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Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez ends in a split draw

Gennady Golovkin, right, throws a right at Canelo Alvarez. (John Locher/AP)

LAS VEGAS — The fight was all but certain to be action-packed. And on that score, it did not disappoint. But it was also supposed to determine the best middleweight boxer in the world. And in that, it fell short.

Gennady Golovkin retained his World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, and International Boxing Federation title belts by way of a split decision draw with Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night in Las Vegas — a decision which was met with audible groans from what had been a raucous crowd of 22,358 at T-Mobile Arena.

The bout had a tactical beginning, but it wasn’t long before the two began to increase their exchanges. What little boxing was done in the latter half of the bout was done by Alvarez — who manage to fend off Golvkin’s intense pressure with occasional, well-timed counter shots.

The defensive maneuvers bothered Golovkin, who preferred to trade punches.

“It’s not my fault,” Golovkin said of the rare moments of inactivity in the bout. “I put pressure on every round.”

Alvarez, meanwhile, took a jab at Golovkin’s vaunted power — calling it a bit overrated.

“There wasn’t any power that didn’t surprise me,” Alvarez said.

Despite the criticism they offered of the other, Golovkin and Alvarez were in full agreement on one point.

“Of course I want the rematch,” Golovkin said.

“Yes, of course,” Alvarez added.

They are not alone.

The scores broke down like this: Judge Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Golovkin, Judge Don Trella scored it 114-114. And Judge Adalaide Byrd scored the fight 118-110 for Alvarez.

A judge comes under fire for how she scored Golovkin-Alvarez fight

That latter, uneven score dominated much of the postfight discussion. Alvarez undoubtedly had his moments — particularly in the early stages. And one could even justifiably give him the nod. But many ringside and spectators at home found Byrd’s 118-110 card — one in which she awarded only the fourth and seventh to Golovkin — to be outrageous.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, which handles the judging, remained confident in Byrd’s abilities, but wouldn’t go so far as to defend her scorecard.

“Adalaide is an outstanding judge,” NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett said, adding, “She had a bad night. It happens.”

And with that, here’s how the fight shook out, round-by-round.

Round 1: Very little action in the first 90 seconds, but Alvarez lands the first meaningful blow with a counter to the body. Golovkin lands a few jabs, but Alvarez is able to take advantage of some Golvokin misses by landing several decent shots. More than enough to carry a slow opening round.

Round 2: Solid right uppercut inside by Alvarez just past the midway point of the round. Golovkin looks more comfortable in this round, but it hasn’t translated to his trademark furious offensive attack. Alvarez, with his back to the ropes, lands a strong body shot to punctuate the frame, likely the second that he’s banked.

Round 3: Golvokin has picked up the tempo in this round, and is launching a sustained attack. He’s managed to close the distance a bit, as Alvarez’s counters have not been quite as effective in the third. Golovkin most likely gets on the board.

Round 4: Alvarez is making it a point to go to the body — a strategic gamble he’s hoping will pay off in the later rounds. But for now, Golovkin has plenty of energy, and plenty of starch on his punches. A superb combination midway through the round scores for Golovkin, and he has taken control in this round. Golovkin lands a perfect right cross, then several more shots to close out an excellent fourth.

Round 5: Alvarez, sensing the momentum shift, comes out aggressively to open the fifth. But Golovkin promptly reasserts control with an effective combination against the ropes. Golovkin lands a perfect right hook on Alvarez which brings the crowd to life. Alvarez withstood a furious rally, though, and manages to fight his way off the ropes. This has been a more tactical bout than expected to this point. But the fireworks might be about to begin.

Round 6: Two vicious right hand shots for Golovkin, who picks up right where he left off to open the sixth. Alvarez has shown an iron chin, and he fights his way back into the frame. But the Golovkin work rate is carrying the day. Alvarez appears to have lost just a bit of zip on his punches. Golovkin is just cutting off the ring beautifully, giving Alvarez no place to run. Another Golovkin round.

Round 7:  The tempo slows a bit, to Alvarez’s advantage. This bout belongs to Alvarez in the center of the rings, and it belongs to Golovkin when Alvarez is on the ropes. The first two minutes of the round were strong for Alvarez. The last belonged to Golovkin. Very tough round to score. Alvarez might get the jump ball here.

Round 8:  Golovkin wastes no time, and lands a killer combination to open the round. He’s just getting off quicker now. Alvarez may be starting to fatigue, but he lands an outstanding right uppercut with his back to the ropes to momentarily ward off the sustained Golovkin pressure. That shot, alone, though, was nowhere near good enough to win him the round.

Round 9: Alvarez has abandoned the pretense of boxing. And here we go. This is the fight the experts predicted. They’re in a phone booth now. Alvarez lands a monster right hook about midway through the frame. And Golovkin hardly flinches. The Golovkin pressure is simply relentless. Alvarez badly wants a breather, and Golovkin just won’t let him have one. This is another close round. Golovkin may have taken it based on effective aggressiveness.

Round 10: Alvarez is letting his hands go now, perhaps sensing the fight slip away. And he wobbles Golovkin with furious barrage in the center of the ring. But Golovkin manages to get his sea legs back, and it’s not long before he’s once again applying the pressure. Vicious exchange to close out the round — to the roar of the capacity crowd of 22,358.

Round 11: Alvarez has shown a tremendous heart and chin, and he takes control of a comparatively slow round at about the halfway point. Golovkin, who knocked out 23 straight opponents prior to his last fight, just has not been able to connect on the home run swing — and he’s tried several. Alvarez seemed to feed off the emotion of the crowd, and probably did enough to take the penultimate round.

Round 12: They both want it bad, and they both know it’s close. Alvarez, who began to turn the tide in the 11th, dominates the first minute of the closing round. But Golovkin jabs his way back in, and lands on a tiring Alvarez. The tanks are empty here — particularly Alvarez’s. But these two are giving everything they’ve got with the fight on the table. The closing bell sounds. It was as superb as expected. Before the decision is even announced, one word can already be heard en masse on press row: Rematch.

On the pop culture front, check out some of the A-listers in the audience.

Along with Charles Barkley, Michael J. Fox and Tracey Morgan, NBA MVP Russell Westbrook was among those reportedly ringside, as were fellow basketball stars Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Paul Pierce.

WWE was also reportedly well represented in the audience, with Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, John Cena, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton all in the stands.

Others reportedly sitting ringside included: 50 Cent, Andre Royo, Chris Brown, Dave Chappelle, George Lopez, LL Cool J, Mario Lopez, Mark Wahlberg, Marlon Wayans, Mike Tyson, Oscar de le Hoya, Adrien Broner and Dana White.

Undercard results:

  • Joseph Diaz Jr. def. Rafael Rivera via unanimous decision (119-109, 119-109, 120-108)
  • Diego De La Hoya def. Randy Caballero via unanimous decision (100-90, 98-92, 98-92)
  • Ryan Martin def. Francisco Rojo via split decision (91-98, 96-93, 95-94)

Winner of GGG vs. Canelo could be crowned as the fighter of his generation

Marissa Payne contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.