At the conclusion of
Saturday's entertaining bout between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and
Gennady Golovkin, both fighters raised their arms believing that their efforts
had led to victory. Golovkin was the busier fighter, throwing over 200 more
punches. He had his best stretch of the match in the middle
rounds. Canelo neutralized Golovkin in the early-going and ended the bout with
flurries of blistering power punches. Like the fighters, the three judges were split in their
perception of the action. Dave Moretti saw Golovkin winning the fight
115-113. Don Trella scored it a draw and Adalaide Byrd somehow had Canelo as
the victor by a score of 118-110 (more on her later). The majority of
press row scores ranged from 116-112 in favor Golovkin to a 114-114
draw (I had Golovkin winning 116-112).
I found two facets of
the fight particularly surprising:
- On a punch-for-punch basis, I
think that Canelo was the more successful boxer.
- Canelo's conditioning was much
worse than expected.
Canelo's counters were
consistently the best punches in the fight. In the center of the ring, he had
sustained success whenever he let his hands go. Canelo demonstrated his command
of every power punch in his arsenal, connecting with left hooks to the body,
uppercuts and straight right hands.
His counters had their
desired effect, often forcing a break in Golovkin's offense and making him
retreat or reset. Throughout the fight, Golovkin was extremely mindful of
limiting Canelo's opportunities for countering. In the first third of the bout,
Golovkin was unwilling to fight in close and even as the fight turned into a
battle of power punches, Golovkin didn't march in with reckless abandon. Yes,
Golovkin was offensively-minded during the fight, but he wasn't as successful
in his forays as he had hoped. There were periods of caution from Golovkin
throughout the match.
Despite success in the
center of the ring, Canelo had retreated to the ropes by the fourth round.
Throughout much of the next six frames, the ropes were most often his home
base. Roy Jones pointed out during the HBO telecast that it wasn't necessarily
a function of Golovkin forcing Canelo to the ropes but more likely a decision
of Canelo's own making. With all respect to Jones, who in my opinion is
the best American boxing commentator working today, his analysis was off in
part. Yes, Canelo voluntarily withdrew to the ropes, but increasingly his
actions were based out of necessity and not out of preference. He just didn't
have the stamina to fight for three minutes a round. He'd cover up along the
ropes and try his best to defend himself but overall those were losing moments for
him during the fight.
Canelo's corner implored
Alvarez to stay away from the ropes but round after round he returned there as a
way to sustain himself. With an eight-year age advantage (27 vs. 35), one
wouldn't think that the prime-aged fighter would be the one with conditioning
challenges, but Canelo just didn't have the energy reserves to match Golovkin's effort and work rate.
Canelo has had
conditioning problems in the past, especially in fights against Austin Trout
and Erislandy Lara. At the time, many of his struggles were attributed to his
size in the junior middleweight division. Stories surfaced of his struggles in
making weight. That theory was further supported when he fought a number of contests at a limit of 155
pounds, just over the junior middleweight mark.
In 2015, Canelo didn't
have any conditioning problems against Miguel Cotto (fought at 155 lbs.). He
seemed strong at the weight and maintained his agility throughout the match.
With his performance in that fight, pesky questions about his conditioning
Saturday's fight was
contested at the middleweight limit of 160 lbs., five pounds north of his most
recent forays in the middleweight division. In theory, that should've been a
comfortable weight for Canelo. However, Saturday's fight didn't evince that. Canelo
couldn't sustain his effort through large portions of the match.
Canelo needs to improve
his strength-and-conditioning regimen. Looking bulky in the ring, perhaps his
thick musculature leads to early onsets of fatigue. The fourth round is far too early for a world-class boxer to gas out. And it
wasn't as if Golovkin had been pressing Canelo earlier in the fight. Canelo's team
needs to evaluate their current training program; the status quo isn't working.
Maybe Canelo's problems with
conditioning will always be an issue for him in his career. Some fighters look
capable of going 24 rounds while others have problems sustaining their efforts
through 12. Against top opponents Canelo will continue to have vulnerabilities unless significant changes are made in this area.
Canelo and Golovkin succeeded at various points in the fight but each was unable to assert sustained dominance. Golovkin fought tentatively in the first
three rounds and couldn't match Canelo's effort in the final two frames. Perhaps
paying too much respect to Canelo early in the fight, Golovkin neglected
Alvarez's body and didn't seem fully comfortable letting his hands go until the
Once Golovkin hit his
groove, he demonstrated his greatness. Featuring a non-stop attack and
fantastic footwork, he unloaded on Canelo with an array of power shots; his
pressure was relentless.
Throughout the fight,
Golovkin exhibited strong boxing fundamentals and a high Ring IQ. If one was
inclined to give him rounds in the first quarter of the fight, his jab, the
foundational punch in the sport, was the reason. Throughout the match he did an
expert job in varying the pace and force of his shots. Mixing in jabs, softer
right hands and power shots, he probed Canelo's defense and found openings.
success in the middle rounds didn't have its desired effect on Canelo in the
final third of the fight. Had he done more damage, the possibility of a
successful late-round Canelo stand would've been far less likely.
As for Canelo, he heeded
the call from his corner before the 10th round and closed the fight well.
Tagging Golovkin with combinations at the start of each of the final three
rounds, Canelo found energy reserves when he needed them the most. His work in
the Championship Rounds staved off a loss. Despite the conditioning
deficiencies that he had demonstrated earlier in the match, he dug down in the fight's final
moments and did his best work.
Canelo-Golovkin was a well-contested fight that showcased the best of both
combatants. Canelo's combinations and punch placement are among the best in the
sport. Golovkin maintained his reputation as one of boxing's premier offensive
fighters. The bout featured a number of swing rounds, especially the 1st and
the 10th. In a final analysis, each fighter did have a case for victory. I
think that Golovkin's claim had a better foundation, but it was still one
comprised of sand and dirt instead of stucco.
Despite an excellent
effort from both fighters, Canelo-Golovkin I (yes, there will be a rematch)
will forever be known as the "Adalaide Byrd Fight." Her 118-110
scorecard in favor of Canelo marred a compelling bout. Byrd's scorecard diverged so wildly from a defendable range of scores that the only
conceivable explanations were incompetence or corruption.
Byrd has been a bad boxing judge for some time. Examining her
judging history one will see a number of strange scorecards. It's not that she
has a bias necessarily for the "money" fighter; she's just someone
who can be wildly erratic. The Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic
Commission (NSAC), Bob Bennett, has fielded complaints about Byrd's performance
in the past. (Top Rank recently tried to have Byrd removed from judging
Lomachenko-Walters.) However, Bennett saw no
pressing need to take action. Most likely now, after a push from his political
superiors in Carson City, he will.
Bennett has not
distinguished himself during his time at the NSAC. He has retained poor
officials under his watch despite years of substandard performance. We can name
the bad officials in Nevada – Robert Hoyle, Adalaide Byrd, Vic Drakulich, and
Russell Mora – yet, they continue to get
assignments week after week.
Earlier this year, Bennett and the NSAC broke a long-standing practice in
boxing by allowing junior middleweights Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to
wear eight-ounce gloves during their fight, a move seemingly at odds
with the mission of a state athletic commission, which is tasked with
protecting the health and safety of combatants. Even on a more basic level,
Bennett and the NSAC allowed Mayweather-McGregor to happen, a fight between an
undefeated champion, perhaps the best boxer in the world, and a novice who had
never had a professional boxing match. If there were sanity in the world, that
fight would've been nothing more than an exhibition, with further regulatory controls
put in place – not an actual boxing match with additional protective measures
But, money talks and one
must concede that Bennett has helped to usher in three enormous boxing events into Nevada this year. Mayweather-McGregor, Canelo-Golovkin and Canelo-Chavez Jr. were wildly
successful at the box office, adding millions into the coffers of
Nevada, its government and the NSAC.
With that said, government officials loathe scrutiny. They don't want the general public to see how the
sausage gets made. When scandals happen, such as Byrd's scorecard, there
becomes a call for greater accountability and transparency, something that very
few involved in Nevada politics would like to entertain.
The powers that be in
Nevada don't want reporters looking into how Bennett and the Commission assign
judges, how officials are evaluated or the Commission's procedures when objections are made with their officials. The state can't have people poking around into
who the NSAC's Commissioners are, how they were appointed, what business relationships
they might have and whether potential conflicts of interest are occurring.
Because of these
factors, I expect Byrd to get sacrificed at the altar. Perhaps if Bennett gives
the public some red meat, calls for additional oversight and transparency will
subside. Byrd has served the state of Nevada for decades as a judge and her
husband, Robert, continues to receive top assignments as a boxing referee. Out
of respect for the Byrds' service, perhaps Bennett will not publicly flay
Adalaide, but in all likelihood she will be removed from her position – and that
information will eventually get leaked to a friendly reporter in the coming
If I were Bob Bennett,
I'd take this opportunity to get my house in order. For as many plaudits that
Bennett has received for bringing in money to the state, those accolades aren't
enough to counterbalance the Nevada political class's aversion to increased
scrutiny and transparency. The powers that be would easily sacrifice a big
fight or two a year (or even Bennett) in favor of keeping the opaque status quo.
Bennett should take this
opportunity to do the following things
- Bring in an outside consultant to help him evaluate Nevada's
boxing officials and announce this move publicly.
- Expand the NSAC's existing initiative to add new officials.
- Allow more exceptions to Nevada's residency requirements to ensure
that only top officials are working major boxing events.
These steps will provide
the public with more confidence in the NSAC, which will in turn help to keep interlopers away from the Nevada political patronage system. Bennett needs to
address the following questions: Does the NSAC have transparent evaluative
criteria for their boxing officials? Can they be easily communicated in case of an open records request or a legal proceeding? Or is it a black
box? Outside help could create stronger criteria for
evaluating and retaining officials. Clearly, the current practices haven't led to better officiating.
Bennett and the NSAC
have already instituted a training program to add new officials, both judges and
referees. However, that training will take years to complete and there may need
to be some housecleaning with its existing officials in the interim. He should expand the
program to make sure that they get the numbers needed for the next generation
of officials (it's also a scary thought that Adalaide Byrd has been one of the
officials who has helped to train prospective new judges). Nevada doesn't need a handful of new boxing officials; it needs batches of them.
The state also has strict
residency requirements for its boxing officials. For big title fights, the NSAC will at times bring in an out-of-jurisdiction judge to mollify the sanctioning bodies and the
"away fighters" (Don Trella, from Connecticut, was such a judge on
Saturday). However, Nevada rarely allows out-of-state referees (Jack Reiss, from California, did ref a few fights in Nevada in May
of 2016, a recent exception). Unfortunately, Nevada doesn't have enough quality
referees for the amount of boxing matches that occur in its jurisdiction. Thus,
Drakulich and Mora continue to get assignments because of the parochialism of
the NSAC and the prerogatives of state officials. This needs to change.
It may take a few years
until a new batch of homegrown officials is ready for the bright lights of
Vegas. In the interim, the NSAC needs to ensure the integrity of its
professional boxing matches. The NSAC has always prided itself on its
self-sufficiency but it's time to bite that bullet and reach out for help.
Boxing and Nevada need each other, but they also need each other to function
properly. The NSAC is a problem commission at the moment. If changes aren't
made, Bennett and his cronies in Carson City can only hurt the sport, which in
turn will negatively influence a state dependent on entertainment and tourism
to stay afloat.
Bennett has a tough task ahead of him. Although his tenure hasn't
inspired much confidence that he can right the ship, his own job security might
depend on it. And self-preservation can be a great cure for inertia.
Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com
He's a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.