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 retained his undisputed super middleweight championship by unanimous decision over his longtime rival in a three-way contest on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in front of a raucous pro-Alvarez crowd on Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Two judges had it 115-113 for Alvarez, while a third had it 116-112.
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, the cheers were a stark contrast to the preview 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. However, the injury to his left wrist may require surgery.
A team doctor said Alvarez had a tear in the cartilage in his wrist. Alvarez said he is waiting to see if he needs surgery, which the doctor says will require six to 12 weeks of rehabilitation.
“I can’t hold a mirror,” Alvarez, 32, said. “It’s too bad. But I’m a warrior.”
Boxing’s top star, Alvarez, told ESPN his arm was “throbbing from the Caleb Mill fight,” a November TKO victory over the Mexican boxer prior to his loss to Pivol.
“I’ve been through some tough things in my life, and the only thing you can do is keep trying and keep 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, which took place in September 2017, was a controversial draw that Golovkin narrowly won.
Both of those bouts were contested at 160 pounds, where Golovkin is a unified champion.
“Remember, 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, Golovkin 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’ve trained well, it shows that we’ve had a training session. A very good quality fight. ,” he said.
“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 40-year-old native of Kazakhstan who fights out of Los Angeles, expanded on all three cards 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. After the 11th round, an accidental head-butt opened up Alvarez’s right eye, and Golovkin finished strong in the 12th round.
“Second half, I wasn’t bad,” Golovkin said. “This fight is very clever — as tactical 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.
Alvarez pounded Golovkin’s body with blunt right hands to the liver, followed by a left hook to the face. By the end of round 3, Golovkin’s face was already swollen, and a large welt appeared on his forehead.
Alvarez continued to attack 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 kinds of fights.”