Canelo Alvarez provided a conclusive finish to his trilogy with Gennadiy Golovkin.
He won a clear unanimous decision to defend his undisputed super-middleweight championship at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Mexico’s Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s Golovkin share a fraught history. They had two excellent middleweight title fights in 2017 and 2018.
But their first bout finished in a bitterly contested draw. Their second fight was delayed when Alvarez was handed a six-month suspension for an adverse finding in a drug test which he blamed on eating contaminated meat.
The Mexican did win that second encounter on a close majority decision, but never comprehensively got the better of Golovkin.
He did however on Saturday in their third and surely their final fight.
Golovkin had moved up to 168lbs to challenge Alvarez for the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles he now holds. But at 40-years-old the Kazakh could not match the dynamism and hand speed of his great rival.
In the opening round, both fought within themselves, looking to mark out the other with solid lead lefts.
It was, however, Alvarez that was getting on the front foot, holding the centre of the ring and forcing Golovkin back. Giving up ground meant Golovkin could not get off the heavy power punches on which his fearsome reputation is based.
Instead, Alvarez worked away, picking up round after round as he fired rapid lefts to the head and cast his right through openings. These fast, accurate shots tagged Golovkin and made him uncharacteristically reluctant to let his own hands go.
After targeting the head predominantly in the first half of the fight, Alvarez began to vary the level of his attacks as the bout progressed, striking the body occasionally with left hooks. These shots came less often than expected but when they landed, hit with such force that Golovkin clearly felt their weight and had to back away once more.
As the fight entered its later stages Alvarez had built a near unassailable lead. He found answers when Golovkin caught him, putting together quality combinations and slamming the odd spectacular right uppercut into the Kazakh’s jaw.
With time draining out of the fight and opportunity slipping away from him, Golovkin applied more pressure in the 11th round, finally getting busy behind repeated jabs and his hard hooks.
But it was too little too late. By this stage the challenger needed a knockout to win, and that never looked likely to happen.
The final scores read 116-112 and 115-113 twice, all for Alvarez.
Their rivalry has finally come to an end.
“He’s strong, he’s a great fighter,” the Mexican said. “For me, I’m just glad to share the ring with him. We give the fans three really good fights. I’m glad to be involved in that kind of fight.”
Golovkin replied: “I want to shake hands with Canelo and congratulate his whole team.”
After the unique violence of certainly their first two fights, the third finished peacefully.
Even at 40, Golovkin doesn’t intend to retire. “Absolutely [I’ll carry on]. I have a great plan, a lot of opponents,” he said. “I’ll come back, I’m still a champion.”
Alvarez was coming into this fight off a defeat. A foray up to light-heavyweight in May had ended with Russian WBA 175lb titlist Dmitry Bivol outpointing him. The Mexican wants that rematch, after he’s recuperated from a “really bad” injury to his left hand.
“I need to recover my hand and my body and come back stronger than ever,” he said.
When it comes to avenging that loss to Bivol, Alvarez insisted, “It’s very important for me, for my legacy, for my country, for everybody.
“I’ve gone through some very difficult things in my life,” he added. “I’ve actually shown that defeats are great because they enable you to come back and show humility.
“I’m going to keep going to keep my legacy going.”
This third Alvarez-Golovkin clash did not equal the excitement or the intensity of their first two battles. But there could be no disputing the result this time.
For Canelo Alvarez that will make this victory all the sweeter.