After the long-awaited megafight between unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and former champion Canelo Alvarez ended last September, nobody was happy. Not the fighters, not their teams and certainly not boxing fans.
The showdown had been a crowd-pleasing fight between two of the world's best fighters pound-for-pound, but when the fight was ruled a split draw the world groaned.
Most had seen Golovkin win a close decision, but two of the judges didn't see it that way. Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Golovkin. Don Trella had it 114-114, achieving a draw by giving Alvarez the seventh round, which was perhaps Golovkin's most dominant of the fight. And Adalaide Byrd had a scorecard that quickly went down as one of the worst in boxing history: 118-110 in favor of Alvarez (though even she scored the seventh round for GGG).
Alvarez said he thought he won the fight but even he and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, said they didn't think it was by as wide a margin as Byrd scored it.
Given the controversial nature of the outcome and that the fight was a commercial blockbuster, generating about 1.3 million pay-per-view buys and the third-biggest gate in boxing history ($27,059,850), the rematch was made and will take place on Cinco de Mayo, May 5 (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET), at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the same site as fight No. 1.
"This is the most important fight of my life. It's a history fight. It's a fight that will highlight my championship reign. I have nothing to prove in this fight. I just want to win. I want to win, I want to keep my belts, I want to stay world champion."Gennady Golovkin
Everything that happened in September was rehashed and storylines pushed as the promotion for the rematch kicked off on a chilly Tuesday night outdoors at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. That's where the media and fans turned out to see the fighters meet face to face for the only time before fight week, since the promoters surprisingly dispensed with a multi-city promotional tour.
One thing Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) made clear during their round of interviews before the media event as well as during their time on stage together, where they answered a series of questions from the moderators, including TV star Mario Lopez, was that they both remain irritated by the decision.
"First, I'm a very calm and real person. I'm always for fairness. This fight did not have any fairness, but this has not bothered me personally," said Golovkin, who sounded otherwise. "I don't lose sleep over it. The [HBO] commentators showed a bias. I've only seen the replay once. This type of judging is what is hurting boxing. I was disappointed in the commentary of the fight.
"What I watched did not match what I heard. What scares me is when the stats and the commentary don't match what you're watching. The commentators are entitled to their opinions. [The decision] was not bad for me personally, but I thought it was bad for the sport. I thought I won the fight. The [punch] stats prove it. The HBO expert [unofficial judge Harold Lederman] and the fans thought I won. I have no sadness or anger but as a boxer this makes me feel sad."
Canelo was also ticked off by the judging.
"I was very upset by the draw because of all the hard work I did, but that's boxing," he said. "I landed the best and most solid punches of the fight. I gave a great fight and I deserved the victory. He might have thrown 200 more punches more, but he didn't land all of them. He could have thrown 500 more, but if he didn't land them, what difference does it make?"
The stats GGG and Canelo referred to are from CompuBox, which employs experts to count punches thrown and landed. Those statistics are not seen by judges nor do they measure the quality of the punches, only the quantity of them.
In the September bout, Golovkin, 35, landed 218 of 703 punches (31 percent) and Alvarez, 27, connected with 169 of 505 (34 percent). Golovkin also landed more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds.
So while the numbers clearly favored GGG, he admitted he could have been better. He wasn't as aggressive as he usually is; he didn't attack the body like he typically would; and despite his vaunted punching power, he never seemed to truly hurt Alvarez.
"This fight didn't work out well for either of us," said Golovkin, who can tie Bernard Hopkins' middleweight record for most consecutive defenses at 20 with a win or, dare we say, another draw. "We didn't execute what we trained for. That's why it lasted 12 rounds. This is the most important fight of my life. It's a history fight. It's a fight that will highlight my championship reign. I have nothing to prove in this fight. I just want to win. I want to win, I want to keep my belts, I want to stay world champion."
Alvarez, too, did not fight as well as he is capable. He got off to a slow start and spent long stretches of the fight backing up, not his usual way of fighting, for which GGG trainer Abel Sanchez rapped him.
"I was very upset by the draw because of all the hard work I did, but that's boxing. I landed the best and most solid punches of the fight. I gave a great fight and I deserved the victory. He might have thrown 200 more punches more, but he didn't land all of them. He could have thrown 500 more, but if he didn't land them, what difference does it make?"Canelo Alvarez
"I hope Canelo was able to see a transmission specialist for the rematch because in the first fight he was stuck in reverse," Sanchez said. "All I know is that after the first fight the fans were not booing Gennady Golovkin. The rematch took long to make because Canelo takes long to heal and had long memories of the first fight."
Perhaps GGG and Canelo showed too much respect for each other. Both talked about making adjustments but neither seemed to believe anything radical had to change.
"We studied each other too much in the early rounds," Golovkin said. "I know he's very dangerous. But I want this fight. I want this victory. I want a great fight that boxing will be proud of. It's exciting because it's the two best pound-for-pound fighters colliding. It will be a real fight and a thrilling experience. I want a knockout but I'm not predicting a knockout. I know I will have to make it a dominant fight that is more obvious this time, not necessarily a knockout."
Alvarez also said there are things he could do to improve.
"I've seen the first fight. I know the changes I have to make," Alvarez said. "That's going to be the key to victory. It's about adding more things to the preparation. We're going to add to the arsenal and add more conditioning, punches and aggression. More than changing anything, I need to add more punches and aggression for the victory to be clear. The best way to win this fight is by knockout. It's not easy, but I can do it.
"Some thought he won, and others think I won. Boxing is about perspective. During the fight, I invited him to the ropes. I controlled the pace. But that's why we're having the rematch -- to see who is the best."