As Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin hurled their final punches at each other center ring on Saturday night, the crowd rose to its feet to cheer the two amazing middleweight combatants.
All of us watching the bout knew what we had just witnessed: an instant classic. Both fighters deserve credit for a fantastic effort. It was just a shame one of them had to leave the ring the loser.
For how could either man be considered a loser in an epic back-and-forth battle like this one?
But after the judges rendered their verdicts, boos were hurled down upon the fighters—especially one of them—in a sign of disdain for outlying judge Adalaide Byrd's 118-110 card for Alvarez.
What fight had she been watching?
Judge Dave Moretti's ruling of 115-113 for Golovkin and Don Trella's 114-114 card both told the same story. The fight was close. Either man could have edged out a razor-thin decision.
While it seems from taking a cursory glance around social media that a slight majority of people watching the fight favored Golovkin, Alvarez fought well enough to earn the victory too. It isn't his fault Byrd burdened him with such a lopsided decision.
So what happened with Byrd's card anyway? And did her heavy favoring of Alvarez in every close round on her card ruin the whole night?
Here's the thing about Byrd's scorecard: It might not be that bad. You see, boxing judges score one-sided rounds and close rounds the exact same unless there is a knockdown: 10-9.
There were no knockdowns in this fight. Pretty much every round was debatable.
Every second of Alvarez vs. Golovkin was hotly contested, and from where Byrd was sitting compared to the other two judges, perhaps it did appear Alvarez edged out all those close rounds by a whisker or two.
How could anyone but her know?
And the difference between her card and the other cards is only a handful of close calls here and there. Had Byrd seen Alvarez edge out close rounds only half the time she had on her official card, her tally would have been closer to the other two scorecards and boos would have likely been cheers.
But if we step back a bit, can't we just see the truth of what happened last night? One judge had Golovkin the winner. One had it for Alvarez. One had it a draw.
That's the fight I saw. Alvarez came out of the gate fast. His work in the first three rounds should have given him an early lead. Golovkin went to work starting in Round 4. He steadily pressured Alvarez and threw a kitchen sink's worth of punches at him.
But Alvarez was calm and steady enough to make his own mark. While Golovkin's volume of punches was spectacular, Alvarez was the fighter landing the cleaner blows. According to CompuBox (via BoxingScene.com), while Golovkin landed a higher number of total punches overall, Alvarez ruled the day in power punches and landed them at a much higher percentage. He particularly made use of his right cross and was able to make the slower Golovkin miss enough to warrant heavy praise.
Alvarez turned the dial back up for the championship rounds. Rounds 10 through 12 were historically great examples of how champion fighters go for broke.
The judges might not have gotten every single round scored correctly. But they rendered an overall verdict that reflected the pitch of the bout. This was a great middleweight championship fight worthy of admiration. Both men were outstanding middleweight champions before the bell, and both remained so after the fight ended.
The judges got that part right. Neither man deserved to lose the fight, and because it was ruled a split draw, neither man did.