Reversal of Fortune - Canelo is the New Middleweight King

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Once again Gennady GGG Golovkin & Saul Canelo Alvarez delivered magic in the ring. 

Somehow, the sequel was better than the first movie, which rarely happens!

12 rounds, fought for the majority in the center of the ring and toe-to-toe.

Once again, a controversial decision pours cold water on what should be remembered as a great fight, arguably the best middleweight fight seen in some time.

It was a true reversal of fortune, very little precedent set in the first bout between the two men that went down 364 days prior was upheld tactically. For one, Canelo came to fight, he used much less defensive footwork compared to the first bout, possibly because it taxed his legs so much and possibly because Canelo may still have a lingering knee issue as the kinesio tape around Canelo’s right knee would suggest.

Either way, one could go so far as to say Canelo dominated the first 2-3 three rounds, staying in the pocket counter punching sharply and even pressuring GGG at times! Both men employed stiff jabs as they attempted to gain a slight advantage.

Canelo once again pulled ahead of GGG in the first few rounds as in the first fight, though this time due to his phenomenal work rate, aggression and pressure and less because GGG seemed out of sorts.

In the middle rounds, the action tightened and sharpened! GGG seemed to tire, his punches lacked their usual menace, the near 10 year age gap more evident. GGG was gaining steam however, he was catching and rolling Canelo’s shots better than he had early on, GGG was far more diligent with his jab in this fight versus their previous meeting.

The crowd at the T-Mobile Arena reflected the action as it continued a steady simmer and as it reached its boiling point in the later rounds the crowd was brought to its feet on multiple occasions. 

At one point between rounds seven and eight GGG’s trainer, Abel Sanchez could be heard in the corner telling his fighter we’re losing this fight, and they were, the first few rounds went to Canelo clearly while the middle rounds were nip and tuck with GGG battling back.

GGG had the biggest moment of the fight in round nine when he slipped a looping hook from Canelo and landed a hard right straight that rocked Canelo who stumbled back and appeared stiff legged. Canelo showed grit and ring IQ beyond his years as he thwarted GGG’s attempts to capitalize.

In the latter rounds, as in their first bout GGG seemed to gain in strength, the tables began to turn and GGG increased the pressure at one point in the 11th round he successfully backed Canelo up to the ropes and fired off punches, very few landing solidly. 

The last round was a war, GGG came out guns blazing and seemed to be going in for the kill, like a Spartan, Canelo refused to give much ground and battled back. In the first bout, Canelo seemed to fade after only 60-90 seconds of action in the championship rounds, here though it was GGG who seemed unable to sustain his pace and Canelo battled back. The twelfth and final round came to an end with Canelo the aggressor in the last 10 seconds.

Once again we would go to the judge's cards.

Glenn Feldman scored the bout a draw, 114-114. Both Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored the bout 115-113 or 7 rounds to 5 for Canelo Alvarez. 

GGG was so shocked and disappointed he immediately left the ring without a post-fight in-ring interview. He did appear at the post-fight press conference where interestingly enough GGG, whose English is exemplary chose instead to answer questions through a Russian translator, the passive-aggressive move suggesting GGG had shut down and could not be bothered to engage with the Vegas crowd of journalists. 

It was yet another case of the “A Side” or “House Fighter” getting the nod in close rounds. It was a close, entertaining fight and unlike the first bout, a draw would have actually been appropriate this time around! I personally don’t see how anyone could score seven rounds to Canelo and social media has exploded with their usual mix of hysteria calling the decision a robbery, which is not accurate either, leaving a fight in the hands of the judges is always a risk but it does seem with certain fighters - Canelo and Floyd Mayweather before him that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. 

Canelo fought out of his skin though and the record will always show Canelo scored a victory - the most important of his career over GGG, the boogeyman of boxing for nearly a decade.

However, Canelo should be careful what he wishes for. He won all of GGG’s belts and now he’s saddled with all of GGG’s mandatory challengers. Jermall Charlo, Billy Joe Saunders, David Lemieux, Ryota Murata to name a few will all be waiting to jump Canelo at the first opportunity. Many of those I just mentioned are winnable fights, none of them are easy!

Moreover, unlike waiting until GGG had visibly slowed down before taking him on Charlo and Saunders, for example, are all younger and hungrier than Canelo!

Ultimately the legacy of Canelo vs GGG I & II will be stained by judging when we should focus on the two fights themselves, particularly this one. Yet sometimes fights become Classics because of controversial judging. Leonard vs. Hagler is a good example. Though in my and the opinion of many Leonard did clearly beat Hagler, Leonard waited until Hagler had passed his sell-by date and was given a gift decision according to Hagler anyway and the fight remains one of the most hotly debated of the last 30 years. 

Canelo fought with his heart and his chin last night and in doing so his brave performance only endeared himself to fight fans more,  along with dispelling any lingering doubts about either. Canelo also likely dismissed any accusations of cheating through the use of PEDs.

However, Canelo, Golden Boy and company did nothing to remove the stigma that Canelo may need the help of friendly Vegas judges. 

In the eyes of many, Canelo always wins and Boxing always loses.