LAS VEGAS — A middleweight bout expected to contend for Fight of the Year honors did not disappoint, until the judges did the unthinkable, calling the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight a draw after a full 12 rounds.
The three judges scored the bout 118-110 (Canelo), 115-113 (GGG), and 114-114, and when the final card was announced by emcee Michael Buffer, fans rained down boos, expecting at the very least that they could walk home knowing a victor was declared. They would all leave disappointed.
GGG had to force himself not to laugh in his post-fight presser. “It’s a big drama show," said Golovkin. "Of course I want a rematch, this was a real fight. Look I still have all the belts, I’m still the champion.”
The anger of the crowd was palpable following the decision, and it persisted on the concourse and in the streets of Vegas in the moments following the fight. The subtext here was a massive financial loss on top of the soul-crushing end; Vegas won money from supporters of both fighters, emptying their pockets on top of robbing them of a satisfying conclusion.
The fans weren't the only ones who felt cheated by the decision. Canelo Alvarez was forceful in his post-fight presser, insisting he was the clear winner of the fight.
“I thought I won the fight. I was superior inside the ring. I won at least 7, 8 of the rounds," said Alvarez. "I was able to counterpunch and even make Gennady Golovkin wobble a couple of times. It’s up to the people if we fight again, I feel frustrated over this draw.”
His sentiment was echoed by GGG in subsequent interviews conducted after the fight. "This is terrible," said Golovkin. "It's unbelievable."
Boxing's relentless ability to muck things up aside, the two fighters wasted almost no time before getting down to business. After a brief 90 second feel-out period in Round 1, both men began throwing haymakers, each fighter's defense only just warding off attempts at kill shots. They did their best to appear unfazed, and even laughed at one another in Round 5, after a flurry against the ropes ended with Alvarez and GGG relatively unscathed.
GGG had the slower start of the two fighters, but from Round 3 onward he pressed Alvarez, guiding him toward the ropes time and time again. Canelo often does his best work there, but he has never faced an opponent who could punish him there quite like GGG.
The crowd at T-Mobile Arena was heavily pro-Canelo, which could have been anticipated following a show of force from Alvarez's fans during fight week. Alvarez's enormous Mexican fan base drowned out GGG's fans with cheers and boos alike, painting the arena's seats in the red, white, and green of the nation's flag. They got pretty quiet during the middle rounds, as GGG took control, but rose to their feet in Round 10 when Alvarez unloaded on GGG in one of the most devastating sequences of the fight.
The highly-anticipated fight brought out boxing legends like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Thomas Hearns, and Mike Tyson, but it also prompted celebrities from all over the pop culture map to show up ringside. Paul Pierce, Chris Brown, Russell Westbrook, 50 Cent, Nicolas Cage, Tracy Morgan, Dave Chappelle, Magic Johnson, LL Cool J, and a gaggle of other notable figures were spotted close to the action on Saturday night.
In the undercard fights, the results followed a lot of consensus predictions.
Joseph Diaz easily dispatched of Rafael Rivera, who only accepted a fight with Diaz last Tuesday, after original opponent Jorge Lara withdrew due to a back injury. Diaz dominated the matchup from end-to-end to win a unanimous decision victory, earning a mandatory shot at the WBC featherweight title.
His opponent blamed the short notice for the outcome.
“I feel that trying to make weight in time for the fight really drained me and I wasn’t able to perform at my tiptop best," said Rivera. "Other than that, I believe we did good despite the circumstances.”
Diego De La Hoya’s bout with Randy Caballero was one of the most anticipated fights on the card, after the two previously undefeated Super Bantamweights got into a shoving match at Friday’s weigh-in. De La Hoya won a unanimous decision (100-98, 98-92, 98-92) to take home the NABF & NABO Super Bantamweight titles, and despite the pre-fight fireworks, his opponent was gracious in defeat.
"The winners tonight are the fans," said Caballero. "When we did this fight, we knew it was going to be a great opportunity to put on a good show. Diego is a good kid, and a great fighter and I wish him the best."
Tennessee native Ryan Martin won a split decision (96-93, 95-94, 91-98) over Francisco Rojo, pushing his record to 20-0. After capturing the WBC Continental Americas title and the vacant WBA Intercontinental Lightweight belt, Martin claimed he didn't have his best stuff on Saturday night.
“I didn’t feel 100% tonight, even though I got the split decision," said Martin. "I know the judge that scored in favor of Rojo recognized good boxing in him. I’m glad I have this new belt and it’s on to the next.”