LAS VEGAS — One great fight, one lousy scorecard.
Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin did their part Saturday night to make their middleweight showdown a memorable one, putting on the kind of big drama show both had promised. They traded big shots and battled for 12 rounds, and when it was over they leaped into the arms of their corner men, both certain they had won.
That the judges ruled it a draw wasn’t out of line. It was that kind of fight, a close, tense bout that could have gone either way, but only slightly.
Unfortunately, one judge somehow had Alvarez winning all but two rounds. The 118-110 margin in favor of Alvarez by Adalaide Byrd was so stunningly off that it dominated the talk at a post-fight press conference that otherwise would have focused on one of the better fights of the year.
Once again, boxing can’t seem to get out of its own way.
“People can argue either way, but it was such a great fight,” promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. “But a lot of people can’t understand 118-110, just like myself.”
Perhaps overlooked by those complaining about the score is that if Byrd had Alvarez winning by a closer margin, say 115-113, the fight would still be a draw and no one would be talking about the judges. It wasn’t that she necessarily got the winner wrong, but by too big of a margin.
Still, there was plenty of venom on social media and from outraged television types for Byrd’s inexplicable card. Golovkin also wasn’t happy about the scorecard in a fight he seemed to be controlling until Alvarez rallied in the late rounds.
“This is terrible for the sport,” Golovkin said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Byrd, a veteran of championship fight judging, didn’t exactly get a ringing endorsement from Nevada boxing officials either.
“That’s the life of a judge,” said Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “She had a bad night in a big fight.”
The other two judges saw the fight that most at ringside thought they were watching, a bruising affair that appeared to be going Golovkin’s way until Alvarez rallied to take the last three rounds on all three scorecards.
One favored Golovkin 115-113, while the other had it 114-114. The Associated Press also scored it 114-114.
“The scorecard points put aside, we gave boxing what it needed, a great fight tonight,” Alvarez said.
On that point, it’s hard to argue. Both fighters were sharp and accurate with their punches and both landed shots that in any other fight would put their opponents down.
No one was ever in danger of hitting the canvas, but the sellout crowd of 22,358 screamed throughout as the intensity of the fight never seemed to let up. Golovkin relentlessly pushed forward, landing big shots behind his jab, while Alvarez counter punched — often off the ropes — with savage efficiency.
When it was over, both were sure they had won. Neither did, but it was Golovkin who got the consolation prize of leaving the ring with the same middleweight belts he brought into it.
“I still have all the belts,” Triple G said. “I’m still the champion.”
Inevitably, the talk soon turned to a possible rematch. Alvarez had a rematch clause in his contract, and both he and De La Hoya said he would execute it. HBO boxing chief Peter Nelson said he thought a second fight would do even better than the first, and indicated a date next May would be perfect.
If that fight takes place it will be without Byrd writing down her scores at ringside. Boxing history is littered with judges who never get another chance after high-profile miscues, and despite Bennett saying Byrd has been a good judge over the years she’s not likely to get a title fight again in the near future.
In the end, a fight that boxing purists had been salivating for delivered on its promise. Two proud warriors went toe to toe, leaving nothing in the ring as they fought for supremacy in one of boxing’s most hallowed divisions.
That it was somewhat tainted by one bad card was no fault of either.