LAS VEGAS — After the final hour and 36 rounds, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin shared a long embrace, ending a feud that had grown personal in the five years since they first met in the ring.
In another close fight, Alvarez won his undisputed super middleweight championship by unanimous-decision against his longtime rival in a three-way contest before a pro-Canelo crowd on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena on Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Two judges scored it 115-113, and the third had it 116-112 for Alvarez.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) threw Golovkin with his jab work and rarely threw his powerful right hand, the star that started him and a legendary middleweight championship run. Finally, Golovkin found his footing and won four of the final five rounds on two scorecards, but it was too little, too late.
As they hugged, Alvarez told Golovkin, “Thank you so much, man. Thank you for everything. We’re giving the fans three good fights.”
When Alvarez vowed to end Golovkin’s career with a knockout victory, there was the opposite jubilation to the pre-fight build-up. He also called Golovkin (42-2-1, 37 KOs) a hypocrite who pretends to be a good guy.
Now, with the dust settled and the match over, the fighters go their separate ways.
Alvarez, who holds all four 168-pound belts, could pursue a rematch with Dimitri Bivol next year, even though Bivol has decisioned him since May. But first, Alvarez said he will need surgery on his left hand, though he did not provide specific details of the injury.
“I can’t hold a mirror,” Alvarez, 32, said. “It’s too bad. But I’m a warrior.”
Boxing’s biggest star, Alvarez, told ESPN at ringside that his hand was “throbbing from the Caleb Mill fight,” a November TKO victory that preceded his loss to Bivol.
“I’ve been through some tough things in my life and the only thing you can do is keep moving forward and moving forward,” Alvarez said. “I’ve been through tough times with my failures and I’ve shown that failures are big. It helps you come back and show humility.”
That’s what Alvarez showed with his second win over Golovkin, the third meeting Golovkin and boxing fans had been waiting four years for. A September 2018 rematch was won by Alvarez via majority decision. The first bout, in September 2017, was a controversial draw, which Golovkin narrowly won.
Both of those bouts were contested at 160 pounds, where Golovkin is a unified champion.
“Remember what I have [two] belts at 160. I’m coming back and I’m still the champion,” said Golovkin, who made his 168-pound debut.
Since he captured Olympic silver in 2004, he has competed in title fights at 160 pounds.
“Everybody knows it’s a top class. It’s the best fighter in boxing. Everybody knows who Canelo is. It’s a big fight. Look at his face, look at my face. We trained well and it shows what we did. A good quality fight.
“This fight is more tactical. Today, Canelo is better. Congratulations to Canelo.”
Indeed, this fight was a far cry from the memorable first two entries of their storied rivalry, with the exception of the final four rounds where the action picked up pace.
Golovkin, a Kazakhstan native who fights out of Los Angeles, was out wide on all three cards entering the stretch and picked up the pace. He started firing the right hand that made him a future Hall of Famer and he connected with some thudding shots in the 9th round after pinning Alvarez in the corner.
The 10th round was more of the same with a flurry of sharp right uppercuts on the inside set up by Golovkin’s excellent jab. In round 11, he opened Alvarez over the right eye and finished strong in the final round.
“Second half, I wasn’t bad,” Golovkin said. “This fight is very clever, as tricky as chess.”
The fight was not good in the first seven rounds. Golovkin pumped his jab but never followed up with a right hand. Alvarez, meanwhile, controlled the action and pinned Golovkin back with loads of pressure.
He battered Golovkin’s body with blunt right hands to the liver, and a left hook to the face followed that up. By the end of round 3, Golovkin’s face was already swollen, and a large welt appeared on his forehead.
Canelo hits Golovkin’s midsection with right hands.
However, Golovkin was in no danger. After all, he has one of the best cheeks in boxing, and time doesn’t seem to be ruining it.
But over time, for a long time, there was once fierce competition. Alvarez, ESPN’s no. The 5 pound-for-pound boxer will look to regain the top spot he owned before suffering a loss to Bivol after some well-deserved rest.
Golovkin is nearing the end, but insists he has to move on with his career. After his late stand against Alvarez on Saturday, there will be more interest in his future bouts, whether he competes at 160 pounds or 168.
Whatever happened to each man, their time together in the ring was over, and with it, one of the biggest — and most bankable — rivalries in boxing history.
“I’m excited to share the ring with him,” Alvarez said. “We’ve given the fans three good fights. I’m happy to be involved in those types of fights.”
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