LAS VEGAS -- After 36 rounds and three fights over five years, the long-standing bad blood between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin has been filed away in the history books.
After two controversial outcomes at 160 pounds, Alvarez put a definitive end to boxing’s most bitter rivalry in recent memory, dominating Golovkin from the onset with his speed and power on Saturday evening before a heavily pro-Alvarez crowd of 19,519 at T-Mobile Arena.
Although the bout paled in terms of action compared to their first two classic, bravura performances, Alvarez won a clear unanimous decision to retain the undisputed super middleweight title and rebounded from a one-sided decision loss to light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol in May.
Judge Dave Moretti scored the contest 116-112 while Steve Weisfeld and David Sutherland had it 115-113 for Alvarez. FightNights.com scored it 116-112 for Alvarez.
Both fighters entered their series — with each bout taking place at T-Mobile Arena and on Mexican Independence Day weekend — as friendly rivals. In May 2011, a then-20-year-old Alvarez accepted an offer to spar with Golovkin in Big Bear, California. Immediately following their 24-minute session, the pair posed for pictures.
Their relationship, however, degenerated into bad blood on both sides. The first fight, in September 2017, for Golovkin’s three middleweight world titles, ended in a heavily disputed split draw most ringside observers had Golovkin winning. But that wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In the lead up to the second fight, Alvarez twice tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol in a random drug test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and was suspended for six months. The revelation triggered accusations of doping by Golovkin, which were refuted by Alvarez, who blamed the results on tainted Mexican beef.
Following his suspension, Alvarez won a disputed majority decision to take GGG’s belts and ended his historic middleweight title run after a division record-tying 20 successful defenses. However, the animosity was far from over.
Nearly four years removed from their second clash, Alvarez talked about how personal the fight was to him due to how Golovkin disrespected him over the past few years.
“It’s personal for me because he says a lot of things. You know, guys. That’s why it’s personal. I just can’t wait to be in the ring,” Canelo stated in June while promoting the trilogy. “He’s [two-faced]. He pretends to be a nice guy, but he’s not. He’s an asshole; that’s what he is.”
All of the talk made for a very compelling and highly-anticipated final hurrah between two surefire International Boxing Hall of Fame fighters. But the action was mostly subdued, partially due to Golovkin, who looked every bit his 40-years-of-age.
Although Golovkin briefly rallied in the championship rounds, it wasn’t enough to secure that oh-so-elusive win over Alvarez. When the bell rang to end the fight, they fell into a lengthy embrace and put their half-decade-long rivalry behind them.
“Thank you so much my friend, thank you Golovkin; thank you for everything. We gave the fans three good fights. Thank you for everything,” Alvarez stated after scoring his second consecutive win over Golovkin. “[Golovkin is] a really good fighter. He’s strong. That’s why we are here. I’m going to keep going forward, keep my legacy going.”
Asked if their beef was settled, Golovkin answered, “Yes, 100 percent.”
Going into the fight, Kazakhstan’s Golovkin, fighting outside the middleweight division limit of 160 pounds for the first time in his professional career, had outlanded Mexico’s Alvarez in 18 of 24 rounds. But that was not the case this time around.
From the opening bell, Canelo fought Golovkin at a distance, probing with his jab while Golovkin could not pull the trigger like in previous bouts.
According to CompuBox statistics, Alvarez landed 130 of 487 punches (27 percent), and Golovkin landed 120 of 521 (23 percent).
“More tactical, like chess,” is how Golovkin described the fight compared to the first two contests.
Alvarez had stated throughout their strife that he would become the first man to knock Golovkin out, but while he finally secured a clear win over his arch-nemesis, the knockout was not meant to be.
“First round, I knew he’s tough,” Alvarez said. “He’s a tough fighter. I need surgery; my left hand is not good. But I’m good. I’m a warrior; that’s why I’m here. I can’t hold a glass. It’s really bad. But I’m a warrior.”
Alvarez began to hunt for openings in the second round and connected with a pair of blunt right hands to the body, while Golovkin remained tentative.
That continued into the fourth when Alvarez cracked Golovkin with a solid left hook and followed up with a hard right hand to the head.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), 32, landed a hard overhand right with approximately 20 seconds remaining in the fifth frame, with Golovkin offering no form of resistance.
The crowd grew irritable by the sixth round with the lack of action and began howling as the clock wound down. In the seventh, however, they roared after Alvarez connected with an overhand right to the side of Golovkin’s head.
In the ninth round, Golovkin (42-2-1, 37 KOs) provided a glimpse of the ‘GGG’ of old. He landed a right hand to the head and followed up with a slew of shots that backed Alvarez against the ropes.
Golovkin mixed in a pair of sharp right uppercuts on the inside set up by the jab in the 10th. And in the 11th round, ripped Alvarez open over the right eye and finished with a strong head of steam.
“It didn’t surprise me. I know him,” Alvarez said of Golovkin’s rally. “He’s a strong fighter. For me, I’m just glad to share the ring with him. He’s a really good fighter. I’m glad to be involved in that kind of fight.”
Golovkin explained that his resurgence in the championship rounds was all part of his “strategy” to conserve until the pivotal moments.
“[In the] second half, I feel not bad. It’s a good fight.”
Alvarez is looking ahead to the future. With surgery likely for his left wrist, he probably won’t fight until the spring or summer of next year. Alvarez reiterated that he wants to face Bivol in a rematch, given the unbeaten Russian defeats Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez on Nov. 5.
“Of course, everybody knows [I want the rematch with Bivol],” Alvarez said. “We’ll see what happens in that [Bivol-Ramirez] fight. I need to rest my body. I need to rest my hand, my body, but I will come back stronger. It’s very important for my legacy (to avenge the loss) — for my pride, for my country, for my family, for everything. It’s very important. I will beat him.”
As for Golovkin, he will return to the middleweight division, where he remains a unified titlist.
“I have a great plan. I have a lot of appointments,” Golovkin said. “Congrats today Canelo, congrats fans. Remember, I’m still champion at 160. I come back guys; I’m still champion. I want to shake hands with Canelo.”
The saga is complete; with it, the movie ends just how it began — no bad blood, no ugliness, just respect, and honor.