LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin argued afterward about who won their middleweight showdown.
No one could argue it wasn't a great fight.
Golovkin retained his middleweight titles Saturday night, fighting to a 12-round draw with Alvarez in a brutal battle that ended with both fighters holding their hands aloft in victory. It was a fight neither deserved to lose and, when the scores were tallied, neither did.
The middleweight bout years in the making lived up to its hype as the two fighters traded huge punches and went after each other for 12 rounds. Neither was down or seriously hurt, but both landed big punches to the head that had the crowd screaming in excitement.
Alvarez rallied late to win the last three rounds on each scorecard and pull out the draw, though both fighters claimed victory.
"I won 7-8 rounds easily," Alvarez said. "I was superior inside the ring."
"Today people give me draw. I focus on boxing," Golovkin said. "Look my belts, I'm still champion. I've not lost."
Golovkin was the aggressor throughout and landed punches that had put other fighters to the canvas. But he couldn't knock Alvarez down, and the Mexican boxer more than stood his own in exchanges with Triple G. The two were still brawling as the final seconds ticked down.
Alvarez was leading after the first three rounds, then Golovkin dominated the middle rounds. After a pep talk from his corner, Alvarez came out more aggressive in the 10th round to pull out the draw.
Two scorecards were close, with Golovkin ahead 115-113 on one and a 114-114 draw on the other. But veteran judge Adalaide Byrd inexplicably had Alvarez winning 118-110, giving him all but two rounds. The Associated Press scored it 114-114.
Golovkin, who has never lost in 38 fights, retained his middleweight titles. But Alvarez showed that he could not only take the punches of the fighter from Kazakhstan but land telling punches of his own.
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 counter punched 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 toward the end of the fight as Alvarez rallied in the late rounds and rocked Golovkin with uppercuts and big right hands. But just as soon as he landed, he often took one back from the slugger so feared that most other fighters avoided him.
There was even more drama on the scorecards, as Byrd's score was off the other two by a wide margin.
"That's the life of a judge," said Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. "She had a bad night in a big fight."
It was a battle from the opening bell, as Golovkin tried to walk Alvarez down only to get hit by sharp counter punches.
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 problems landing hard shots to the head.
Ringside punching stats credited Golovkin landing 217 of 703 punches while Alvarez landed 169 of 505.
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, the redhead known as Canelo, 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 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 Triple G whispered something in Alvarez's ear. They then exchanged thumbs-up signs and a handshake, knowing they had done their jobs well.
"We knew this was going to be a war," said Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez. "There were no surprises."
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 to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
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 brings millions of Mexican and Mexican-American fans, also got a bigger share of the fight proceeds and top billing.
The fight drew a sellout crowd to the T-Mobile Arena, where Mayweather and Conor McGregor engaged in their spectacle three weeks ago. But while that was more of a reality show than a fight, this was a battle that had fans on their feet screaming almost from the opening bell.
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.