His defining, captivating showing behind him, Canelo Alvarez breathed in the satisfaction of delivering Gennady Golovkin his first defeat and all that meant.
By forcing the man who terrorized the division for more than half a decade to retreat, by punching through the cloud that accompanies a positive drug test and by silencing critics with a heartfelt performance, Alvarez won more than two middleweight belts Saturday.
“I did everything we could to complete our objective. All the work we did paid off in the ring,” the Mexican fighter said following his triumph at T-Mobile Arena.
Pursuing Golovkin and tiring the dominant power puncher — whose conditioning and strength built in Big Bear training had resulted in a record-tying 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses without a loss — “was my plan from the beginning,” Alvarez said. “I wanted the knockout, but … I’m satisfied with the victory
The majority-decision margin was razor-thin, decided only by Alvarez (50-1-2) convincing judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld that he won the 12th round. They scored the bout at 115-113; judge Glenn Feldman saw the bout even at 114-114.
By producing 24 intense rounds — including last year’s draw — without either man hitting the canvas, Alvarez and Golovkin seem destined for a trilogy fight. The question is when?
Golovkin said a third meeting is absolutely necessary considering the middleweight landscape offers alternative foes — Billy Joe Saunders, Jermall Charlo, Daniel Jacobs — who come nowhere near the drawing power of this rivalry.
Despite out-landing Alvarez in eight of 12 rounds and 234-202 in overall punches, Golovkin said he wasn’t as bothered by the scoring as he was in their previous fight.
“I’m not very upset. We had a great fight today,” said Golovkin, who required eight stitches over one eye. “I did my job. I controlled all the rounds. It was not my problem, it was the judges’, you know. I feel inside like I’m still champion.”
Alvarez acknowledged “we’ll do it again” in the ring, but as the soreness of Saturday’s session soaked in later in the night, he turned his head with an expression that looked like “maybe” when asked if there will be a third fight.
Alvarez told De La Hoya to book a Dec. 15 bout, and the favored opponent is former International Boxing Federation middleweight champ David Lemieux, who scored a first-round knockout of Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan on Saturday’s card.
“I hope I fight Canelo in December. I’ll fight him in November,” Lemieux said.
Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez said for a third meeting to come on Cinco de Mayo weekend next year, the public will have to push for it.
“Obviously, Triple-G’s camp is going to want it, but we have to be real here: They both just survived a devastating war,” Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya told The Times. “They’re tired, and it’d be silly to match them up back to back to back again. Canelo’s going to go down his own path to super-stardom. This fight took him there. Triple-G has to regroup himself, get a couple more wins, maybe, until we do it again.”
De La Hoya was thrilled that the bout fulfilled the hype and let him live vicariously through his fighter. De La Hoya had advised Alvarez to press forward and not squander this chance.
“Great fight, and Canelo was the aggressor, so does that mean that Triple-G was running?” De La Hoya asked, a shot at Sanchez, who criticized Alvarez for backing up in the first fight.
“Canelo was using the body shots … I knew Triple-G wouldn’t like getting hit in the body. Canelo executed this fight perfectly. He closed the show. And boxing needed this energy boost. It got a shot in the arm today, for sure.”
Margaret Goodman, head of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn. that collected Alvarez’s positive samples, said the new champion submitted more than 20 follow-up blood and urine samples since February.
Sanchez, who spent the past year as Alvarez’s most vocal critic, acknowledged the chiding was intended to bring Alvarez forward and create the kind of action that would leave him exposed to Golovkin’s best punches. Alvarez absorbed those, took the fight to Golovkin and took away his belts, too.
“I goaded him into this,” Sanchez said. “Canelo fought a great fight. We can’t be hypocritical and I don’t want to take anything away from Canelo. ... He redeemed himself. He’s an exceptional fighter.”