LAS VEGAS -- Everyone expected another action-packed classic between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, and they did just that in a bloodier battle. And this time, there was no controversy from the judges.
Alvarez became the new unified middleweight champion Saturday evening before a sold-out crowd of 21,695 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Although two of the three judges scored the final round for Alvarez, who became the new WBC/WBA 160-pound world titleholder, many ringside scored the 12th round for Golovkin. However, it was a far cry from the controversy a year ago when judge Adelaide Byrd awarded Canelo with a scorecard of 118-110, one of the most egregious scorecards in the history of boxing.
Judge Glenn Feldman scored the fight 114-114, and judges Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Canelo. FightNights.com scored it 115-113 for Golovkin.
Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KO's), 36, who had made 19 consecutive middleweight title defenses and was within one victory of tying the record set by all-time great Bernard Hopkins with 20, suffered the first loss of his professional career.
Golovkin, a Kazakhstan native training out of Los Angeles, who initially refused a post-fight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman, thought he won the fight.
"I’m not going to say who won because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges," Golovkin said. I thought it was a very good fight for the fans, and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.
Golovkin also said he would be willing to do a trilogy with Canelo under the right conditions.
“Yes, of course we would like to have a third fight and will continue to negotiate about it. It would be great to have a third fight," Golovkin told FightNights.com.
Both fighters were cut during the bout, with Golovkin receiving eight stitches for a cut around his left eye.
"I have a very small cut, but I wasn't hurt," said Golovkin. "And what could he have done differently? To judge my work is not my job."
There was no retreating from Alvarez in this fight. Instead, he stayed in the center of the ring and brought the fight to Golovkin, but Triple-G was still not impressed with his style.
“I don’t think he did some super boxing style. No, he wasn’t running away from me, but I don’t think he did anything special in this fight."
But Golovkin still congratulated Canelo for his performance.
"Congrats Canelo and his team. I'll be back guys; I'll be back."
Alvarez entered the post-fight news conference a little while later than Golovkin after receiving stitches above the right eye, and kicked it off by congratulating his team, "I've said it time and time again, but I want to give a big thanks to my team. To Eddy and Chepo who have been here by my side since I was 13 years old."
When Canelo heard the decision, he was mobbed by his team, with tears of joy coming down his face.
“Yes it’s definitely the happiest day of my life," Canelo added.
Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez accused Alvarez of running during the first fight and went as far to accuse the Mexican superstar of deliberately cheating following two-failed drug tests for the banned substance clenbuterol in February. This time, the usually brash Sanchez was humbled.
"We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around. I had it close going into the 12th round. We had good judges who saw it from different angles -- I can't complain about the decision, but it's close enough to warrant a third fight. Canelo fought a great fight, congratulations," Sanchez said.
Golovkin, who had yearned for years for a big-time fight, had knocked out 23 consecutive opponents at one point before winning a highly competitive unanimous decision against former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs in March 2017 before agreeing to fight Alvarez.
Since 2016, Golovkin has looked more vulnerable. His hands are not as fast as they used to be, and his legs are not as fresh. Canelo's trainer, Eddy Reynoso, opted to change their strategy, using his fighter's youth and boxing skills to turn the fight in their favor.
"We studied the previous fight a lot. We saw the best way to defeat him was to force him to fight backwards."
Moments before they were set to trade leather, the crowd began to chant "GGG! GGG!" before chants of "Canelo! Canelo!" joined the fray. Golovkin dictated the pace in the first round behind his jabs. However, Canelo let his hands go in the second round, and connected with a hard left hook to the head. Golovkin, who has never been knocked down in the pros or amateurs, took the punch well.
In the third round, Canelo was countering Golovkin effectively, and both fighters also traded uppercuts.
Golovkin popped Alvarez with a hard right uppercut in the fourth round and followed it up with a hard left and a stiff jab, which he landed consistently.
A big overhand right scored for Alvarez in the fifth, but again the granite chin of Golovkin refused to crumble at the service. Canelo came forward looking for an opening, but Golovkin continued to keep him at bay with an authoritative jab.
Golovkin, who is known for pushing his opponents back and for cutting off the ring, was in for a surprise in the sixth round, as Alvarez backed him up with a ferocious body assault.
After the seventh round, Sanchez even told Golovkin in the corner that he was behind on the scorecards.
Golovkin took a series of shots to the head in the 10th round, but had a second wind, forcing Canelo to the ropes, and unleashing his power shots. But it did not come without Alvarez responding with fire as the crowd came alive.
Golovkin hurt Canelo with a pair of right hands in the 11th round and hurt him again later in the frame with a big left hook. However, Golovkin, who is an aging fighter at this point in his career, was unable to get into second gear and really hurt Alvarez.
With the scorecards all over the place, Golovkin and Canelo knew the fight would be close if it went the distance, so they fought like it was the last minute of the last fight of their career. Golovkin scored with a hard uppercut over Alvarez and earned a 115-113 score on our scorecard. But the judges had it otherwise.
Moretti, who scored last year's fight 115-113 for Golovkin, and judge Steve Weisfeld both scored the 12th round for Canelo, which gave him the majority decision. Had the judges not even Alvarez the 12th, it would have been a unanimous draw.