By GREG BEACHAM
LAS VEGAS — Canelo Álvarez decisively won his third ring meeting with Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night, earning a unanimous-decision victory in the final bout of their entertaining trilogy.
Four years after the fighters’ most recent meeting ended in a narrow, disputed victory for Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), the four-division world champion left little doubt about this verdict. The 32-year-old Mexican star delivered a comprehensive pummeling of the now-40-year-old Golovkin (42-2-1) in the first eight rounds, repeatedly testing Triple G’s famed chin with combinations and overhand rights.
Golovkin started far too slowly with no clear strategy to take the initiative away from Álvarez. Fighting at 168 pounds for the first time in his career, the Kazakh middleweight star still had moments of his dynamic best in the later rounds against a wearier Canelo, but they weren’t enough to turn the bout against a younger opponent more comfortable at super middleweight.
The judges all scored it surprisingly closely for Álvarez: 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113. The Associated Press also favored Canelo, 117-111.
With a clear victory to wrap up one of the livelier rivalries in recent boxing history, Álvarez rebounded splendidly from only the second loss of his career, a fairly one-sided light heavyweight defeat delivered by Dmitry Bivol last May.
Golovkin has said he won’t retire after this bout, but the longtime middleweight champion took only his second career loss — and the first that was decisive. The bitter rivals embraced and spoke warmly to each other after the final bell, perhaps signaling a thaw in their frosty relationship.
After their first two fights resulted in a draw and a narrow majority-decision victory for Álvarez, the fighters finally met again four years later, again fighting just off the Las Vegas Strip in front of a pro-Canelo crowd.
The 32-year-old Álvarez was a 5-to-1 favorite shortly before the opening bell, and he fought like it. Throwing far more punches and taking the initiative away from Golovkin, Canelo largely dominated the first half of the fight while a welt rose on Golovkin’s right temple.
Golovkin had no discernible game plan against Canelo’s bullying in the first eight rounds, instead absorbing Álvarez’s blows and not launching enough of his own. Golovkin finally upped his work rate and made progress against a wearier Canelo in the late rounds, but it wasn’t enough.
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Álvarez was cut over his right eye in the later rounds, but the damage and Golovkin’s increased activity didn’t appear to slow him at all.
The bout was the long-delayed final chapter in one of the most intriguing trilogies of this era. Álvarez and Golovkin first fought in 2017 and again in 2018, but those 24 rounds did nothing to determine superiority among two evenly matched fighters with nearly unmatched combinations of skill and punching power.
They fought to a split draw in their first meeting, but nearly everybody without an official scorecard thought Golovkin deserved the victory. Their second meeting was closer, and while Álvarez won by razor-thin majority decision, Golovkin again vehemently disagreed with the judges in his only career defeat.
Golovkin had fought only four times in the four years since that bout, and this third bout likely was delayed by his vocal criticism of Álvarez for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance before the second fight. Álvarez said the rivalry was now personal after years of bad blood and mutual criticism, while Golovkin insisted Álvarez was just another opponent.
That’s clearly not true: This matchup was special, and it may turn out to be the greatest rivalry of both fighters’ careers.
In the show’s penultimate bout, Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez remained unbeaten and retained his WBC super flyweight title with a difficult unanimous-decision victory over Israel Gonzalez. The 22-year-old Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs) is a rising star, and he overcame a point deduction for a low blow to win a tactical matchup with an unorthodox opponent.