Tonight's main event at the raucous Alamadome in San Antonio lived up to the hype in terms of quality, and had what is likely going to be the best atmosphere of any fight in the world this year, as 39,472 fans (official attendance) made it a truly special night on Showtime boxing.
Canelo Alvarez came out the decision winner over Austin Trout, unifying the WBC and WBA titles by scores of 115-112, 116-111, and 118-109. The WBC's awful open scoring was in effect, so viewers on TV were able to find out that after eight rounds, Trout (26-1, 14 KO) was mathematically out of the fight.
This also allowed Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO) to cruise down the stretch, avoiding risks that he may otherwise have taken had he suspected there was a possibility he could have lost the fight.
It needs to be said that both guys fought well tonight. Canelo did more damage, including putting Trout on the canvas in the seventh round with a beautiful right hand that shook Trout's legs, staggering him to the canvas. It was the first time Trout had been down in his career, and he responded pretty well, with some observers even feeling he did enough in the round to earn a 9-10 score instead of 8-10.
Much of the fight was closely contested, and intense, though rarely exciting in the traditional sense. What stood out in a big way was the defensive work of Canelo Alvarez, whose head movement was much better than ever before, and allowed him to slip a lot of shots. Trout was really unable to connect on anything big, but he also was able to dictate the pace in many rounds, and used his jab to keep the fight at his pace and distance enough that it wouldn't have been hard to score the fight in his favor.
Also notable on that front is that Alvarez, who had the showier moments, did still fight in spurts too often. At times, he looked like the boss, a hard-hitting slugger who could physically push Trout around. At other times, he was stuck in a standstill mode, with Trout maybe not dominating him, but simply doing more work.
It is a hard fight to recap, in that I don't have enormously strong feelings about the outcome. I could see Trout winning, and I could see Canelo winning. It was a good, close fight, a matchup that delivered in the ring as it should have, equaling its on-paper potential.
The only thing I do have a strong opinion on is that open scoring does nobody any favors. The nonsense that it would help eradicate poor judging is clearly just a press release line; it's not like anything has ever been done about bad scores in fights with open scoring. The only difference, really, is that we knew after eight rounds that Trout had lost the fight, unless he managed a miracle knockout. That, to me, both takes the drama out of the fight for a viewer who knows the score, and also allows a fighter to totally change his approach in a fight that looks closer than the scores at ringside are in reality, or at least "reality."
But if there is any great question about the legitimacy of Canelo's win, you only have to ask Trout, who was candid and gracious in defeat.
"He was the better man," Trout told Showtime's Jim Gray. "He was quicker, he was stronger, he was the better man."
Trout said he'd make no excuses. Then, in the upset of the year, he actually made zero excuses. On a night where you could complain about some of what happened on the officiating side (though it should be said that referee Laurence Cole was invisible and did a good job), it was nice to end the evening on a good note. Canelo talked no trash, nor did Trout. They were admirable in victory and defeat.
Alvarez marches forward as a rising superstar. Trout says he'll be back, and given his track record of going further than he's supposed to, I have to believe him.