Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: Gennady Golovkin won the fight. This is not in dispute except on two of the scorecards. Dave Moretti had it right, as did I.
Canelo Alvarez won the first three rounds and the last two. Golovkin won the middle seven. And rather unusually, there was very little doubt about who won any of the rounds. Only once in the fight did I find myself questioning who had won a round, and I quickly shook it off. That was the fifth, and I gave it to Golovkin.
So let’s not even argue about who should have won the fight. Only Adelaide Byrd knows how she came to give 10 of the 12 rounds to a fighter who spent most of the fight moving in reverse, and frankly, I’m not interested in her reasons.
I understand entirely if you bet Golovkin and feel, rightfully, that you were jobbed, but I didn’t bet the fight so I’m not personally affected by the decision. I enjoyed what I saw and didn’t really care about the opinions of two of the three judges.
Which brings me to my point. If today you are thinking, ‘’I’m never watching boxing again because of that decision,’’ I couldn’t disagree more with you.
Because if you do that, you are only penalizing two parties: Yourself. And the boxers.
If you like boxing and you enjoyed the bout, why would you deprive yourself of the pleasure of seeing it again?
And if you respect fighters, why would take an action that would result in punishing them, rather than the ones who deserve to be punished, namely, incompetent and/or corrupt judges, crooked sanctioning organizations, and complicit promoters?
Walking away from boxing means you are walking away from the ones who need your support the most, and that is the boxers. If you choose not to spend your money to watch Golovkin or Canelo work again, you join the ranks of those who victimize boxers. In a way, you are no better than Adelaide Byrd or Don King or whichever tinhorn dictator is running the toxic alphabet soups that have poisoned boxing.
Over the past 35 years, I have covered some horrendous decisions. I was the first one in the ring to interview Roy Jones Jr. for NBC when he got robbed of the gold medal that was rightfully his at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. I was ringside for the Hagler-Leonard fight, the Leonard-Hearns rematch, the Lewis-Holyfield fight at Madison Square Garden and the Whitaker-Chavez fight.
They were all every bit as bad as GGG-Canelo, and in some cases, worse.
And yes, I was outraged the first time it happened, and the second and the third and the 12th.
But after awhile, I came to understand that bad decisions are as integral a part of boxing as bad balls-and-strikes calls in baseball. Part of the game. A regrettable part, yes, but something that will never be eliminated, especially in a sport as subjective as boxing.
And over time, I came to enjoy the sport while hating the business and deploring the politics involved.
Golovkin and Canelo gave me a satisfying night of entertainment. It wasn’t Hagler-Hearns and it wasn’t Ali-Frazier 1, nor could it be, because neither fighter can approach those four for talent or will, although they have plenty of both.
But it was a good fight that got better in the final rounds, and just because Adelaide Byrd and Don Trella botched the call didn’t diminish the experience for me. I have come to view the official decision the same way I do the television commentary – as an annoyance and an intrusion, and not at all an important aspect to what I came to see, which is the fight.
Call me jaded but the way I look at it is, it was a very good fight, both fighters got paid, and now they will get paid to do it again. I prefer to see my outlook as realistic. It was the same way I felt after the Pacquiao-Horn fight, another bad decision which really hurt no one.
And from what I saw, if there is a rematch, Canelo will win it.
Golovkin’s relentless pressure and admirable will to win carried him through on this one, but for the third consecutive fight I saw signs that age and some 400 amateur fights have taken their toll. Golovkin started slowly, seemed to be pushing his punches early, especially his right, and eschewed body punching even though Canelo’s squared-up, elbows-high style makes him vulnerable to body shots.
Canelo also has flaws – once again, I was surprised by his lack of aggression for long stretches of the fight, a tendency I first noticed in his fight against Miguel Cotto and again, even more shockingly, in his last bout against the harmless Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. – and his reliance on single punches would ber a lot more effective if he was, in fact, a one-punch KO artist. At middleweight weight, he most definitely is not.
But when he was desperate late in the fight Canelo seemed to find the fire he had been lacking for the first 10 rounds, and the way he finished up is the way I expect him to start a rematch. Since Golovkin will not be getting any younger I seriously doubt he will improve much off the first fight, or more ominously, its last round.
But you never know. Golovkin could come up with a new tactic for the rematch, or focus more on his body work, or follow up his straight rights with a left hook when Canelo does that odd turn-away that he got away with several times in the first fight. Maybe in a rematch, Canelo will come forward at the opening bell instead of staying on the perimeter, and it will turn into a latter-day Hagler-Hearns fight, as many seemed to expect.
Or maybe Canelo will finally fulfill the potential so many of us, myself included, expected to see after his admirable effort as a 23-year-old facing Floyd Mayweather.
Those are the reasons I will watch the rematch, and why you should, too.
Don’t let Adelaide Byrd rob that pleasure from you the way she took a win away from Golovkin.
In that case, the only loser will be you.