Posts Tagged With: Gennady Golovkin

Business as Usual

Golovkin-Alvarez was an important fight for so many reasons.  Most notably, the complete set of four middleweight titles on the line.  Leading up to the fight, the talent, strength and condition of both fighters was so exceptional that the fight was hailed as the next Hagler-Hearns.  The promotional theme was 1930’s-era fashion and dramatic noir-lighting, reporters in bow-ties clamoring for a shot of the ring with their flashbulbs.  An effective campaign, no doubt, but did the implication fit the event?  The idea was obviously an attempt to evoke historic fights like Hagler-Hearns, but with an atmosphere most closely resembling that of what could be considered the greatest boxing series ever, between Jake Lamotta and Ray Robinson.  Aside from the weight division, I certainly see no resemblance.

I’ve watched a lot of Alvarez fights biting my nails and condemning him for throwing away his career on risky fights with low reward.  Erislandy Lara and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. come to mind.  And then there was Mayweather.  This fight may not have been as much of a miscalculation for Canelo’s team as Mayweather was, but it wasn’t too impressive.  Alvarez was criticized heavily for giving up a middleweight title in 2015.  After winning it from Miguel Cotto, he forfeited the “lineal” championship in favor of scheduling other fights between first, before his meeting with Golovkin.  It was a good idea for Alvarez at the time, and as Teddy Atlas was quick to point out, Golovkin would probably have knocked him out if he had accepted the challenge back then.  Since then he’s earned some impressive decisions against larger fighters, but none anywhere near Golovkin’s level.  His team ranted incessantly about how much bigger and stronger he was getting, how it was his time, and how his skill had grown to match his size.  By all accounts, most of that is true.  It just wasn’t enough to match the ability of a larger, highly skilled fighter.

The judges’ scorecards, or to be more precise, judge’s scorecard, is the source of the controversy over this fight, and I’m as upset as anyone else when a blatantly clueless judge influences a major fight.  Anyone who knows me or reads this blog, however, also knows that I’m an intensely loyal Alvarez fan.  So much so, that I went against my better instincts when making my prediction.  I said I thought Alvarez could take a decision, but I really thought Golovkin was too strong and too good.  He was.  In my eyes, he won that fight.  A friend of mine pointed out an important insight into the sport, though, when he said that boxing is a subjective sport; it’s judged by three people specifically because one or more of them might make mistakes in their scoring.  Therefore, based on the nature of the sport, the best outcome for any fight is good action and a fair decision.  A fair decision, as opposed to the one you think is correct.  After all, your judgment may be as skewed as that of any official. Especially from thousands of miles away, behind a tv screen with a few beers in your belly.

That’s absolutely true and it addresses at least half of what I was upset about after that fight ended.  The two people I was watching with, both of whom know and understand the sport, were fairly happy with what they had seen.  They were quite satisfied, if not with the result, then at least with the performance.  I was not.

I’m glad the final decision was fair.  A draw is always fair, if the two fighters are competitive throughout and the rounds are close for a majority of the event.  The aberration, however, is reminiscent of the scorecard CJ Ross turned in for Alvarez after his showdown with Mayweather.  Almost everyone watching saw Mayweather dominate his opponent in twelve of the most one-sided rounds ever fought, but Ross scored the fight a draw.  At the time, there was no bigger fight in boxing, and no clearer winner, and yet one of the officials whose job it was to evalute the action was confused.  I understand the feeling.  I was so excited for the dawning of the Alvarez era that I rushed home the day after my wedding, actively ignoring tv, radio and the internet, in order to see the fight unspoiled.  Finally, I thought, someone with the skill and the ability to stop Mayweather’s reign.  If anything, the performance only further solidified Mayweather’s dominance in the sport and his status as an iconic athlete.  But hey, at least Mayweather put on an epic performance.  I wasn’t quite that disappointed in this past Saturday’s showdown.  Instead of being completely heartbroken for one fighter, I was just mildly aggravated by both.  Strike that, mildly aggravated by both fighters’ performances, and then crestfallen in response to the robbery which denied this contest between two great athletes any dignity.  I wanted Mayweather to lose that fight to Alvarez as much as I wanted Alvarez to win, but if the scores CJ Ross submitted contributed to a loss for Mayweather, or even a draw, that would have been a travesty.

When an athlete works hard enough to be the best in the world at what he or she does: it’s important that he or she trains and competes safely, but it’s almost as important that his or her performance is evaluated fairly.  A historic performance is deserving of at least that much respect.  I was disappointed that the fabled knockout artist Golovkin couldn’t seem to hurt Alvarez, I was even more disappointed that Canelo’s improved skill and body mass weren’t enough to so much as budge Golovkin during the fight, but I was really pissed off when I heard the decision.  Again, not just because the ultimate result was a draw.  That was bad enough, but it was so bad because one judge turned in a score so wrong it was professionally criminal, and another turned in a score that seems plausible, but only “fair” if bribes of some kind counted for points in Canelo’s favor.  De la Hoya touted this fight as the “real” boxing match, in contrast to the carnival presented by Mayweather and McGregor just a couple of weeks previous, but was it?  In the sense of traditional boxing, it was, but he also claimed the two fighters were going to give an epic performance worthy of the names evoked by the highly stylized promotional campaign.  Neither fighter lived up to that description.  Atlas described it well when he said Alvarez “fought in spots, to survive.”  In other words, he didn’t moderate his aggression and activity to deliver the best possible performance, he did what he thought would keep him out of trouble and give him the best chance of benefitting from an unfortunate scorecard or two like the ones we saw.  It worked.

Some people felt the first fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev should have been scored more in favor of Ward.  Others felt it was a fair decision, much like the response to this fight.  Still, there was no question (for most fans) that Kovalev did, in fact, take some of the rounds decisively.  For Alvarez against Golovkin, that was not the case.  People still talk about whether McGregor was stopped early against Mayweather, and if a rematch would be worth watching.  But why is anyone clamoring to see this one again?  The draw for Alvarez against Mayweather was absurd, sure, but that was 6 rounds misdiagnosed.  The disparity in the fight between Alvarez and Golovkin, on the other hand, was arguably 8 rounds.  When half the rounds could go either way, that’s one thing; it’s something entirely different when there are only a few rounds that could go either way, and all the rest clearly go to one person.

Alvarez had the chance to prove himself great, but failed utterly.  Golovkin had the opportunity to show himself to be special, but he also failed.  Given the styles of the two fighters (styles make fights) it was the worst possible scenario for action that we could have seen.  Neither fighter has fought a significantly more conservative fight in recent years.  Both are known for walking opponents down and imposing their strength.  In this fight, it didn’t look like either one was fighting to secure a legacy.  It was no epic confrontation between two men battling for a place in history.  It looked like they were fighting to secure a rematch and millions of dollars.  The judges scores looked like they had been written to ensure that potential revenue stream as well.  Instead of a raw, unrestrained fight for the ages, it looked like business as usual.


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A Full Card

It’s hard not to speculate wildly when there are so many great fights just around the corner.  Two reasons these fights are even more interesting now: Alvarez-Chavez is out of the way, and Joshua-Klitschko surpassed all our expectations.  It’s hard to see past such momentous fights before the dust settles, but now that we’ve gotten a satisfying conclusion to the Klitschko reign, and a stamp of approval for Canelo’s run at middleweight, we can sit back and appreciate this year’s bountiful spring and summer offerings.

Tomorrow, Delvin Rodriguez will be working to regain his place in the junior middleweight division after taking a series of unwinnable fights against division mainstays like Cotto, Lara and Trout.  He was the warm-up for these three superior fighters, all on their way to lucrative losses to Canelo.  The soft-touch contest against Courtney Pennington (10-4-1) in Connecticut won’t be televised, but we can guess how it’ll end.

This coming Saturday, May 13th, AWE will broadcast a WBA junior bantamweight title fight.  It’ll likely be as thrilling as most junior bantamweight fights, so nothing to set your DVR for.  Also that night, in Michigan, James Toney will be fighting.  Fortunately, it won’t be televised.

While not a thrilling prospect, it’s always interesting to see Diego de la Hoya in the ring, and he’ll be headlining the ESPN card on Thursday May 18th, building his record against relative unknown Erik Ruiz.  The following Saturday begins a big weekend for boxing with a heaping helping of interesting fights, some not so interesting.  The most tantalizing prospect coming from HBO, we’ll be treated to Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz for Crawford’s WBO and WBC titles.

I watched Diaz, the 2008 gold medal winner from Dominican Republic, lose his last major match in October 2015 when he took on hometown favorite Lamont Peterson.  This was the main event of the same card as the tragic final bout of Prichard Colon’s career.  The whole crowd in attendance was puzzled by Lamont’s inactive offense and ineffective defense, at times booing his performance.  Those who stayed for the end the fight were even more shocked when the scores were announced in favor of Peterson.  May 20th will be the night for Diaz to redeem himself in dramatic fashion, but going up against a force like Terence Crawford, it’s unlikely he’ll get the victory needs.

The same night (May 20th) on Showtime, we’ll get three Gary Russells including the famous Jr., plus Rances Barthelemy and Andre Dirrell all taking on unknowns for transitional fights, and top top it all off, Gervonta Davis and Liam Walsh in the main event.  It’s unlikely anyone will do well against Davis at this stage of his career, but Liam Walsh will be a legitimate test.  If we’re still hungry for more, FS1 will be serving up a few tomato cans to clang around the ring too.

May 27th we get Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. just a week removed from Terence Crawford’s next stepping stone fight.  Hopefully, the winner of the more highly celebrated Brook-Spence contest will be facing Crawford soon.  All three are names with enough longevity to take boxing fans into the next era, but two in particular, Crawford and Spence, seem to have the most potential.

June 3rd we get Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara.  This should be an exciting fight with a lot of good exchanges, settling any unanswered questions from their first close fight.  Fonfara is talented and his style matches up well against Stevenson, but it’s likely Stevenson will adapt better the second time around and close up any gaps.  Also that night, Fres Oquendo, whose last fight was a loss to Chagaev in 2014, will “fight” Shannon Briggs.  Appropriately, the fight will take place in Hollywood.  Briggs has fought steadily but met his last significant opponent, Vitali Klitschko, seven years ago.

June 16 Claressa Shields will be in the ring again, but of course, it won’t be televised.  To be fair, most of Shields’ fights are painfully one-sided.  Still, there are other exciting female boxers and these fights can’t draw any viewers if they aren’t accessible.

The following night on June 17 we’re already set for the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, with the undercard featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux.  While no one is likely to disturb Rigondeaux’s reign, his opponent is undefeated and could provide some resistance.  Fans are hard set on their picks for the Kovalev-Ward rematch, as they were for the first fight.  It’s a rational argument either way, and I would still make the case that Kovalev could easily have taken the cards in that match.  If past evidence is any indicator (think Cotto-Margarito II, Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II), the fighter who relies more on mental agility, ring IQ and technique will refine his strategy and come away with the win.  Ward has been so smart in all his fights in the past that he’s not only undefeated, he even managed to win landslide decisions against fighters who specialized in making slick fighters look clumsy.  Kovalev is a force, to be sure, but he doesn’t seem to have many dimensions to his style.  If something isn’t working, he works harder at what he does well and usually something gives.  In this case, that won’t cut it.  He’ll have to find a weakness in Ward’s game, or he’ll have to sure up one of his own, so that he can keep the offensive points from going to his opponent.  We know Ward will best him in defensive technique, but if Kovalev can hurt Ward or keep him from working actively, we could see a trilogy in the making.  Ward will likely take the win by decision, but Kovalev will make it very interesting.

The crown jewel in the summer lineup will be the epic clash between Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.  There’s enough to speculate about with that fight to fill a book, so for this post we’ll just acknowledge that the biggest treat of all still awaits us, ready to offer solace for the bittersweet arrival of fall.

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Following his triumphant demolition of the delicate Amir Khan, Saul Alvarez had strong words about the possible match with Gennady Golovkin, saying things like “we can put on the gloves and fight right now, we don’t fuck around.”  After all, he had just won a middleweight title, somehow.  Of course, neither fighter was actually at 160 pounds in that fight, but nevermind that.  Alvarez won by knockout and showed the kind of ferocity his fans have been longing for since we first watched him on television.  He didn’t really want to put the gloves back on and fight him right at that moment, but we thought he might be willing to make him his next opponent.  Alvarez ended up making what was probably the smart decision, and declined the offer, giving up his “middleweight title.”  Fans and commentators criticized him for the deicsion, and Golovkin says it made him lose respect for Alvarez, but as Ring magazine pointed out in its most recent issue, it wasn’t long ago that fans were pushing for a fight between Golovkin and Andre Ward, who even now isn’t a full-size light heavyweight.  Golovkin openly admitted that Ward was too big for him, even though the difference between weight classes is about the same(13 pounds from welter to middleweight, 15 pounds from middle to light heavyweight).  Maybe Alvarez shouldn’t have made such a big deal about being willing to fight him right away, but it seems his place as fighter-most-willing-to-take-anyone-on is secure.  At least, he’s as willing as anyone else.

Last night Danny Jacobs set the record straight, breaking down his opponent in a rematch from last August when Sergio Mora put on a good show until his ankle broke during a fall.  The result of the previous fight implied that Mora might have a shot against Jacobs, scoring a knockdown early in the fight before his injury.  In the rematch, Jacobs showed superior power from the outset, and Mora showed no improvement in his strategy, electing to slug with Jacobs and fight off the ropes when necessary.  Jacobs may have more talent than we’ve given him credit for in the past, and his power seems to carry him through a lot of situations where he’d otherwise be outsmarted.  Mora, on the other hand, has been fighting to establish relevance, if not dominance, for years.  With yet another loss on his record, it seems he’ll never quite make it to that level.  His best hope will be to spend a few years serving as official gatekeeper for young fighters who haven’t been tested yet, then fade away into anonymity, and hopefully, preserve his health.

Tonight’s fight features an unusual match between Golovkin and Brook, drawing comparison to the weight disadvantage overcome by Ray Robinson taking on Jake Lamotta.  Clearly, “Special K” Kell Brook is no Ray Robinson, but whether he’s special enough to handle Golovkin remains to be seen.  Golovkin is the only one with a lot to lose here, because if he doesn’t do very well, as Alvarez did against Khan, then his reputation will suffer greatly.  If, on the other hand, Brook were to get blown away in the first or second round, fans would chalk it up to the size difference and move on with their lives.  Golovkin speculates that appearing vulnerable might be the only way to attract Alvarez for their showdown.  I won’t hold my breath, but it might not be up to Golovkin whether he appears vulnerable this time.  Brook is fast and accurate enough to force Golovkin to measure his power.  If Golovkin’s too wild, Brook may be able to score enough points to win rounds, and make the decision close.

After five years of writing about the sport, I’ve come to expect the contradictions you see every time you watch a fight.  It can be frustrating, but that’s also what makes the science sweet. Tonight, Golovkin will probably beat Brook, probably by knockout.  Unless Brook wins, which can’t happen.  Unless it does.

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Dan Rafael: Fans are Fools

The sagacious Mr. Rafael has followed up his twitter tirade with an equally contemptuous article, as eloquent as it is.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure glad there aren’t any low-level bloggers with enough free time to read my crappy posts and pick apart my grammar and style and expose logical fallacies that only they care about, but this is too much for me.

Let’s start with the first two lines: “Once again, boxing fans are being played for fools. It happens all the time, and we’re suckers for putting up with it.”  Speak for yourself, Dan.  I don’t deny that you know boxing.  I’m not going to go Mayweather-Merchant here, but as an informed and faithful boxing fan for several years, I totally disagree with almost everything you go on to say here.

“Six years ago the masses wanted Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao…When they finally did meet after negotiations that were absolutely ridiculous to watch unfold, everything about it stunk…the promotion, the greed…And, of course, the fight.”  Hey, Mayweather personifies greed, no argument here.  But who can blame someone who’s in a position to get paid hundreds of millions of dollars for a 47 minute performance for making sure he gets every cent?  As for the promotion, I don’t even know what that means.  It was boring?  Over the top?  Unrepresentative?  Whatever the case, I probably agree, but it’s a moot point.  And his last point, about the fight, how ’bout of course NOT Dan.  Of course it wasn’t a bad fight!  It was the two best fighters in boxing fighting at their best (give or take a couple dozen punches) and delivering twelve rounds of hard work.  There was no stoppage for an accidental headbutt, nobody pulled a Golota and started throwing uppercuts to the groin, nobody bit anybody’s ear repeatedly.  That’s a good fight to a boxing fan (we’ll get to casual sports spectators later).

A fair and accurate way to finish the sentence would have been “of course the fight…was what it was.”  You can put Guillermo Rigondeaux in there and pay him as many millions as you want, get as many viewers as you want, and tell him it’s the most historic event in sports, but he’s still gonna fight a safe, reserved fight.  Mayweather hadn’t had a real knockout in five years (Sharmba Mitchell), even when the fight hype was just beginning.  Hatton basically ran into his punches until he couldn’t take it anymore, Ortiz just kind of gave up the way he does, and I can’t think of any others.  As for Pacquiao, anybody who watches boxing can tell you there was no way he would get the KO because there was no way Floyd would let him land a flush shot.  Those facts together mean we were never going to see an incarnation of Bowe-Holyfield.

Rafael goes on to bemoan the missed opportunity for the sport, as if that was what either Mayweather or Pacquiao were fighting for, from the perspective of people who don’t watch boxing: “…millions of casual sports fans who tuned in hoping to see a legendary fight flipped off their TVs in disgust.”  Well, that’s to be expected.  I’m sure if I were a casual sports fan who walked in on the Canelo-Khan broadcast, I would have opted for Words with Friends on my phone rather than giving the fight my full attention, even though it ended in the only way a casual sports fan would find interesting.  Dan, of all people, should know that.

In perhaps the most puzzling of his statements, Rafael suggests that he’s unsure whether we can undo past history: “It sure doesn’t look as if we will get it when we want it, which was really earlier this month.”  No, it really doesn’t look like that fight will have happened earlier this month in some alternate reality.  It doesn’t look that way at all, Dan.  You’re spot on, now.

Oh, and by the way, what we want “when we want it?”  When does that ever happen to anybody?  Grow up, Dan, this is life.

Apparently a favorite from his previous entries, Rafael included a line we’ve seen before, “So GGG crushed Dominic Wade on April 23, and two weeks later Alvarez blasted Amir Khan,” but again, the statement is misleading to the point of not making sense.  Yes, Alvarez “blasted” Khan, and Golovkin decimated Wade.  But wait, Khan is an internationally recognized welterweight with a solid record who once courted both Mayweather AND Pacquiao for potential matches that fans would have wanted to see.  Who the fuck is Dominic Wade?  I’ll tell you who: he’s an 18-1 nobody who’s best win was over Sam Soliman.  If anybody should be criticized for their competition, it’s sure not Alvarez, who I’m sure would have been happy to beat Cotto at 154, but when given the chance to take a belt, why not?

But that’s the whole controversy: Canelo has a belt so he has to defend it against whoever we say!  Not exactly.

Further on in the madness: “Once again boxing breaks our hearts because nobody can seem to do the right thing.”  Talk about a drama queen.  Rafael is the only one in the discussion whose job it is to fairly describe the state of boxing, so if anyone’s not doing the right thing, it’s him.  Since when is negotiating a fight a moral issue anyway?

He concludes by referencing what he sees as the inevitable alternative to the fight he feels the sport owes him.  Alvarez against possibly the second best middleweight, and a hell of a puncher who would make a fantastic action-packed match, Lemieux.  I hope he’s right.

His advice to fans is to “teach them all a lesson,” and “just say no,” as if it were a protest against pharmaceutical companies.  You’re asking boxing fans to avoid watching one of the best possible matches that could be made?  Get some perspective for christ’s sake.  Real fans watch for the duds, they watch for the blowouts, they watch for the wars, and they also watch for the chess matches.  I feel sorry for those who can’t appreciate them all, in the sense that they’re missing out on something I enjoy, but don’t ask me to miss out just because you’ve lost interest in anything other than knockout highlight reels.

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Alvarez Wisely Vacates Title, Critics Crucify

Oh Dan Rafael.  Sometimes you have such great, insightful comments.  Sometimes the stuff you say is common sense.  And other times…well, keep it to yourself.


“What @Canelo says: ‘I was born ready.’ What he means: ‘I was born ready to fight GGG but not until he’s old.’ #GiveThePeopleWhatTheyWant

What @GGGBoxing says: ‘I will fight anybody at 160.’ What he means: ‘I will fight anybody at 160.'”


No need to translate for me, Dan.  Do you wanna know why Canelo has been advised and probably feels himself that it’s a smart decision not to take a fight with the best 160 pound fighter in boxing?  Well, it’s because he fights at 155.  –NONOHEFOUGHTCOTTOANDKHANHEHASTOFIGHTGOLOVKINNOW–

Whoah, calm it down.  Cotto was more like 147.  Khan?  He couldn’t even handle Cotto.  So why is he choosing not to fight the scariest puncher in boxing, at a class above where he normally fights?  Because it would be detrimental to his career in every way.  No matter how many eloquently inflammatory twitter posts you put up, he’s gonna keep dominating the best at 154, winning tons of money, impressing tons of fans, and keeping his career intact.  Too bad fans don’t judge you as harshly when you’re asked to step up and adopt a controversial position in a debate.  You’d have been gone back when people were calling for Pac-Mayweather.  Guess what you said?  Pac wins all day, Mayweather is scared.  Guess what happened?  Mayweather did what everyone knew he would, and what real fans knew he would’ve done years earlier, assuming Pacquiao wasn’t on steroids.  But hey, in the end, the Mexican pharmacy was better, right?  Now Mayweather is the icon of modern boxing, even as an inactive fighter, and Pacquiao is a brain-damaged mess with a compromised record.  But hey, who’s History to argue with the great Dan Rafael?


I salute Alvarez for his wise, brave decision.  He’s looking after his best interests as a fighter, and that actually is what some people want.  Dan, on the other hand, is doing what he’s always done, adopting the most popular and tweet-provoking stance.  Give the readers what they want, Dan, not Donald Trump-style hashtags.


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Knockouts, Unanimous Verdicts, and Dumb Decisions



This past weekend fans were tantalized by what one astute blogger called “a super fight, just not a ‘superfight’.”  We did get the pleasure of observing two skilled boxers near their primes with contrasting styles fighting for high stakes.  Unfortunately, the popularity and former relevance of the smaller fighter did nothing to improve his ability against a more skilled, harder-working opponent.  I had predicted an eighth round knockout for Alvarez, and he managed it in six.  And yet, I was still very surprised by the outcome.  Every aspect of it.

Saul Alvarez showed that when in the past he demonstrated great adaptability, it was crucial to his success in the ring in a way we may not have realized.  Between rounds one and four, no matter what Harold Lederman might tell you, Alvarez fought the dumbest, least strategic fight anyone could have imagined.  The fight was billed as “power versus speed.”  The appeal behind this phrase is ostensibly that the smaller fighter must be vigilant and intelligent about his attack in order to maximize his own abilities and avoid his opponents power shots, which could end the fight at any moment.  In that case, the power fighter wants to land as many times as possible, preferably slowing his opponent down initially with body shots so that the off button is easier to find.  The speed fighter wants to land as often as possible, maximizing impact by using timing and exhausting his opponent by making him miss almost all of his significant shots.

My take on the fight was that Khan had a bad knockout coming for multiple reasons.  He was an undisciplined fighter who liked to talk a lot about his ability but always seemed to struggle in the ring.  He was a welterweight challenging an elite fighter who holds the 160 pound championship.  In addition, Khan was (and is) a deceptively ineffectual puncher, electing to flail his arms desperately rather than carefully place well-timed combinations.  That’s because, all-time great trainer or no, Khan is a lazy fighter.  He doesn’t work his fundamentals in training, it’s written all over him every time he steps in the ring.  Jim Lampley aptly observed during the fight that his defense was lacking except for his foot speed.  Most fighters at Canelo’s level are good enough that no opponent whose defense relies entirely on foot speed will beat them.  And that was the case here.

Though Lederman did glorify Canelo’s efforts in the third and fourth rounds, it wasn’t until the end of round four that he really began settling down and behaving like himself.  His style has never been, as HBO commentators noted, the classic “seek and destroy” Mexican style.  Alvarez has always been a very powerful counter-puncher, body puncher and cumulative punishment fighter.  He looked completely paralyzed against Floyd Mayweather in the only loss of his career, and maybe that was because he didn’t believe in his accuracy.  Maybe he was looking for just one shot.  This time around with a speed disadvantage, it looked like Canelo was having flashbacks to Mayweather’s phantasmal defense, expecting his opponent to appear and disappear at will.  In reality, Khan is nowhere near that talented nor that coordinated.  He manages to dart in and out quickly and touch his opponents, but nothing more.

Against Khan, Alvarez seemed to be trying to forego the inescapable slow and steady approach that he tried for most of the Mayweather fight, in favor of trying to look like Marcos Maidana (who arguably had the most success of any modern fighter against Mayweather).  He threw his full body weight into each punch putting himself off balance and in no position to recover quickly, absorbing meaningless combinations from Khan while trying to regain his guard.  Alvarez actually opened a small cut above his opponent’s eye in the early rounds, but that was in no way a reflection of his accuracy to the head.  Aside from body punches, the left hand that opened the cut was one of only a handful that he landed in those rounds.

In defiance of all convention, Khan fought the responsible fight for those three rounds, and continued to do so in the following three despite the result.  Khan moved on the outside and covered his body effectively.  He always moved away from the ropes as soon as he was pressured toward them.  He even used a good jab, and less than reckless combinations to compose a good fight plan.  A lesser fighter, like a James Kirkland or Josesito Lopez, might have been overwhelmed by the speed and use of the jab in their efforts to land the winning shot.  To be honest, though, I would have been embarrassed for both us if Alvarez had lost.  Forget that Khan went up two weight classes, forget that Alvarez is nearing 50 fights against good competition at the age of 25.  Forget that the mandatory challenger to the winner of the fight is Gennady Golovkin, one of the most feared fighters in boxing.  Alvarez is just too damn good to lose to Amir Khan.  I’ve taken every chance I could get to demean Khan by calling him “A Mere,” because the matchup was ludicrous.  A larger, more talented, more experienced fighter against a guy who couldn’t make fights with the best of the era, so he settled for this guy.  Everything I know about boxing and fighting styles tells me he should have won that fight by knockout, no problem.

But he did have problems.  He would have kept having problems all night, in fact, if he hadn’t smartened up.  When he finally settled down at the end of round four you could see Khan’s composure deteriorate instantaneously.  I truly believe Alvarez fighting like himself would have scored the knockout in two rounds.  Instead, he chose to wing haymakers one at a time that almost pulled him off his feet and left him no room for recovery.  He kept his hands in a position that left him totally vulnerable just so he could use unconventional angles for his wild shots.  As would be expected, the faster fighter was easily able to avoid most of his opponents shots.  He landed nothing of consequence of his own, but Khan did land.

When the knockout finally came it was somewhat sudden, though you could feel Alvarez closing in for the entire sixth round.  It was exactly what we expected to see, a single hard shot rendering Khan completely unconscious for a few moments.  I didn’t expect the end so soon, but I did expect a more measured, intelligent fight from Alvarez.  In my opinion, still, he’s the better, more learned fighter.  That wasn’t evident in this match, though.  It may be that certain styles cause Alvarez to overthink his approach.  It’s possible that his success against Lara and Trout was due in part to his underestimation of the opponent, that he needs to be unimpressed to perform well.  If this is indeed his Achilles’ heel, he’s going to be dangerously susceptible to his mandatory challenger’s attacks.

The result may not be decided for Alvarez-Golovkin yet, but the verdict is in on what Canelo should do.  It’s unanimous; every article you read will at some point editorialize about what real champions do, or some version thereof.  There was even a special in-ring promotion somehow spearheaded by trainer Virgil Hunter and Amir Khan.    For some very suspicious reason, they spent their entire post-fight interview preemptively condemning Alvarez for any thoughts about not taking the fight.  “He took the risk,” Hunter kept repeating in reference to Khan.  Khan, too, insisted that it was time to step up for Canelo, while at the same time mentioning that he himself will be returning to 147 to fight opponents two weight classes smaller.  Did anyone else wonder how much Golovkin paid Khan to get knocked unconscious by Canelo and then call him a chicken?  Alvarez has 15 days to make a decision and sign off on the fight, or be stripped of his title.

If nobody else has done it, I’d be glad to be first.  I’m going on record that I’m in favor and support of Saul Alvarez forfeiting the title.  It’s time for self-righteous spectator journalists to take a step back and realize that modern belts and titles are meaningless.  What’s not meaningless is how much of a challenge a fighter is willing to accept.  So far Alvarez has been more ambitious than Amir Khan or Gennady Golovkin in terms of competition at the highest levels.  Khan clearly took the fight against Alvarez (and asked for one with Pacquiao and Mayweather) because it was an easy way to be seen in a high-profile fight and get a lot of money.  He had no other choice for maximizing his potential success and financial standing in the sport, but Canelo does.

Alvarez succumbed to pressure from fans and press to take the fight with Mayweather far too early.  Had he avoided that fight he would still be undefeated and just as marketable if not as well known.  If Canelo takes a fight against Gennady Golovkin in the next 15 days, the choice probably result in a loss.  By itself, that wouldn’t be so bad, but he’s shown that he can be sensitive to the style of a fighter who beats him.  Aside from the psychological impact affecting his career, the physical consequences could be severe also. At the very least he should take a better warm-up fight before facing Golovkin.  How about the slightly less terrifying and previous challenger to Golovkin David Lemieux?  Delivering an impressive win on Canelo’s undercard, Lemieux has established himself as a draw in the middleweight division.  The match would be more lucrative, exciting and relevant than the fight against Khan, and it would give us an idea of whether a fight with Golovkin is worth watching.

If I really am the only one on this side, so be it.  You have my vote, Canelo.  You don’t have to prove yourself to Golovkin, or Virgil Hunter, and certainly not to Amir Khan.  You’ve already proven to your fans what you’re capable of, and taking a stupid risk isn’t something we want to add to that list.

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What’s Left

This Saturday the highly anticipated fight between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez will air on pay-per-view.  Cotto has received a lot of attention since his domination of the aging Sergio Martinez.  Not all for good reason, though, because while Martinez had been a middleweight sensation in previous fights, he was injured and badly faded before ever taking a punch from Miguel Cotto.  He was also on the small side for 160 pounds.  Hailed for training the offense-minded Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach has accepted most of the credit for Cotto’s wins since moving up to middleweight, and while he’s looked impressive in those wins, the opposition hasn’t.  His only two opponents at this weight, Martinez and Daniel Geale, were both under the limit at weigh-in by at least a full pound, which is uncommon for full middleweights.  Martinez was badly injured, and Geale is a B+ fighter at best.  Not the preparatory challenge you’d expect for someone getting ready to take on Saul Alvarez.
Roach and Cotto are enjoying the hype, despite its tenuous evidence.  Managing a knockout against Geale, Cotto is now evaluated consistently as being back to “his old self” and more of a head-hunter than he was in the past.  In reality, any strong, skilled, pressure fighter would have knocked out Geale and dominated the injured Martinez.  Saturday will be a wake-up call for casual fans but I’m not so cynical as to think Cotto and Roach are that naive.  They know their ride in the middleweight division headlines will be very much like a roller coaster, and it won’t be long before the quick descent begins.
Saul Alvarez will almost certainly be the catalyst for that descent.

ESPN has done their best to hype the fight, presenting a “12-round breakdown” for Cotto-Alvarez in which they are evenly matched.  The comparison features 12 different categories to contrast the fighters.  Some of the categories, like “Wild Card” (happens to be the name of Cotto’s gym) and “Corner” are all but useless, but most of them have a basis in fact.  For the most part, though, it’s just a way to promote a fight.  Take some of the more unrealistic comparisons, such as Technique and Versatility.  ESPN gives both of these to Cotto, based on the fact that he started his career heavily relying on his boxing ability and has since been in some classic brawls.  The same can be said of Alvarez, though, in that Canelo has been criticized for boxing too conservatively (still winning rounds) and also praised for brutal knockouts (over high-level opponents).  Cotto’s technique is viewed similarly by all analysts, and the consensus isn’t entirely favorable.  While his technique has always been good, it’s never been his main attraction for fans, who tune in to see him applying constant pressure and throwing combinations despite his opponent’s attacks.

Depending on how you look at it, this is a good final act for Cotto.  He won’t be able to make more money than he will with this fight; he won’t be able to draw more attention than he has fighting Alvarez; he may not have another better matched opponent for the rest of his career.  We’ll surely get to see Cotto go out on his shield as he always has, and is only more likely to do with his new trainer.  Alvarez will be challenged and knocked off his feet if he’s not careful, but I doubt Cotto will be the second to defeat Canelo.  If all goes as planned, this fight will actually secure three of the sport’s biggest names for fights with each other, as knockout king Gennady Golovkin will be mandatory challenger to the winner.  All three have hovered near the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world for some time, Golovkin being the most prominent, and also the largest physically.  So far the middleweight king’s technical ability has been difficult to assess as it’s never been a major factor in his wins.  Cotto may not be the only one taken down a peg in this equation, but he’s the only one whose career is at risk.  He deserves the ultimate respect for being willing to go out in glory after such an inspiring career.  Whatever the result, we’ll see all of Miguel Cotto on Saturday.  Or at least, all of what’s left.

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The Secret Ingredient

Last night Canelo demonstrated again why he’s considered among the sport’s elite in knocking James Kirkland down and out after a brutal assault.  Kirkland tried to match Alvarez punch-for-punch from round one, but only landed solid shots during the first three minutes, while Alvarez measured the distance to adjusted to Kirkland’s movement.  Kirkland isn’t at the level of competition an elite fighter should be, but as a big puncher he always had a chance, and the fight wasn’t even close.  Alvarez has shown that he can be a successful boxer, as he was against Erislandy Lara; he can be a successful mover, as he was against Austin Trout; and he most certainly can be a successful fighter, as he showed against Kirkland.  Canelo is that special ingredient that can work in nimbly in the background, or be exploding in every bite.  Last night we saw that most exciting side of Saul Alvarez, which puts his impressive chin and offensive skill in the spotlight.  The only time we’ve seen Alvarez falter has been against the man who is now, indisputably, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.  Even then, Alvarez didn’t look badly hurt.

I admit, even I had started to forget why I had so much faith in Alvarez before the Mayweather fight.  He lost so comprehensively, it was hard to remember what made anyone think he was such a worthy opponent (which many did).  The Kirkland fight is a reminder.  Alvarez has the potential to reign after Maywether retires for the final time.  What’s more, he has the talent to make it interesting.  The next proposed fight for him will be a fall superfight with Miguel Cotto.  Cotto being one of my favorite fighters of all time, it’s hard for me to admit how sure I am that Cotto will lose, but it’s even harder to imagine how violently the loss might be.  Cotto’s chin and heart have always been too strong for his own good, going all the way back to the plastered bastard, Antonio Margarito.  It showed in his fights against Mayweather and especially Pacquiao, both of whom had open access to his head for the last rounds of their fights.  Alvarez may not box as well as Mayweather, or use angles as well as Pacquiao, but he’s a bigger man than either, and he’s defensively skilled enough to hold off Cotto’s formidable counter punching attack.  His endurance may even be enough to outlast this aging version of Cotto, who’s already been through so many wars.  After Cotto, however, there may not be any other exciting opponents for Alvarez, unless they can make a fight with Golovkin.  It remains to be seen if Alvarez can handle fighters from that division or if his dominance will be limited to junior middle.  Maybe more importantly, he has the style and star power to ascend to the top of the sport where others are lacking.  He’s skilled and has an (almost) unblemished record, like Floyd, but he’s also got the exciting aggression that the mainstream demands.  Cinnamon may just be the secret ingredient for the future of boxing.

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Triple G and the Rube

Tonight’s match between middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin and Marco Antonio Rubio has been much anticipated not only because of the two fighters’ fan-friendly fighting styles, but because Golovkin, for all his acclaim, has hardly stepped up to the elite level yet in his career. So far, in his already distinguished career, Golovkin’s biggest opponents have been themselves entirely undistinguished, the most recognizable names in his record being the extremely flawed Australian Daniel Geale, the fading contender Matthew Macklin, and the all-but-anonymous Nobuhiro Ishida. Someone unfamiliar with Golovkin’s performances might feel inclined to ask how he could build the reputation he has against such mediocre competition, but a writer for Ring magazine recently summarized this inconsistency well, comparing Golovkin to Mike Tyson. The sport was so much in awe Tyson’s path of destruction for most of his career, no one much thought to question the level of competition. Golovkin’s athletic dominance has been arguably just as impressive, but we can see a similar blind spot in our collective view of Golovkin. We want to believe so much that he’ll continue dispatching his opponents with such ease and prove himself the true champion of the division, that we’re willing to overlook a few chips in the paint.
Rubio, of course, while by no means a master technician or a sure bet for the Boxing Hall of Fame, has actually fought some upper-level, if not elite, competition. In fact, Rubio has a total of 66 fights with 59 wins, 51 of which came by way of knockout. That’s not quite double Golovkin’s KO record, but considering his reputation in the sport, almost is pretty damn good. Losing only 6 times in 66 fights, the only two of Rubio’s losses in the last 5 years have been to Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who, by the way, came into the ring a good weight class above Rubio. With these credentials, it’s plain to see that tonight’s match is a reasonable one, even though fans are expecting a one-sided victory for Golovkin. I think we’ll see an interesting exchange or two in the early rounds because Rubio’s chin is so sturdy, but if he’s not able to use his awkward style to keep Golovin’s punch rate low, he won’t be able to stand 12 rounds. Golovkin is hittable, so if he doesn’t watch his defense, he could actually get hurt, which might lead him to reduce his offense, thereby undermining his fight plan.
All that would have made a fairly comprehensive picture of the fight, if Rubio had made weight. Just yesterday at the weigh-in, fans discovered Rubio was a full pound and a half over the middleweight limit. This could mean that Rubio felt stronger at the higher weight and intentionally came in at the weight to give himself an advantage, but that advantage is somewhat counterproductive given that in achieving it he forfeited his championship title. As for other scenarios, none of them are good for Rubio. He’s in his mid-thirties, but his weight shouldn’t be such a challenge in preparing for a top-level fight at this age. The ESPN anchors are eager to lead analysts to declare Golovkin’s victory a foregone conclusion with outrageous talking points like “describe what makes Golovkin an all-time great,” but fans can expect to see him tested tonight, if not too heavily.

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