Changing of the Middleweight Guard

I previewed last night’s rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez here. The bout turned out to be an epic battle that exceeded the fighters’ original performance almost exactly one year ago. Almost every round could have been scored either way.

A year ago, Golovkin won the fight rather clearly but was victimized by the judges, and the fight was scored a draw. This time, the fight was just about dead even and could legitimately have ended in a draw, but two of the three judges gave the edge to Alvarez, giving us a new unified world middleweight champion.

The result was an upset, as a lot of late money flowed in on Golovkin, but I wasn’t surprised. Much as I wanted GGG to win, I doubted that he could hold off Alvarez, at 28 eight years younger, one more time.

Golovkin came into the fight undefeated at 38-0-1, while Alvarez had lost only once, to Floyd Mayweather. GGG has been the monster of the middleweight division for a decade, but the Golovkin of today is not the heavy-fisted destroyer of five to ten years ago. The story of last night’s fight was that Alvarez, basically a counterpuncher, was constantly advancing, especially in the early rounds–something few have tried to do against GGG. I think Alvrez’s camp realized, studying film and observing Golovkin’s results in recent years, that he no longer has the punching power of old.

Between 2009 and 2016, Golovkin knocked out 22 consecutive opponents. But in his last four fights, he has managed to KO only the overmatched Vanes Martirosyan in May, when Martirosyan was filling in for Alvarez after Canelo failed a drug test. In last night’s fight, Golovkin rocked Alvarez in consecutive late rounds–I think the 10th and 11th–and Alvarez wobbled momentarily. But GGG was unable to follow up and put Canelo away. I think that five or ten years ago, Golovkin would have finished the knockout.

Last night, Alvarez was usually the aggressor and his punches seemed heavier. Golovkin threw and landed more punches overall, and Alvarez was the only fighter who ever appeared to be staggered. It was a great fight and a very close one, but Golovkin fans should have no serious beef with the result.

When last night’s fight was over and Canelo was being interviewed in the ring, GGG returned to his dressing room. Golovkin reportedly says he wants a third bout with Alvarez. I, for one, hope he doesn’t get it. Rather, it is time to see Alvarez defend his crown against an excellent crop of younger middleweights, including Danny Jacobs, Jaime Munguia, a 21-year-old who fought on the undercard last night, Errol Spence and either of the Charlo brothers. It is a truism that all good things must end, and that is especially true of athletic careers.

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