Saturday night's showdown between top rated junior-middleweights Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Austin "No Doubt" Trout was not without a little controversy. From the WBC's open scoring system to the surprisingly wide cards of judges Stanley Christodoulou and Oren Shellenberger, fans had plenty to fuss about when debating the unanimous decision in favor of Golden Boy's Mexican star.
All was fine until just before the start of the 10th round when it was revealed that the official judges cards had Alvarez up by a commanding score of 80-71, 78-73 and 76-75. Given Trout's technical approach and lack of fight changing power, the big lead held by Alvarez on two cards sucked the drama out of what appeared to most as a closely contested match. The Showtime crew were taken aback by the official tallies, and judging by fan reaction in the Bad Left Hook live-thread, along with the Twitter universe, the feeling among most fight fans ranged from disappointment to anger.
Watching live, I usually keep a running tally in my head - though it's never a score I feel overly confident in. The winner of some rounds are plainly obvious, but unless you're completely focused on judging, it's very difficult to accurately gauge close sessions. That goes for commentators, writers & fans - as we're often too absorbed by the enjoyment of the spectacle to keep an accurate measure of the back-and-forth action between the ropes. So if you're score is 114-113 (or even a little wider) after a single viewing, you might want to take a second look before declaring you're definite about the winner.
So were the judges wildly out of line?
Let's have a closer look at what went down last night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Almost nothing of note was landed in the first 3 minutes. Trout kept firing out a busy jab, but from a safe enough distance that he wasn't going to land it and Alvarez wasn't going to be in range to counter. Every once in awhile, Alvarez loaded up, and fired back with purpose - but he was almost always short, or wild, and it was difficult to tell if anything found the mark.
I'm going with 10-10.
"Stop, stop, stop..!!"
"You have to score a winner! Official judges have to score a winner, so you need to do it too!"
"But It would be like flipping a coin... or going with some silly style preference. Do you really want a fight potentially decided by nonsense like that?"
"For #!@* sakes. Fine, you've talked me into it. I'm going to watch the 1st round again... and nit-pick my way to a winner."
"Good, do it."
So I'm watching it again. Al Bernstein tries to help me out just over a 1:15 into the round when he says that Trout's jabs are occasionally landing. They're not though... I'm watching, and they're not landing. With about 1:25 left, Trout fires a left hand to the body. Might have landed, but I think it was short. A moment later, Alvarez comes forward with a 3 punch flurry, but catches nothing but air. The crowd goes wild though - perhaps a signal for the official judges, who might not have a clear view of every punch, that Alvarez scored. Trout spins away, and Alvarez fires a right hand, but he's short with it. The crowd cheers again. We're now 2 minutes into the round, and nobody has connected.
Wait, wait, just after both fighters are short with jabs, Trout wings a right hand that is partially blocked, but may have clipped the side of Canelo's head. With 25 seconds left, Alvarez goes for it, loading up with a big right hand, but he misses badly and winds up woefully out of position, only Trout can't capitalize, also missing with a return 1-2. Looking at a slow-mo replay however, it appears that as Canelo was coming in with the roundhouse shot, Trout actually caught him with a glancing jab.
With 15 seconds left, Canelo makes another play for the round, but catches nothing but air on a left hook, right hand combo. Trout may have got in a body shot in return, but it's hard to tell if it connected, and Laurence Cole is quick to break the fighters, feeling that Alvarez was pushing down. And that's the last bit of action before the bell.
So did my mind change on watching the round again?
Yes, it did and I'm going with Trout. He made Canelo miss badly on occasion, so extra points for defense. He also forced the issue more than Alvarez, and though only a couple shots may have landed, he let his hands go more and that should count for something.
After 1, it's 10-9 Austin Trout on my card.
This was an easier round to score. Trout scored with a couple of jabs in the first minute of the session, but Canelo earned the frame when he caught the taller man with a good clean uppercut. It wasn't a particularly hard blow, but it knocked Trout's head back, and with not much else happening, was enough to even up the contest on my card.
10-9 Alvarez and 19-19 after 2.
The showtime crew felt this was another tough round to score, though I thought it was a clear round for Trout. He landed more, he landed cleaner and was quite adept at making Canelo miss with return fire.
Trout landed a couple of jabs during an uneventful first minute, before stopping Alvarez in his tracks with a very nice 1-2. This was easily the best moment for either man in the round. Alvarez tried to fire back, but missed with a follow-up flurry. The crowd cheered, as from their vantage point, it may have looked like Alvarez broke through. Alvarez had a few more bursts of energy over the next 45 seconds, but couldn't connect, though the crowd again cheered after another flurry of misses, while play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo gave the youngster credit for a 1-2 and a right hand - though none appeared to land clean. Trout snapped home a couple more jabs, while the best Alvarez could do was a glancing shot that appeared to hit Trout's shoulder.
Through two minutes, all the good work had been done by Trout, though Alvarez had got the cheers. It's not hard to see a judge, especially if he misses 1 or 2 connects, being swayed by the reaction of the fans. Even the Showtime crew, IMO, were influenced by this factor. Over the remaining minute, Trout scored with a few jabs, while Canelo may have found the mark with 1 or 2 right hands downstairs - he fired off 3 or 4, and it was difficult to tell what landed and what didn't.
10-9 Trout and 29-28 after 3.
I had to watch this round an extra time before settling on a score. Early on, Trout out-hustled Canelo, making the crowd favorite look wild at times. And with Canelo firing away and missing with right hands, the edge at the halfway point of the frame belonged to Trout, thanks to a few clean jabs and a left to the body. Trout put a left hand through Canelo's guard with about 1:05 left to extend the lead, but Canelo scored with an uppercut a moment later to keep it close. Canelo landed a stinging jab with about 12 seconds left, and another, before Trout scored with a counter left.
When judging the clean connects, I thought Trout had the slimmest of edges. So I'm giving Trout the round 10-9, and I've got it 39-37 after 4.
To emphasize how close this fight is so far, this was yet another round that I need to watch an extra time before settling on a winner. Through the first minute, the scoring blows were nearly all jabs, with Trout holding a slight edge. Yet when Canelo fired off a right hand, that was clearly short, the crowd buzzed - and as mentioned, in tight rounds, judges aren't immune to crowd noise. With about 1:40 to go, Trout landed a cuffing right, before Canelo forces him to the ropes, and managed to score with a right under the elbow. Half-way through the round, Trout is ahead, but just barely.
Just past the 1:25 mark, Canelo landed a glancing right, and a jab - and at this stage, I think that might put him slightly in front. With a minute to go, Trout lands a right hand after an awkward exchange along the ropes, but Canelo quickly comes back with a scoring right to the body - and pulls slightly ahead. With less than 10 seconds to go, Trout lands a left hand to the body that evens it up, only for Canelo to respond with a right hand that clips the side of Trout's jaw.
And with that right hand, Alvarez gets the round 10-9 on my card. Through 5, it's 48-47 Trout.
I have to say... I WISH even rounds weren't so discouraged. If you need to watch a round 3 times to find a winner - that should be a 10-10 round. And 1, 4 & 5 were those sort of rounds.
This was easily the best round of the fight so far, with both fighters having multiple good moments. I had Canelo with a clear edge through the first minute thanks to a couple of solid right hands. He scored with a left hook at about the 1:10 mark, before extending the lead with an uppercut a moment later. Finally, a round that might be easy to score! Not so fast... as Trout landed a counter left to the body, before scoring with a jab and a left that just found it's way around the guard.
Canelo still has the lead with a minute to go, but it's been cut into. Trout further bites into the gap with a flurry along the ropes - though he misses with the majority of shots, a couple of left hands glance off Canelo's head. A jab also finds the mark, before Canelo fires off a pair of shots that both miss. Trout scores again, this time with a left to the body and with 30 seconds to go... he's out-hustled Alvarez, and got the edge on my card. Not over though, as Canelo lands a thudding right with 20 seconds to go, before securing the round with a hard right uppercut in the closing seconds.
Paulie Malignaggi exclaims that he hopes that last shot from Canelo didn't steal it, as it was a Trout round. If you're going strictly by volume, maybe so, but Alvarez landed the two best punches of the round - and given how close it was, that's enough to get the nod on my card.
10-9 Alvarez and 57-57 at the half-way point.
In terms of clear rounds, I think each fighter has 1 so far. The 2nd for Alvarez and the 3rd for Trout. I'm most comfortable saying Trout also won the 1st, only because Alvarez did absolutely nothing in that frame. And I'll say Alvarez has a much better argument for the 6th... but rounds 4 & 5, those were almost coin flips.
About 12 seconds into the round, Canelo breaks through with a crunching right hand to the side of Trout's jaw. The punch lands flush, and Trout does a stutter step, before losing his balance and dropping down. He's up almost instantly, and not only survives the perilous moment, but quickly works his way back into the round.
There was a terrific exchange of power shots about 40 second mark, and with Trout scoring with a hard left, and Canelo almost instantly replying with a big right. A couple of cuffing shots landed for Trout, and a jab too, and after 6 tactical cagey rounds, we've got a real fight. With about 1:40 to go, Trout was wobbled after getting clipped by a right while leaning in, but again came back hard, scoring with some of his best punches of the fight so far in second half of the round.
Al Bernstein posed the scoring question after the 3 minutes were up... do you make it 10-8, or 10-9 for Canelo? On Malignaggi's card, he made it 10-9.
I'm going with 10-8 for Alvarez. Yes, Trout did battle back and have some good moments. But he also got hit hard a few times after the knockdown, and didn't do quite enough to make it 10-9. After 7, I'm got Alvarez up 67-65.
If there's one glaring weakness with Saul Alvarez, it's his stamina. He fights is short bursts, and can't sustain activity without needing a good long rest afterward. He worked hard to try and press his advantage after the knockdown, and was showing sings of fatigue by the end of round 7. In Round 8, he spent most of the time killing the clock along the perimeter. Trout didn't do a whole lot either, but he pushed the pace, and landed just a little bit more.
10-9 Trout, with 76-75 overall for Alvarez.
This was another very tough round to score.
Canelo scored with the right a couple of times, including a good 1-2 in the first minute to open up a little bit of a lead. Another right hand landed at the 1:15 mark to extend the Alvarez margin. Trout battled back though. He closed the gap with a little counter right, a straight left, and then a nice left uppercut. A cuffing right hand and a right to the body, and with 1:15 to go, Trout has hustled his way into the lead. But Alvarez lands a right hand with about 45 seconds left. Trout fired back with a flurry, though nothing appeared to land. He score with a left to the body though with about 35 seconds to go. At this stage, the round is very much up for grabs... and neither man does anything to grab it.
10-10, I'm scoring it even.
"What, you can't..."
"I can, and I'm going to!"
"You've come this far. You're nearing the home stretch without resorting to 10-10... don't stop splitting hairs at this stage. Find a winner, damnit!"
"You know, if this was the thirties or the forties, I could score a whole bunch of rounds even and nobody would have an issue with it. I could say that through 9 rounds, I've got the fight 3-2 with 4 rounds even, and that would be perfectly fine."
"Watch it again and pick a winner."
"When you consider that I watched the fight live already before this scorecard headache, I've already watched the round twice and surely if I can't come up with a winner after two viewings, it's more sensible to go with 10-10."
"Stop complaining and watch it again."
"Oh for... fine, I'll watch it again!"
So I watched it again... and I gave it to Alvarez. Gave him a little more credit for his work over the first 1:15, and he scored with a couple of glancing jabs in the last 30 seconds of the round. Very slim margin, but I think he just nicked it.
10-9 Alvarez and he leads 86-84 through 9.
This was a clear round for Trout. By this stage, the official cards had already spelled out the result, and to his credit, Trout didn't accept his fate without giving it a go. He came out strong and pushed the pace, looking to land with more authority - which he did, catching Alvarez with multiple shots over the first minute of the round. Alvarez had one really good moment, catching his newly aggressive foe with a hard right uppercut about 1:20 into the session. He also landed a right hand with about a minute to go, but Trout dug in and outworked Alvarez over the last minute to definitely take the round.
10-9 Trout with Alvarez clinging to a 95-94 lead through 10.
The Showtime crew had it very tight as well after 10 - 95-95 (Bernstein) 95-94 Alvarez (Farhood) and 96-95 Alvarez (Malignaggi).
This was a really close round through the first couple minutes, before Alvarez pulled away over the final third of the session. A clean right hand with just under a minute left started it off, and with Trout forced to press, Canelo took advantage of countering opportunities, scoring with several good right hands. Trout smacked him back with a couple of good lefts in the last 15 seconds, but it wasn't enough to turn the round in his favor.
10-9 Alvarez in the 11th. Overall, he's up 105-103 on my card.
Trout fought aggressively early and got some decent whacks in to open up a good lead through the first minute. Canelo came back with a right hand, but Trout quickly took the play away with a left around the guard, a jab, and a couple more cuffing lefts. Trout kept working, and was well out in front heading into the final minute, though Canelo would close very strongly. A left hand scored for Alvarez with 45 seconds to go, and he found the body with a right hand a little bit later. Both scored in a good exchange, before Canelo landed a good right with about 20 seconds to go. It was the last meaningful action, as Canelo backed away knowing he had it won.
Even with the good finish from Alvarez, I thought Trout did more than enough to take the final round. 10-9 Trout in the 12th, but he comes up a little short on my card, as Alvarez takes it 114-113.
**** Before anyone mentions it, I'm aware that open scoring impacted how the fight was fought over the last few rounds. Both fighters knew what the situation was, and while Trout upped his intensity, Canelo cooled his output. ****
The crew had is extremely tight as well - 114-114 (Bernstein), 114-113 Alvarez (Farhood) and 115-114 Alvarez (Malignaggi).
Unanimous for Alvarez - 118-109 (Stanley Christodoulou), 116-111 (Oren Shellenberger) and 115-112 (Rey Danseco).
Other notable scores (the split is almost 50/50)...
James Foley (Bad Left Hook): 115-112 Alvarez
Patrick Connor (Queensbury Rules): 117-110 Trout
Kory Kitchen (Bad Left Hook): 115-112 Alvarez
Cliff Rold (Boxing Scene): 116-111 Trout
Bart Barry (15 Rounds): 115-114 Alvarez
Lee Wylie (The Sweet Science): 115-112 Trout
Jake Donovan (Boxing Scene): 115-112 Alvarez
Brian Campbell (ESPN): 115-112 Trout
Adam Abramowitz (Saturday Night Boxing) 115-112 Alvarez
Mark Ortega (RingTV): 114-113 Trout
John Whisler (San Antonio Express-News): 117-110 Alvarez
Lem Satterfield (RingTV): 114-113 Trout
Michael Rosenthal (RingTV): 114-113 Alvarez
Tom Gray (Seconds Out): 114-113 Trout
Bob Velin (USA Today): 114-113 Alvarez
Tim Dahlberg (Associated Press): 114-113 Alvarez
Steve Zemach (Queensbury Rules): 114-113 Trout
Alex McClintock (Queensbury Rules): 115-112 Alvarez
Ryan Maquinana (Boxing Scene): 114-113 Trout
Dan Rafael (ESPN): 114-113 Alvarez
Steve Lillis (BoxNation): 115-114 Trout
Ryan Burton (Boxing Scene): 115-112 Alvarez
Raymond Markarian (The Sweet Science): 115-112 Trout
Paul Magno (Boxing Tribune): 114-113 Alvarez
Stephen Smith (British fighter): 115-114 Trout
Ishe Smith (American fighter): 116-111 Alvarez