There’s a famous saying about assumptions that is not quite suitable for this fine, family-friendly paper, so let’s talk about expectations instead. A professional athlete failing to live up to expectations can make perfectly rational people make irrational judgments about them.
Case-in-point, Carmelo Anthony is an excellent basketball player, one destined for the Hall of Fame. He’s a 10-time All-Star, former scoring champion and currently sits as the 18th leading scorer in NBA history. Barring injury, he’ll certainly put a few more legendary scorers in his rearview mirror this coming season. That’s quite a resume.
However, Anthony entered the league alongside LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, with similar hype and expectations. Unlike the fellow future Hall of Famers from his draft class, Anthony has failed to win a championship. His legacy is not as strong.
That leads many sportswriters and fans, this writer included, to judge Anthony more harshly when analyzing his game. We knock him down because he’s not King James. His didn’t develop as a defender. He doesn’t drop dimes. Etcetera, etcetera…
By this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with the rematch between Gennady Golovkin vs Canelo Alvarez. For the second-consecutive bout, the official decision has perplexed fight fans around the world. Alvarez’s (50-1-2, 35 KO) split decision victory has generated a healthy debate in the boxing world.
Boxing trainer and fight commentator Teddy Atlas called the decision “a robbery.” ESPN’s Dan Rafael scored the bout a draw. Max Kellerman saw a clear victory for Alvarez. So what do expectations have to do with this fight? Everything.
Golovkin (30-1-1, 34 KO) was expected to be the stalking bully in the fight. It’s what he’s done for his entire career. As the naturally bigger and stronger fighter, everybody expected Golovkin to spend his night chasing and stalking his more mobile opponent.
When Alvarez started off the fight coming forward and actually pushing Golovkin back, many gave him credit for dictating the pace and bringing the fight to his opponent. Listen to the explanations from those who felt Alvarez earned the victory. They all credit his aggression.
Alvarez’s goal was to bully the bully. It was so far from expectations that Kellerman nearly lost his mind praising Alvarez during the fight. What Kellerman and the judges didn’t pay attention to was the fact that while Golovkin is not known for boxing while moving backwards and laterally, he actually did a very good job of it.
Two of the three official judges awarded Alvarez five out of the first seven rounds. Those are the rounds where he spent the most time pressuring his opponent. However, when you take a look at the Compubox punch stat numbers, Golovkin outpunched and out-landed his opponent in five of the seven rounds.
Officials use four components when judging fights: ring generalship, effective aggression, clean punching and defense. Exactly how effective was Alvarez’s aggression if he was outpunched 470 to 345 over the first seven rounds and out-landed 131 to 110? It’s as if ring generalship was thrown out the window simple because the puncher became the boxer.
Replace Golovkin with Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Terence Crawford and people would’ve talked about how the superior boxers neutralized Alvarez’s aggression with the jab. Since Golovkin is not known as a skilled tactician, he was penalized, rather than rewarded, for working behind a stiff and steady jab.
Over the last five rounds, Golovkin turned on the pressure and stopped moving backwards. He became the aggressor and still outpunched and out-landed his opponent, often landing the harder and cleaner blows.
Don’t get it confused. I’m not suggesting that Alvarez did not fight well. Though I scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Golovkin, there were enough impossible-to-pick rounds that a close Alvarez decision is well within reason. His decision to refuse to cede ground to his imposing opponent showed heart and huevos. Still, I strongly believe Golovkin did enough to retain his titles, whether by a close decision victory or another draw.
A draw in the second fight would have been much more acceptable than the one gifted to Alvarez a year ago. What’s sad is, in my opinion, “GGG” did enough to earn victories in both fights but all he has to show for it are two smudges on his previously pristine record (a loss and a draw).
If the third fight happens, Golovkin now knows that he will have to be the bullying, stalking goon that everybody expects in order to get that elusive victory. He may need to take it out of the judges’ hands all together.
Mayweather vs Pacquiao 2?
I’m typically skeptical of Floyd Mayweather Jr. comeback rumors for two reasons. First, “Money” loves being the center of attention and isn’t past floating fight rumors in order to gain some headlines. Secondly, Mayweather should have enough cash to last a lifetime without needed to take another punch in the face.
Despite its brutal nature though, boxing is the one sport that athletes can’t seem to walk away from. Many of the great fighters have seemingly come out of retirement almost as many times as they stepped into the ring.
Nobody expected Mayweather to actually face off against Conor McGregor, yet it happened. Now Mayweather is talking about coming out of retirement once again for a rematch against Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather posted a video on Instagram featuring him and Pacquiao discussing a potential fight during an event in Japan. Mayweather’s caption read: “I’m coming back to fight Manny Pacquiao this year. Another 9 figure pay day on the way.”
It’s understandable why. Mayweather cruised to an easy victory in the first bout. However, though Pacquiao suffered a disputed defeat to Jeff Horn in 2017, he bounced back strong with an impressive KO victory over Lucas Matthysse in July. The KO could give a potential rematch with Mayweather enough juice to net both combatants another nine-figure payday, as Mayweather suggested.
With an eye on a December date, we should know very soon if Mayweather vs Pacquiao 2 will indeed become a reality.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch on Twitter @ishcreates.