Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez: Boxing's number one star
While Gennady Golovkin was left to rue the judges' verdict on Saturday night, his conqueror Saul Alvarez is now - argues Lee Gormley - the undisputed king of Las Vegas and boxing...
Fairytale endings are rarely achieved in boxing. Few are the scenarios in which redemption for wrongdoings is witnessed, injustices overwritten or what’s deserved rightfully comes to fruition.
At the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, after a fiercely contested 12 rounds, Gennady Golovkin and his legions of passionate fans were reminded of exactly that.
Returning to the scene of the maiden professional blemish on his record, GGG has now bitterly tasted the first defeat of a long and distinguished career.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez edged a captivating middleweight match-up by majority decision, and in doing so, cemented his status as the sport’s leading light and, perhaps, also confirmed himself as pound-for-pound supremacist.
Golovkin’s career should not be tarnished by his results in the last 12 months. He will go down as a truly great middleweight champion and could, or perhaps should, have had two successive victories from this high-profile rivalry.
Yes, perhaps, if the pair had met two or three years ago when the Kazakh was in his devastating prime he could have blitzed through a more inexperienced and less battle-tested Canelo.
But that’s boxing. Fine margins are involved, so rather than riding off into the sunset with consecutive successes that would have secured his legacy, defining him as one of the great 160lbs fighters in history, Golovkin must instead deal with the impact of a winless record in his two most prominent career bouts.
In defeat GGG also bid farewell to his undefeated record, his cherished belts and his long-standing title reign streak. Understandably, he was upset.
But even at 36 years of age, in the twilight moments of his time in the ring, GGG pushed a much more youthful opponent who is entering his prime to the edge and could easily have earned a triumphant rematch outing in Sin City.
Whether the strain and brutality of such an engrossing and competitive fight will have a lasting impact on the dethroned former champion remains to be seen, not to mention the potential intensity of another arduous training camp.
As is the current climate of boxing though, belts may soon become available again quickly and there could well be a late career surge before ‘the God of War’ finally leaves the four-cornered battlefield behind him for good.
For Canelo, Saturday's success has solidified his stature as boxing’s leading man, while the more direct approach he undertook in the second scrap will have gone a long way in mending his relationship with the highly-demanding Mexican fans.
The future is extremely bright for the fiery-headed Guadalajara native, whose endeavours have seen him collect a cluster of promising 160lbs honours. At 28, he now holds the WBA ‘Super’, WBC, Ring Magazine and lineal crowns, while future options are aplenty.
There will always be the GGG trilogy on the table, if both he and Golden Boy desire it, and it will always be on their terms of course, while Canelo also now holds boosted star-power in making future prosperous meetings with the likes of Charlo, Saunders and Andrade.
Canelo now most definitely has the boxing world at his feet. Already a global superstar and the face of the sport, he boasts everything required to remain at the pinnacle for years to come. Middleweight belts around his waist, room to move up or down in weight again, an enormous fanbase, immense financial and managerial backing, as well as the nod of fight night officials in Las Vegas, he holds all the keys to unlocking a memorable career at the top.
Nicaraguan legend Roman Gonzalez rolled back the years on the undercard to emphatically stop Moises Fuentes, returning after a year out to get his career back on track at this late stage, and it was the type of definitive finish that Golovkin likely needed to ever have his hand held against Canelo.
While the main event was an enthralling, close encounter, one which could have fairly been scored a second straight stalemate, Canelo is and has long been towering above all others in the eyes of the sport’s hierarchy, particularly in Sin City.
Although, he made the necessary adjustments in order to get the advantage over a formidable power puncher and his reward for a brilliant performance was a historic and less-controversial victory in the city where he has taken over the 'hometown' mantle from Floyd Mayweather.
Canelo was under the spotlight in recent years for facing and disposing of smaller opponents, while the drugs controversy will likely always hang over his head, but his current position in boxing and his impressive resume cannot be overlooked any more.
Alvarez has now rallied to 50 career victories since turning to the paid ranks as a fresh-faced 15-year-old in his native homeland, reaching that milestone with his most prestigious win to date against his most threatening antagonist, bringing the total number of world titlists on his ever-growing hit-list to 12.
While Golovkin is in a position where he must consider his long-term future in the ring after a rematch that more than delivered on its hype and promise, Canelo’s options are endless as he now shines brightly as boxing’s number one star.