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Canelo vs GGG 2: Reflections on middleweight perfection

After an enthralling rematch on Saturday night between the world’s best middleweights, what can we reflect on?

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

The dust has settled in the Nevada desert, and like it or loathe it, we have a new middleweight champion of the world.

Winning a majority decision on the judge’s scorecards, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez bested Gennady Golovkin 114-114, 115-113, 115-113 in a middleweight scrap for the ages; a breathtaking, brutal humdinger perfectly suited for the self-titled fight capital of the world.

Being based in the UK, this fight was witnessed through lethargic lenses having made the decision to stay up for the 04:15 start; winning a split decision against an early night and setting the feared alarm at an ungodly, unpredictable hour.

This decision was based on the undercard, and despite the three fights finishing with expected victors, the combined nine rounds of action left a hunger in the pit of my stomach, only to be starved for another ninety minutes until the main event started.

This gap allowed the UK broadcasters to show a repeat of the first Canelo-GGG fight. Sure, a suitable hors d’oeuvrs to the 12 rounds that would follow, however, re-living the controversial nature of the first fight on the night of the rematch acted as a reinforcement to my already pro-GGG stance.

That 118-110 scorecard from Adalaide Byrd will live long in the memory; seeing it announced once again, accompanied by the shocked, sharp intake of breath from the T-Mobile Arena crowd, concreted the narrative for the rematch in my sleep-deprived head: justice had to be served.

Sport — especially boxing — is emotional. We get embroiled in stories; romance; narration; empathy, but for me, as soon as the opening bell rang in the early hours of Sunday morning, all of these predispositions disappeared.

For 12 rounds (okay, perhaps 11), Canelo and GGG went hell-for-leather, standing, trading, and fighting the fight that we all craved 12 months previous. Canelo showed — in true Mexican style — that he had cojones. The 28-year-old stood in front of the Kazakh, refusing to retreat to the ropes, firing thudding body shots and fast combinations, while the champion jabbed and hooked at a constant, high-octane rate.

They gelled. The old adage “styles make fights” has seldom been more appropriate for a contest; Canelo’s willingness to engage righted many of the wrongs we saw stylistically — from a fan’s point of view — from the first fight. This was middleweight perfection.

Both fighters seemed immune to the poison thrown by their opponent. Stinging uppercuts from Canelo and vicious overhand rights from GGG were shaken off like a wet dog on a winter’s walk; the list of victims who have tasted the canvas after the same punishment is harrowing.

There were sways in momentum, plenty of swing rounds and a crescendo befitting of the 33 minutes that had preceded it. The lack of a knockdown and the obvious pugilistic drama easily enjoyed by the casual fan was made irrelevant by the class on show inside the T-Mobile Arena. Every round was absorbing, every punch was measured and every second was unmissable.

This fight was always going to be hard to score. Personally, I had it a draw at 114-114; Canelo winning four of the first six and GGG winning four of the last six. The official scorecards reflected the competitive nature of the fight, and with so many swing rounds throughout the twelve rounds, the cries of “robbery” post-fight were, quite frankly, absurd.

We had to judge this fight in isolation to the first. I’ve made no secret of my favoritism towards GGG in this rematch due to the culmination of Canelo’s controversial last 12 months, however, there is no denying Canelo’s performance on Saturday night; he was asked to come and fight by Abel Sanchez and Golovkin, and boy, he did.

Fights between such well-matched opponents are often decided by the smallest of margins. An inch-long cut to Canelo’s left eye was handled incredibly by his corner who we able to stem the blood and avoid it trickling into the eye of the challenger for half of the fight; I wouldn’t fancy having impaired vision whilst trying to negate Golovkin’s overhand right.

Golovkin’s lack of bodywork is also a fine margin. The Kazakh seemed reluctant to work the body of the Mexican with the same velocity and consistency that he has done in the past; crippling Matthew Macklin to the canvas with two broken ribs is stark evidence of the artillery that GGG was reluctant to use. Perhaps the risk of Canelo’s quick counters upstairs was too strong to ignore.

The last round is a definition of a fine margin. If Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld score the final three minutes to GGG, we would have had a pure draw at 114-114 x3: rarely seen in the sport.

Do we want a third? Yes. Are we likely to get it? Maybe, but it’s unlikely to happen for another year. Another year on the body of Golovkin will swing the tide further still in the favor of the Mexican middleweight champion, so perhaps we should leave this here? Golovkin won just one of the six scorecards over their 24 rounds contested; he knows he won’t be favored in Vegas, so what can he change next time around?

In an ideal world, the Saunders-Andrade winner should fight Golovkin and the Jacobs-Derevyanchenko winner should fight Canelo. If these fights materialize, we are on for an undisputed middleweight unification in May or September next year. However, we know this is highly unlikely. Canelo has expressed his interest in a December return — probably against David Lemieux — and Golovkin will continue to chase the trilogy as soon as possible with the miles on his clock continuing to tick.

Controversy sells, and before this rematch, we had plenty of it. Sure, we will probably have plenty afterward with scorecards still being debated across the globe, however, for those 36 minutes, the boxing world stood still. Two warriors going toe-to-toe, both displaying power of heavyweights, chins of granite and technique of seasoned flyweights. Who knows if we will get to see such a finely balanced, well-matched contest, at such a perfect weight in the near future. All I know is: this one will live long in the memory.

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