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The Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin fight lived up to the hype with a classic middleweight battle that ended in a somewhat controversial draw. One judge scored it 118-110 for Canelo, a second judge had it 115-113 for Golovkin and the third had it even.

It was a long path that led Gennady Golovkin to fight Alvarez

Gennady Golovkin (John Locher / Associated Press)
Gennady Golovkin (John Locher / Associated Press)

One of the most debated subjects about Gennady Golovkin is whether he has intentionally allowed recent opponents to land punches on his head.

The theory from the Golovkin side is that by making himself look vulnerable while escaping Madison Square Garden in March with a narrow decision over Daniel Jacobs and before that absorbing an early round pounding in a win over Kell Brook, Golovkin lured Canelo Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya to make the fight with Golovkin.

Mexico’s former two-division champion Alvarez and De La Hoya both laugh at the suggestion, each understanding the pain that accompanies those punches.

But if Golovkin participated in gamesmanship, it was boxing that taught him.

Finally reaching the sport’s ultimate stage atop Saturday’s HBO pay-per-view card has been an arduous journey for the 35-year-old from Kazakhstan.

Carrying only one bag, he flew to Los Angeles in 2010 to work with Big Bear-based trainer Abel Sanchez in preparation for a nontitle fight in Panama.

Now, after posting a first-round knockout in that bout to continue a run of 23 consecutive knockouts, Golovkin can move within one victory of tying Alvarez co-promoter Bernard Hopkins’ record of 20 middleweight title victories.

Throughout, the task of landing fights for Golovkin has been difficult for promoter Tom Loeffler.

Former middleweight champion Felix Sturm obviously avoided him, as did then-middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. appeared to have agreed to a fight at the Forum that would’ve boosted Golovkin’s popularity, but that never happened either.

After four-division champion Miguel Cotto beat Martinez, Golovkin had successfully positioned himself to become Cotto’s World Boxing Council mandatory opponent.

But then Alvarez stepped in and Golovkin agreed to wait to fight that winner.

Then, of course, Alvarez worked out an agreement to fight former 140-pound champion Amir Khan instead of Golovkin and vowed to fight him next in an animated moment inside the T-Mobile Arena ring.

Again, it didn’t happen.

Golovkin reflected on those trials, which started by uprooting himself to seek more exposure by fighting in Germany.

“Germany, the U.S., Sergio Martinez, Chavez Jr., Cotto, Sturm, Canelo,” he said.

When someone asked him if he was excited to finally reach Las Vegas for his first bout here, Golovkin said, “I want to fight. I’ve wanted this fight for a long time. It’s about pound-for-pound … old-school … who’s the best? I just want the ring. It doesn’t matter where.

“It’s very interesting for me. Who I am? Canelo? The reaction, the atmosphere … .”

Loeffler said the bout confirms what he’s always said about Golovkin (37-0, 33 knockouts).

“He always wanted to be the best,” Loeffler said. “He beats Canelo, he is the best.”

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