Canelo Alvarez redeemed his name, reputation and ability Saturday night, rising to the criticism, pressure and experience of his bitter rival to take away Gennady Golovkin’s two middleweight belts by majority decision.
Alvarez, drawing on his youth and passion to erase the stain of a positive drug test earlier this year, turned in an impassioned showing in their rematch to pile up rounds in the middle of the fight, and then survived as Golovkin raged back down the stretch.
“I’m a great fighter and I showed it tonight,” said Alvarez (50-1-2). “I showed my victory with facts. He was the one who was backing up. I feel satisfied … it was a clear victory.”
While judge Glenn Feldman scored the bout even, 114-114, judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld had it 115-113 for Alvarez, and both awarded Alvarez the deciding 12th round in front of 21,965 at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’m not going to say who won tonight because the victory belongs to Canelo, according to the judges,” said Golovkin (38-1-1), who needed eight stitches over his right eye. “I thought it was a very good fight for the fans and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.”
Mexico’s Alvarez takes away Golovkin’s unbeaten record, his record-tying 20-fight unbeaten streak in middleweight title fights, and his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. belts by defeating the 36-year-old from Kazakhstan.
“I can’t complain. That’s what we have the judges for,” said Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez, who vehemently objected to the scoring in last year’s draw.
Respect, resolve and admiration replaced the vitriol that built to Saturday’s bout, and after Golovkin clocked Alvarez with an uppercut as the final bell tolled, the fighters moved in to embrace — a decided turnabout from Friday, when they could barely bring themselves to face off.
The championship fight was preceded by yearlong acrimony stemming both from Golovkin’s anger at feeling wronged by Nevada judging in last September’s draw, and the fighters’ intense back-and-forth over whether Alvarez’s positive tests for the banned stamina-building substance clenbuterol were proof he was a cheater.
Nevada’s athletic commission slapped Alvarez with a six-month suspension, delaying their planned Cinco de Mayo rematch.
Alvarez reported to fight week leaner, vowing to rely on his hand speed and being eight years younger in his attempt to beat Golovkin to the punch, while incorporating more counter-punches into his fight plan this time.
It worked. Alvarez whipped a hard, defining right hand to Golovkin’s head in the fifth round, and the volume of punches left Golovkin backing up in the sixth —a rarity for the attacking fighter who once knocked out 23 consecutive foes and created his moniker, “Big Drama Show.”
Alvarez authored the drama this time, pressuring Golovkin, whose legs lumbered through the sixth and seventh rounds, and Sanchez informed his fighter on the stool before the eighth, “We’re losing the fight.”
Because of the scorecards last year, Golovkin said he had strong incentive to keep the outcome from the judges’ hands thus time. However, Alvarez continued to outwork Golovkin (38-1-1) in the ninth round, until Golovkin dug deep and launched an array of punches in the 10th and 11th, bringing the crowd to its feet.
The roaring continued after they touched gloves to start the 12th, and while each man landed convincing punches in the final three minutes, the final round was a toss-up.
Final punch stats showed Golovkin landed 234 of 879 punches (26.6%) and Alvarez landed 202 of 622 (32.5%). Overall, Golovkin out-landed Alvarez in eight of the rounds.
“We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around,” Sanchez said after calling Alvarez a runner following the first bout. “It’s close enough to warrant a third fight.”
Alvarez acknowledged he agrees with Sanchez and all the others wanting more.