Even after a brilliant Canelo-GGG fight, focus is on boxing's potential corruption
The Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight was boxing at its best ... and its worst
LAS VEGAS -- There was an element to the pre-fight analysis in handicapping Saturday's middleweight championship bout between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin that felt uncomfortable to mention.
But just much as you didn't want to be the one compelled to apply the conspiracy qualifier in regards to Alvarez's history of getting the nod in close fights onto your prediction, you just as surely didn't want to be the one to ignore it.
After 12 rounds of action and drama on Saturday, Alvarez certainly appeared to receive said "benefit of the doubt" on Don Trella's 114-114 scorecard, which joined the 115-113 for Golovkin from Dave Moretti to clinch the disputed finish of a split draw.
But the third scorecard of 118-110 for Alvarez, turned in by Adelaide Byrd, was nothing short of robbery: It robbed Golovkin of what felt like an impressive victory and robbed the fight from the instant classic moniker it deserved. It also robbed the sport of boxing from an incredible feel-good moment.
This was a pay-per-view bout which finally delivered upon its promise for action, and a sold-out crowd of 23,358 stood on its feet to celebrate the sport at its best. Moments later, that feeling was drowned by a tall glass of everything that's wrong with this unorganized sport -- one that has never been a stranger to impropriety.
Seeing boxing's money fighters get preferential treatment by judges is far from a new phenomenon. That doesn't mean we should be silent about it or treat it as an unpleasant character quirk akin to that uncle at family gatherings who makes off-color comments.
The fact that referencing Alvarez's preferential treatment was a necessary and legitimate part of the pre-fight narrative should have been more troubling than perceived. And the fact that questionable decisions -- that's being kind -- continue to pop up in Las Vegas far more than any other city, helping the fight capital of the world live up to its Wild West reputation, has become nothing short of a tired act.
For as much as Alvarez's iron chin and his display of toughness were major parts of what made Saturday's fight so good, how can we be expected to overlook the help he has received on the scorecards in four of the five biggest fights of his career?
Byrd scored 10 of 12 rounds for Alvarez against Golovkin in a fight most felt was -- at best for Canelo -- a draw. Then there was his only loss, a humbling 2013 decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 when C.J. Ross infamously gave Alvarez a 114-114 card in a bout most scored a shutout.
Alvarez received a similarly puzzling outlier scorecard in his close decision win over Austin Trout in their 2013 unification bout when judge Stanley Christodoulou scored it 118-109. Even in Alvarez's split-decision win over Erislandy Lara in 2014, a fight nearly everyone had 115-113 in either direction, Alvarez was the benefactor of a 117-111 card from Levi Martinez.
It's no longer a coincidence. Worse, Alvarez's situation is far from unique. Bad scorecards are part of the Kryptonite which constantly prevents the sport from getting out of its own way. Yet the judges who become most known for the wrong reasons seem to consistently get chosen for the biggest assignments, time and again.
I've said it before and I'll say it once more about this great sport: It continues to be its own worst enemy.
Alvarez and Golovkin appear headed toward a high-profile rematch that will line the pockets of the boxers and their promoters. It might even produce a similar amount of drama and excitement as Saturday's clash. But that doesn't mean we'll learn anything more than we already did by watching Golovkin routinely cut off the ring and corner Alvarez against the ropes for round after round.
Three weeks after hardcore fans were forced to endure the more circus-like elements of Mayweather's victory over UFC champion Conor McGregor, it was Alvarez-Golovkin that was supposed to be boxing's real Super Bowl.
Credit the fight and its two high-profile combatants for delivering. Then blame the system for reminding us why boxing, even at its very best, can't help but sabotage itself.
It's a sport that remains as beautiful as it is brutal, but it has lived for far too long in the uneasy debate between incompetence and corruption that has constantly driven so many former fans away. After a result like Saturday let all the air out of the proverbial balloon, it's hard to mount a defense as to why they should stay.
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