Golovkin, a 35-year-old Olympian from Kazakhstan, retained his middleweight titles with the draw. But Alvarez, a 27-year-old Mexican star, showed that he could take Golovkin’s punches and land telling power shots of his own.
The draw was the first mark on Golovkin’s record, which now stands at 37-0-1. Alvarez is now 49-1-2, his only loss having come against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
A frenzied crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena roared throughout the fight as the two middleweights put on the kind of show that boxing purists had anticipated. They brawled, used sharp jabs and counterpunched at times, with neither one willing to give the other much ground.
“Congratulations all my friends from Mexico,” Golovkin said. “I want a true fight. I want a big drama show.”
There was plenty of drama late in the fight as Alvarez seemed to rally and rocked Golovkin with uppercuts and big right hands. But just as soon as he landed, he often took one back from the slugger, who is so feared that most other fighters avoided him.
“I won seven, eight rounds easily,” Alvarez said.
Both fighters raised their hands in triumph at the final bell and jumped into the arms of corner men. Then they waited as the scorecards were added up to see who would leave the ring with the belts.
“It’s not my fault,” Golovkin said. “I put pressure on every round.”
Golovkin predicted before the fight that the late rounds would resemble a street fight, and in a way they did. Both fighters were willing to trade, and both had no problem landing hard shots to the head.
Golovkin had chased Alvarez for nearly two years, trying to get the signature fight that would pay him millions and make him a pay-per-view draw on his own. Alvarez finally agreed to the match after Golovkin looked vulnerable earlier this year against Daniel Jacobs, in a decision win that stopped his knockout streak at 23 fights.
But Alvarez said that Golovkin didn’t have anything he wasn’t expecting, and that his power wasn’t what it was made out to be.
Golovkin, who moved to Los Angeles from Kazakhstan to pursue stardom in the ring, said he would welcome a second fight.
“Of course I want a rematch,” he said. “I want a fight. A true fight. I have my belts. I want a championship fight.”
Alvarez said he was more than willing to do it again.
“Obviously yes, if the people want it,” Alvarez said. “He didn’t win, it was a draw. I always said I was going to be a step ahead of him.”
After the decision was announced, both fighters hugged and Golovkin whispered something in Alvarez’s ear. They then exchanged thumbs-up signs and a handshake.
Golovkin entered the ring first, one of the concessions he had to make to get the fight with Alvarez, despite holding all the middleweight belts. Alvarez, who attracts millions of Mexican and Mexican-American fans, also got a bigger share of the fight proceeds and top billing.
Alvarez was guaranteed $5 million, while Golovkin had a $3 million guarantee. Both were expected to make much more on a share of the pay-per-view revenue.