much difficulty Golovkin was having while going backwards. Granted, he has never really been the guy to fight on his back foot, but the amount of success he had going backwards was clearly far less than when he was moving forward, like he was in their first fight.
Now, let’s look at the second half of the contest. Golovkin started to work behind the jab and pull himself back into the fight. He was landing more damaging shots and always staying behind the jab, which is one of his best weapons. “GGG” even managed to rock Alvarez in the last few rounds. If anyone landed shots in that fight that rocked their opponent, it was Golovkin. Alvarez may have slowed him down with some massive body shots, but when “Triple G” landed some huge shots toward the end, Alvarez was reeling against the ropes and covering up.
The scorecards show that the last round was given to Alvarez by two judges. How they could do so remains a mystery.
It was an excellent fight regardless, but the work of the judges ruined it yet again.
Plenty of people believe Alvarez won. A lot of the arguments for an Alvarez victory center on how Golovkin looked a lot worse than Alvarez after the fight. Well, fights are judged by rounds, not appearances.
Another claim is that even Golovkin’s coach said in the middle of the fight that Golovkin was losing. We cannot take this statement literally, though. Do you honestly believe that Golovkin’s team was not aware of what was going on behind the scenes? Are they that oblivious that they don’t know their fighter was already at a disadvantage before the fight? I would much prefer to interpret that statement as the corner saying, “We need a finish, because the judges are not on our side.”
Let’s be honest here. If Golovkin’s first performance against Alvarez was not enough to convince the judges that he won, then this second fight certainly was not going to do it. Although a lot of us knew that going in, some of us were hoping that maybe the judging would be fair this time around.
Beyond the questionable outcome of the contest, there are a couple of takeaways.
First, both men have the heart of a warrior. Golovkin’s comeback from a bad first half of the fight was inspirational. “GGG” came through like a true champion. It was also extremely energizing to see Alvarez as the aggressor who took the fight to the champion. These things combined to create one of the greatest fights in boxing. In both meetings, Golovkin and Alvarez showed their heart. Both men took some massive shots and still continued to fight.
Second, no blame should be placed on Alvarez for the lousy judging. He is simply an entertainer and trains his butt off every day. It is not his fault that he continues to get help from the judges and the commission.
Boxing is nothing more than money and business now. Mike Tyson hit it on the spot after the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao when he said, “I was a killer. These guys are businessmen.”
Alvarez is younger, more marketable and can become a future superstar. Golovkin, who is still a monster, is aging — he’s already 36 years old — and has entered the downside of his career. “GGG” has a lot less time left than Alvarez. From a business perspective, maybe it was a great move to screw over Golovkin once again and put those titles around the waist of Alvarez. This situation is reminiscent of the scenario surrounding Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in the 1970s. The only difference is, Ali eliminated the judges from the equation when he finished Frazier in one of the greatest fights ever, their third encounter, which is also known as “The Thrilla in Manila.”
However, when outcomes seem to be influenced more by business than what actually happens in the contest, how much does it take away from the “sport” aspect of boxing? Isn’t combat sports supposed to be about the “sport” aspect? It’s about seeing the best fight the best. Boxing still manages to deliver exciting fights, but it is almost like watching a sport with predetermined results.
At times, it seems almost certain that a particular individual will get the decision no matter what. Mayweather is probably the biggest contributor in turning the sport around as a business, and maybe even in ruining the sport. Boxing used to be different. The best fought the best, not for money, but because those men truly wanted to prove that they were better. Even now, those fighters exist, but take a look back to the 1980s, when we had men like Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Salvador Sanchez and the aforementioned Tyson competing in the sweet science. Watch the fight between Hagler and Hearns, then try to find fights nowadays that deliver even remotely close to the same level of excitement. You won’t. As more and more of these questionable decisions come out, the sport becomes more of a show and less of an actual sport.
Promoters like Oscar De La Hoya are certainly not helping, either. It’s understandable that he is defending his fighter after a controversial decision, but for him to say that “clean punching, ring generalship, effective aggressiveness and defense are what the judges are looking for in determining the winner of a round” is simply contradictory against his own fighter. Why didn’t Golovkin get the decision in their first fight then?
Boxing’s peak came somewhere in the late 20th century. Since then, it has been on a steady decline. As brutal as the sport could be at times, it was still one of the best sports out there. Now, it just does not hold the same value. Some would say the UFC has even overtaken boxing as the main combat sport. It’s a hell of an argument. UFC fighters get paid far less than boxers, but they still manage to see far fewer cases like the verdicts of the two fights between Golovkin and Alvarez.