LAS VEGAS – After the last bell and 36 rounds together, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin engaged in a long hug, seeming to end a feud that has become personal over the five years since they first met in the ring.
In another close fight, Alvarez retained his undisputed middleweight championship on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena by unanimously defeating his longtime rival in a three-way bout before a raucous pro-Canillo crowd on Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Two of the judges scored 115-113, while the third judge scored 116-112 for Alvarez.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) started strong while Golovkin’s hit and barely threw his powerful right hand, the punch that propelled him to stardom and the legendary middleweight championship. Finally, along the stretch, Golovkin found his footing and won four of the last five rounds on two scorecards, but that was too little, and it was too late.
As they hugged, Alvarez said to Golovkin, “Thank you very much, my friend. Thank you for everything. We give the fans three good fights.”
The compliments were in stark contrast to earlier preparations for the fight when Alvarez vowed to end Golovkin’s career by knockout. He even called Golovkin (42-2-1, 37 KOs) a phony pretending to be a nice person.
Now that the dust had faded and the rivalry was over, the fighters headed in separate directions.
Alvarez, who owns all four belts at 168 pounds, could continue his rematch with Dimitri Bevol next year until the score from May, when Bevol defeated him by decision. But first, Alvarez said his left hand required surgery, although he did not provide specifics about the injury.
“I can’t hold a glass. It’s really bad. But I’m a warrior,” said Alvarez, 32.
Alvarez, the top boxing star, told ESPN ringside that his hand had “stepped up from the Caleb Plant fight,” a TKO victory in November that preceded the loss to Bevol.
“I’ve been through some very difficult things in my life and the only thing you can do is try and keep going and move on,” Alvarez said. “I’ve had a hard time with my defeats and you’ve proven that defeats are great. It enables you to come back and show humility.”
This is exactly what Alvarez showed in the wake of the second victory over Golovkin, a third encounter that Golovkin and boxing fans have been anxiously waiting for four years to come true. A rematch in September 2018, which Alvarez won by majority decision, was far from convincing, a fight that responded to the emergence. The first match, in September 2017, was a controversial tie that Golovkin was adamant about winning.
Both matches were contested at 160 pounds, with Golovkin remaining the unified champion.
“Remember I have [two] The belts cost 160. Come back, I’m still a champion,” said Golovkin, who made his debut at 168 pounds.
Since taking Olympic silver in 2004, he has competed over 160 pounds in title fights.
“Everyone knows, this is the high level. This is the best fighter in boxing. Everyone knows who Canelo is. It’s a huge fight. Look at his face, look at my face. We trained well, and it shows we did a very good fight.”
“This fight is more tactical. Today, Canelo is better. Congratulations to Canelo.”
In fact, this fight was a far cry from the first two memorable entries in their long rivalry, with the exception of the last four rounds, when movement increased exponentially.
Golovkin, a Kazakh national fighting outside Los Angeles, was wide on all three cards entering the extension and gaining speed. He started firing his right hand that made him a future Hall of Fame and called for some quick shots in Round 9 after pinning Alvarez into the corner.
Round 10 was more of the same, with a set of sharp right uppercuts on the inside set up by Golovkin’s excellent hit. In round 11, Alvarez opened with the right eye and finished strong in the last round.
“In the second half, I don’t feel bad,” Golovkin said. “This fight is very clever. More tactical like chess.”
The fight wasn’t very good for the first seven rounds. Golovkin injected a jab but did not follow it with his right hand. Meanwhile, Alvarez controlled the movement and pushed Golovkin back with loads of pressure.
He attacked Golovkin’s body with his sharp right hand on the liver, and left a hook behind him in the face. By the end of the third round, Golovkin’s face was already swollen, and a large spot appeared on his forehead.
Canelo continued hitting Golovkin’s midsection with the right hands as the fight continued, and in the fifth round, he tied perhaps the biggest punch in the fight, a right-hand lift of the opponent’s head back.
However, Golovkin was not at all in danger. After all, he has one of the best chins in boxing, and time never seemed to wear it off.
But over time, at last, what had once been a bitter rivalry settled. Alvarez, the No. 5 boxer on ESPN, will be looking to reclaim the top spot he held before the shock defeat to Bevol after some well-deserved rest.
Golovkin is nearing the end, but he insists that he will continue his career. After his late clash against Alvarez on Saturday, there will be a lot of interest in his future matches, whether they are in contention for £160 or £168.
Whatever happens to each man, their time together in the ring is over, and with it, one of the biggest — and most bankable — competitions in boxing history.
“I’m happy to share the ring with him,” Alvarez said. “We gave the fans three really good fights. I am happy to be involved in this kind of fight.”
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