Canelo Reputation Apparently Influenced Early Judging Saturday
On Saturday night in Las Vegas WBA world light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol came away with the unanimous decision win over future hall of famer, Canelo Alvarez. And, while the biggest win of his career that sent shockwaves through the boxing universe was deserved, it almost didn’t happen.
That’s because, once again, the three officials assigned to score the fight seemingly weren’t watching what the rest of us were watching, especially early in this one.
And, while poor judging for a myriad of reasons isn’t anything new in big time championship boxing, Saturday night appears to have been a glaring example of where a fighter’s legendary reputation helped give him the benefit of the doubt in winning early rounds by reputation more than achievement. And, that scoring took valuable points from Bivol that made the fight much closer for him on the official cards than what it should have been by the end.
First the background: as we wrote Saturday the three judges that were involved are all tremendously experienced championship judges. Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham from Nevada and Steve Weisfeld from New Jersey. And, they have worked numerous championship fights, including recently. In fact as we pointed out Saturday in advance of Canelo-Bivol, Moretti was working his 11th Canelo Alvarez title fight on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
He and Weisfeld were also scorers on Canelo’s win last November over Caleb Plant by 11th round TKO. And, more importantly for the purposes of this premise, both Moretti and Weisfeld gave Canelo the nod 7 rounds to 5 in his controversial September of 2018 victory over Gennady Golovkin.
Now, as for Cheatham, he was only working in Canelo championship bout for the second time ever, having been a scorer for Alvarez’s sixth round TKO stoppage of Billy Joe Saunders last May in Texas.
As for Alvarez’s resume’, he hadn’t lost a fight of any kind in nearly nine years. And, was heavily favored (5 1/2 – 1 at most sportsbooks) to win again Saturday.
So that’s the backdrop. Now, onto what took place Saturday.
It’s obvious from their collective scorecards, t that all three veteran championship observers were somehow influenced by Canelo’s reputation and previous greatness early. Otherwise, there can be no other explanation as to why in the opening round of the fight, when Alvarez did next to nothing offensively, that they all three almost blindly gave him the opening round on their cards.
To further make the point: Canelo landed five punches in 3 minutes according to Compubox. Five.
Bivol dominated, landing 36% of his power punches & needed to land just 4 jabs per round to tame Canelo, who landed in single digits in 10 of 12 rounds. Canelo's 84 landed punches are the fewest landed in a 12-round fight. Canelo landed 117 punches vs. Mayweayher. #CaneloBivol pic.twitter.com/wM5u5BVfPj
— CompuBox (@CompuBox) May 8, 2022
Meanwhile, the Russian champion was the more aggressive fighter coming at Alvarez throughout the round and that’s supposed to matter in scoring. Bivol was utilizing a solid jab and and punches behind it to the point that Compubox tallied 14 connections by the Russian or nearly 3-1 connect rate win in round one.
Ye,t the Moretti, Weisfeld and Cheatam cards made it seem that Bivol would have almost had to have scored a knockdown to win the opening round in their eyes. That doesn’t match up to what we saw or the punch quantifying stats.
Further, while Canelo’s connections upped to eight per round for the 2nd-4th, he was still out-landed in every one of them by Bivol.
At this point, I had given Alvarez the second round for being more aggressive and scoring to the body. But in my notes, I clearly mentioned Bivol become the more aggressive fighter again in the third and fourth rounds. And, he was landing the jab and some other solid punches.
Yet, the three official cards amazingly showed Bivol had been shutout 4-0 through the first quarter of the bout.
Again, Bivol continued at the same work rate and landed at least 12 punches per round according to Compubox in all but one of the final eight rounds. And, the three judges completely reversed what they scored early and gave him seven of the remaining eight rounds. Yes, they thought collectively Canelo won only one round after the fourth.
Most importantly, Bivol was still behind on all three cards by one point (due to the indefensible shutout scoring by all of them in rounds 1-4) headed into the 10th round. That meant, barring a knockdown and 10-8 round, if two of the judges simply gave Canelo one of the last three rounds on their cards, he would have a draw at worst.
Headed to round 10, I had Bivol ahead 6-3 and actually gave Alvarez the 10th round due to more effective aggressiveness and impactful punches to make it 96-94 Bivol on my card.
To his credit, Bivol stomped on the gas and came forward at Alvarez, scoring repeatedly with output advantages of 18-12 and 18-7 in the 11th and then, 12th round, according to Compubox.
Again, this is nothing new with Alvarez and close decisions (and in Vegas), as many believed he lost the first fight with Golovkin in September 2017. Yet, he got a draw. He appeared to have done enough in the rematch 12 months later (as mentioned before Moretti and Weisfeld scored it for him 7-5), but that was narrow, as well.
And, controversial judging isn’t reserved to this continent. Look no further than the February undisputed junior welterweight controversial decision win in Scotland by Josh Taylor over Jack Catterall. That’s where the challenger Catterall seemed to bank enough rounds early to win the fight with a late flourish in the 10th-12th. Yet, Taylor still got the split decision and retained.
And, you can go back to the dramatic final round of the first Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder WBC heavyweight title bout in December of 2018. Wilder scored his famous knockdown of Fury, but not the knockout that many believed on their cards that he needed no matter what. Instead, he upped his lead on one card and got the draw with the 10-8 round on the other.
So, these questionable scores aren’t new and apparently will continue, no matter how experienced judges are or not?
And reputation obviously matters and is a factor. Otherwise someone explain to all of us how a fighter that outlanded Canelo 46-29 in the first four rounds didn’t win any of them Saturday?