Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez brushed aside the woes of his difficult year and an inflammatory rivalry when he defeated a pale Gennady Golovkin in their third fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night with a unanimous on-points victory. The undisputed world super middleweight champion Álvarez was a sweeping winner, and the only surprise was that, for once, the judges were sympathetic to Golovkin. The two scorecards 115-113 were odd, with the third referee’s decision of 116-112 in favor of Álvarez a marginally more accurate reflection.

Álvarez was too young, too strong, and too ambitious for Golovkin, once a major world champion and now in the brutal ring at the age of 40. Under the percussive effect of the dazzling lights and Álvarez’s powerful kick, Golovkin drew a light figure from the start of a one-sided competition. He couldn’t push himself, and especially in the first seven rounds, he seemed like an unconsolable version of the formerly formidable middleweight champion who had dominated his division for many years.

In contrast, Álvarez began his work with fire and power. He was aggressive, though brutal at times, and repeatedly pushed Golovkin back. At the end of the Fifth Round, the old man appeared alone on his corner stool, his face flushed and a swelling formed under his right eye.

Álvarez continued to throw meaningful punches, and it seems that Golovkin had to rely on his all-important courage to survive a slow and methodical beating. But Golovkin went deep within himself, and there were fleeting bursts of effective work from him. Álvarez was dragged into a real fight in rounds ninth and tenth when Golovkin finally raised his hands in the air. He fought with real purpose and determination during those six minutes because, unlike the hapless judges, he realized that he needed something special to try and change the layout of the match.

Golovkin delivered some hard blows, even backing Álvarez against the ropes. But in these heavily debated trades, Álvarez was still throwing punches in return. Both rounds could rightly be given to Golovkin – but they were his only real success of the night.

Canelo Alvarez
Canelo Álvarez used his right hand in Saturday’s fight. Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports

He tried to develop this momentum, but in the final part of the fight Álvarez returned home comfortably. Despite warnings about Golovkin’s age and disappointing performance, he may consider this victory one of the most satisfying in his professional career, which began in 2005 when he was just 15 years old.

Álvarez has a troubling past at the T-Mobile Arena, which has again been thrilled by loud Mexican fans. He lost here in May for only the second time in 17 years when he was ostracized by Dmitry Bivol. Álvarez gained weight to challenge Bivol for the light-heavyweight world title, and while it remains clear that he was a much smaller man, the great Mexican’s aura had collapsed badly. Bivol exposed it and disappointed.

Of course, Golovkin had undermined the newly spinning Canelo hype machine when he first fought Álvarez at T-Mobile five years ago this week. Golovkin won this match in the eyes of most sensible observers, but the Las Vegas judges rated it as a damagingly controversial draw. Exactly a year later, they returned to the same ring in September 2018, with Álvarez shadowing a very close decision with less contention. It was clear, then, that they were two champions of almost equal rank with Golovkin.

Over the next four years, Álvarez smoothly rose to the status of a festive boxing master, who also became the cash cow of this greedy old business. He proved to be an outstanding technician who became as interesting outside the ring as he was between the ropes. But Golovkin’s shadow was still on him. Hailing from Kazakhstan and not as marketable as Canelo, Golovkin worked in comparative uncertainty, while a third fight between them seemed typical for boxing to be delayed for years.

Golovkin and his supporters believed that Álvarez, a ruthless boxer as well as a smart businessman, was waiting for his greatest rival to reach middle age before meeting again. Álvarez, 32, is eight years younger than Golovkin, and the age gap for the older man was obvious in a night of agony.

Álvarez’s only real wound was on his left hand, and he explained that he might need surgery after the fight. But next May, he will likely try to defeat the much more dangerous Bivol – neither old nor worn by the ring. Golovkin’s future in the ring is far less certain. Still, it should be noted that for most of his career he was a relentless and brutal world champion. He was as good as, and possibly better than, Álvarez in his first two games. However, on a bleak night in Las Vegas, Golovkin looked like the ghost of his former self.

At the end of their trilogy, a victorious Álvarez hugged and consoled his defeated former rival – as if telling him that it was no shame to succumb to time and the harsh reality of boxing.

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