If there were any doubts about the supposed decline of Kazahkstan and middleweight icon Gennadiy Golovkin heading into this weekend, then such concerns were realised upon witnessing his performance over long-time rival Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas on Sunday morning UK time.
A man who once appeared to almost take pleasure in bludgeoning his opponents with thumping blows as he punished them into submission, Golovkin looked a shadow of his former self, appearing afraid to throw out of fear of what might come back to greet him from the Mexican.
The latter didn’t seem to get out of second gear for much of the affair, completely dominating the forty-year-old ‘GGG’ with many awarding him all of the first eight rounds on the night. The eighth did see more urgency from the Kazakh who, besides the odd fleeting jab, had not get started up until that point, but it was a round that Canelo still edged almost out of sheer volume of shots thrown. Even the pound-for-pound star Canelo must have been surprised as what was playing out in front of him, particularly given the context of their first two encounters in 2017 and 2018 in two fights which many felt Golovkin deserved to win.
Canelo was far from his best but the reality was that he didn’t have to be, though Golovkin did finally step-up in the final four rounds where he finally showed a sense of urgency and looked to set about the thirty-two-year-old. It was a case of too little to late however, or at least it should have been (more on the scorecards later), with Canelo simply matching his output and surviving the championship rounds to see out the remainder of the encounter.
The pair finally embraced upon the sounding of the final bell after a tense five years which saw two contentious decisions and a failed drug test from Canelo, but the two men put their differences aside as they acknowledged each other’s greatness in the centre of the Las Vegas ring.
Onlookers were pretty certain that the belts would not be changing hands and that the Kazakh was about to be handed the second defeat of his career to date, but the margins were much narrower than pretty much everyone else watching, other than the three judges ringside, deemed them to be. 116-112 and two 115-113 scores in favour of the Mexican were announced to the dismay of those ringside and watching on DAZN pay-per-view at home. The right man had thankfully won but how Golovkin had been awarded five rounds in the eyes of two supposed experienced officials was mind boggling to say the least. Besides the first, a round which most still awarded to Canelo, an argument could not be made for a Golovkin round in the first two thirds of the fight. Even when he stepped up towards the championship rounds, Canelo still enjoyed his own shares of success. The four rounds afforded on Dave Moretti’s 116-112 card were generous, but to somehow find five was almost scandalous. The outcome was the right one on this instance but if scores like those are allowed to pass on this basis then it’s no wonder the sport continues to get its hands stung so regularly.
Golovkin stated he would move back down to middleweight to defend his unified championship there when asked if he would be retiring next, and while his decline was apparent this weekend, he was sharing a ring with an elite operator in Canelo. No such man exists at 160lbs and he would no doubt fancy his chances against the fellow champions and contenders down there. As the saying goes however, Father Time waits for no man and it seems inevitable that if he continues then GGG, like many of the greats who came before him, will find himself beaten at the hands of men who in his prime would not be fit to lace his gloves.
The undercard in Vegas also saw Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez defend his WBC super-flyweight belt in a competitive twelve-round clash against Israel Gonzalez. Rodriguez, who would be a wide favourite in a fighter of the year competition already, has already defeated established names Carlos Cuadras and Sor Srisaket Rungvisai since stepping up two weight division in February and added another impressive name to his resume on Saturday night. Gonzalez proved tough and certainly pushed Rodriguez more than the two previously named but the twenty-two-year-old still proved too much as he continues to impress at 115lbs. A clash with the winner of the upcoming clash between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez has already been touted for 2023.
Northampton’s Kieron Conway suffered the third defeat of his career further down the card after ten middleweight rounds against the unbeaten American Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams. Conway enjoyed success during the middle portion of the contest but failed to fully assert himself and step onto the gas, allowing the American to regain momentum in the final rounds to continue his undefeated record at 160lbs.
Away from Las Vegas, Friday night also saw Canada-based heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov comfortably outpoint Carlos Takam in Montreal as his professional development continued in his fifteenth professional outing.