In their third bout, which took place on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez overcame a waning Gennady Golovkin by unanimous decision, putting an end to their bitter rivalry and their terrible year. The only surprise was that the judges, for once, were friendly to Golovkin. Alvarez, the undisputed super-middleweight champion of the world. Two scorecards read 115-113, which was strange. The third official’s decision to favor Lvarez, 116–112, was a little more accurate.
Golovkin, a former great world champion who is now a 40-year-old man in the brutal ring, was too young, too strong, and too motivated for Alvarez. Golovkin cut a subdued figure from the opening bell of a one-sided fight in the harsh lighting and under the reverberating force of Alvarez’s strong punches. He had trouble making an impact, and in the first seven rounds, he looked like a defeated version of the once-dominant middleweight champion who ruled his category for so many years.
Alvarez, on the other hand, Lvarez approached his craft with ferocity and power. He was persistent in pushing Golovkin back and was forceful, though occasionally wild. By the time round five was over, the older man appeared lonesome, sitting on his stool in the corner. His face was red, and a lump was beginning to appear beneath his right eye.
Golovkin appeared to need to summon all of his enormous bravery to survive a steady and deliberate battering as Alvarez continued to land significant blows. But to his credit, Golovkin pushed himself to the limit and occasionally displayed strong effort. In the ninth and tenth rounds, Golovkin finally let his hands fly, drawing Alvarez into a genuine fight. Unlike the helpless referees, he knew he had to do something special to try to change the fight’s direction, so he fought with real purpose and passion for those six minutes.
Golovkin delivered some painful blows that even forced Alvarez against the ropes. But in these fiercely contested encounters, Alvarez still threw back a lot of blows. Golovkin should have been given the victory in both rounds, but that was the extent of his night’s accomplishments.
On Saturday, during the bout, Canelo Lvarez connected with a right shot.
He made an effort to capitalize on that momentum, but in the fight’s closing stages, Alvarez easily won. Golovkin may count this victory as one of his most rewarding victories in a professional career that began in 2005 when he was only 15 years old, despite the warnings about his youth and underwhelming performances.
The loud Mexican fans of Alvarez once again electrified T-Mobile Arena, where he has a problematic past. When Dmitry Bivol outboxed him here in May, he lost for just the second time in 17 years. Although it was still obvious that Alvarez was the smaller man than Bivol, despite moving up in weight to challenge for the light-heavyweight world championship, the aura of the giant Mexican fighter was severely damaged. He was upset and exposed to Bivol.
Naturally, Golovkin had already dismantled the Canelo hype train, which had only recently begun to gather steam when he first faced Alvarez at T-Mobile five years ago this week. Most unbiased observers believed Golovkin had won that bout, but the judges in Las Vegas gave it a damagingly contentious draw. They fought again in the same ring in September of the following year, when Lvarez won a very tight decision in a less heated way. At the time, it was clear that he and Golovkin were almost as good of champions as each other.
In the following four years, Lvarez grew to the position of a celebrated boxing champion while simultaneously turning into the cash cow of this ancient, selfish industry. He demonstrated himself to be a superb technician and developed into a person of intrigue both inside and outside the ring. But Golovkin’s legacy continued to loom over him. The fact that a third fight between them would be put off for years while Golovkin, a Kazakh fighter who is not nearly as popular as Canelo, toiled in relative obscurity, seemed typical of boxing.
Golovkin and his followers assumed that Alvarez, who is a cunning businessman in addition to being a brutal boxer, was merely anticipating the middle age of his greatest adversary before scheduling a rematch. Golovkin, who is older, had a difficult night because Alvarez, 32, is eight years younger than him.
Alvarez’s left hand was the only actual damage; he disclosed after the fight that it would need surgery. But in May of next year, he’ll likely go on to the far riskier challenge of trying to defeat Bivol, who is neither old nor ring-weary. Golovkin’s own chances of winning a fight are much less guaranteed. However, it should not be forgotten that he was a fierce and unyielding world champion for the majority of his career. He was at least as skilled as Lvarez during their first two fights, if not more so. But Golovkin appeared to be a shadow of his former self on a difficult night in Las Vegas.
At the end of their three fights, Alvarez hugged and comforted his old opponent, who had lost, as if to let him know that it’s okay to give up on time and boxing.