Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez claimed the WBC and WBA world middleweight titles by inflicting a first career defeat on Gennady Golovkin with a gripping points win in their Las Vegas rematch.
The Mexican claimed a frenetic final round on the scorecards which proved critical in preventing a repeat of the draw both men shared, 364 days earlier at the same T-Mobile Arena venue.
At the end of a contest which showcased the expert skill level of two of the sport’s finest practitioners, Alvarez scored a 114-114 115-113 115-113 majority decision.
Golovkin, whose first defeat comes in his 40th bout – left the ring immediately without conducting an interview as his rival – fighting for the first time since serving a six-month drugs ban – celebrated.
“My corner told me that I needed to win the final round and that what’s I did,” said Alvarez. “I’m very emotional.”
Golovkin told reporters afterwards: “I’m not going to say who won tonight, because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges. I thought it was a very good fight for the fans, and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.”
‘We will do it again’
Alvarez looked close to tears after a decision which will again prompt controversy as, for spells in the fight, Golovkin seemed to be edging the physical side of a tactical battle, with his jab proving key early on.
But with scoring already criticised in their first bout before Alvarez’s two failed doping tests in February, it is perhaps not surprising that once again controversy will remain and talk of a rematch is almost certain.
Few could argue the hype surrounding their second meeting was not justified as the bout ebbed and flowed. Celebrities including actors Will Smith and Denzel Washington, and sports stars such as Mike Tyson and LeBron James sat ringside as the capacity 20,000 inside the arena were taken in by a bout in which neither man looked like capitulating at any stage.
After Golovkin’s poised jab clearly won the opening three minutes, Alvarez’s response in the second – including a solid right uppercut – pointed to the back-and-forth contest that was to come.
All four judges gave ‘Canelo’ four of the opening six rounds despite some of the more eye-catching work coming from his rival, with a notable left hook landing in the fourth.
But Alvarez – who sustained a cut above his left eye which worsened as the bout developed – seemed keen to close distance in order to nullify Golovkin’s jab. At times their heads were almost touching, bringing hooks and uppercuts into focus, with Alvarez landing a well-placed right to the body in the sixth.
Alvarez, a man steeped in the art of fighting with six brothers who also hold professional boxing records, was game in walking forward repeatedly, a contrast to his a largely back-foot performance last time.
His mother was pictured praying ringside after a ninth round which saw both men launch repeated attacks and Alvarez almost came unstuck in the 10th as a left hook to his jaw briefly rendered him limp, only for him to somehow instantly find poise.
And after landing a right to the body and left to the face in the final round, Alvarez ate two uppercuts in the closing 10 seconds as both fighters responded to the noise around them.
They embraced before each raised their hands before the cards were read, prompting Mexican celebration on the country’s Independence weekend.
“If the people want another fight then we’ll do it again,” said Alvarez. “We’ll do it, no doubt.”
‘Boxing needed this’
Former super-lightweight world champion Amir Khan: “What a fight. I gave the fight to Canelo. It was toe-to-toe action. Very exciting. Canelo surprised us all with the come forward pressure game plan. Well done to both Canelo and GGG. Boxing needed this.
LA Lakers basketball player Lebron James: “One of the best fights I’ve ever seen!! Ultimate competitors in Canelo and Triple-G!! Salute to the both of you. Could watch y’all fight any day.”
Former world heavyweight champion George Foreman: “Canelo Brave as a Bull! Congrats! Made a puncher Box. I didn’t expect this. Need one more between these great fighters.”
Northern Irish featherweight Michael Conlan: “I don’t think it was robbery, had Canelo winning and I really wanted Triple-G to win. Some very close rounds that could have went either way. Canelo’s body work, sharp counters and punch output stole it for me. Great fight with two great champions!”
More to follow.