LAS VEGAS — The two top gunslingers in the sport of boxing got together and finally said, “Draw.”
Twelve rounds later, so did the judges.
A fight conducted at the highest levels of the sport wound up dead even between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, which means Golovkin keeps his three middleweight belts until they meet again.
The only controversial aspect — and, really, the only shadow on the night — was a cockeyed 118-110 vote for Canelo on the card of judge Adalaide Byrd. Carl Moretti gave Golovkin a two-point victory, and Don Trella called it even.
The draw itself wasn’t a surprise, but most people at ringside thought Golovkin had won. My unscientific scoreboard had Golovkin winning seven of the 12 rounds,
He was brilliant, but different. His furious fists were not going to knock a hole into the bigger, thicker challenger, like they’d done to 33 others. He grasped that early, and the 22,358 in T-Mobile Arena watched Golovkin turn it into a nose-to-nose fight that removed Canelo’s sense of distance, thereby defusing his hook and his uppercut.
All the while Golovkin was peppering Canelo with left jabs. Not hard ones, but enough to neutralize him. He also stunned Canelo with a right hand to the head in the corner.
But, in a departure from script, Canelo was the one with the big shots and some truly fearsome near-misses. None of them caused Golovkin to go backwards, and all of them gave the Kazakh champion a chance to display a chin on which you could carve Rushmore likenesses.
Canelo popped Golovkin with a patented right uppercut in the eighth, whistled a right hand against his head in the 10th, and drilled him with a right that staggered the champ and forced him to take one of the very rare clenches.
But Golovkin remained relentless, and when the bell ring he smiled beatifically, anticipating his greatest victory.
Maybe next time.
The process of reaching this event was like a drive to Vegas itself.
It’s a lot like boxing. Long stretches of majestic nothing. Quirky stopovers, gas stations that gleam like oases on roads that quickly turn to dirt. Mysterious graffiti decorating equally mysterious compounds that could be skate parks, could be a staging point for raves, could be Hollywood scaffoldings. And then the sign that says “Peggy Sue’s Diner, 30 minutes away.” And 10 feet behind it, another sign: “Peggy Sue’s Diner, less than 30 minutes away.”
There’s never enough time to see just what Zzyzx Road is all…