LAS VEGAS — It's a scene that has become all too familiar in boxing over the years. Ashen-faced promoters and officials trying to explain the unexplainable — to defend the indefensible.
And here it was again on Saturday night. In the very same ring where Canelo Alvarez of Mexico and Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan engaged in a closely contested battle that ended in a draw, the people involved in the making and sanctioning of the bout were left to answer for the one person who saw a clear winner.
The result was a split draw — with Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 knockouts) retaining his World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation middleweight titles. Judge Dave Moretti scored the contest for Golovkin 115-113, while judge Don Trella saw it a 114-114 draw.
But it was the scorecard of judge Adalaide Byrd that raised eyebrows at ringside. Byrd gave Alvarez the nod by a whopping 118-110 margin — scoring only the fourth and seventh rounds for Golovkin.
Not even Oscar De La Hoya — the chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Alvarez — could justify anyone seeing Alvarez as the winner by such a lopsided score.
"A lot of people are not understanding 118-110, just like myself," De La Hoya said during the post-fight news conference. He added, "I'm in shock. 118-110 is a shocker."
De La Hoya's reaction was far more diplomatic than some of the other principals. Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's trainer, did not hide his disgust with the ruling.
"I thought one of the judges had her card filled out before she came to the fight," Sanchez said. "That's unfortunate that in Vegas they seem to go to different schools to learn how to judge a fight."
In a utopian world, an outlier scorecard would not have been the dominant topic of conversation after such an outstanding bout. After a few sluggish early rounds, Golovkin, 35, quickly rounded into form and applied intense pressure to Alvarez the rest of the way. Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) absorbed some heavy blows and responded with some terrific, perfectly placed counter shots to momentarily halt Golovkin's attack. It was a spirited, action-packed, competitive match.
But boxing — as it has proved time and again — is far from utopian. Tom Loeffler, Golovkin's promoter, acknowledged as much.
"Scoring it that wide for Canelo, I think it takes away from a lot of the performance of the two fighters in the ring," Loeffler said. "And frankly, it's just not good for the sport of boxing."
The man chiefly responsible for Adalaide Byrd's presence at ringside, Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett, defended his body's decision to assign Byrd to the match — citing her years of experience judging high-level bouts. But he refused to justify her account of what took place at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
"Adalaide Byrd has had over 115 championship fights or elimination bouts," Bennett said. "Unfortunately tonight, she didn't do well. She was off her mark."
As for the fighters, both took umbrage with the decision — declaring themselves to be the true winner.
"This is not correct," Golovkin said. "This is very bad for sport."
"I have no doubt about it in my mind," Alvarez added. "I won the fight.
The numbers paint a murkier picture. According to the statistics tracking service CompuBox, Golovkin was busier and landed more shots by a significant margin. Overall, Golovkin connected on 218 of 703 punches, while Alvarez landed 169 of 505. The Mexican fighter, however, had a slight edge in power connects — besting Golovkin 114 to 110 in that category.
Each was reluctant to praise his opponent — with Golovkin criticizing Alvarez for not coming forward at all times, and Alvarez deeming Golovkin's heralded punching power to be somewhat overrated.
"It's not my fault," Golovkin said — speaking about the brief lulls of action in the bout. "I put pressure on every round."
"He has power. It's a different power than others I've faced," said Alvarez, 27. "But he's also not the monster that everybody was talking about. I didn't feel that."
With the unsatisfying result of a split draw, two fighters who respect but do not fear each other and a bout that delivered on the action it promised, the ingredients would seem to be in place for an immediate rematch. All parties involved seemed open to the idea.
"I think the fans are going to demand a rematch," Loeffler said. "And we can always put that together and see who will assert themselves the second time around."
Golden Boy Promotions officials reported there is a rematch clause in the contract between the fighters, but it has not yet been exercised. If their fighter has his way, it soon will be.
"With this kind of fight, boxing wins — the fans win," Alvarez said. "And if the fans want to see it again, why not?"
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