The judges scored the bout in Las Vegas 118-110 for Alvarez, 115-113 for Golovkin and 114-114 after 12 hard-fought rounds at the T-Mobile Arena, with the first scorecard swiftly sparking outrage on social media.
Alvarez started and finished the contest well, but the hard-hitting Golovkin had much the better of the middle rounds. Neither fighter went down.
The result – met with boos and disbelief – nevertheless meant 35-year-old Kazakhstani Golovkin retained his WBA, WBC and IBF belts, and remained unbeaten in 38 fights.
Golovkin took to Twitter soon after the bout to post a smiling picture of himself celebrating with his belts alongside the words: “The world knows #andstill Thanks to all my fans from all over the world for your support. It means a lot for me.”
The controversial scorecard of judge Adalaide Byrd, who favoured Alvarez 118-110, was met with raised eyebrows, with many Twitter users claiming victory belonged to Golovkin. Byrd gave Golovkin just two rounds of the fight – the fourth and seventh – with the other 10 going to Alvarez.
Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis tweeted: “Both fighters can hold their heads high tonight but this fight wasn’t close to a draw! £canelovsggg”
Both men said in the ring after the decision that they wanted a rematch.
Speaking through a translator, 27-year-old Alvarez said: “Yes, of course, obviously yes, if the people want it, yes. He didn’t win. It was a draw. I always said I was going to be a step ahead of him.”
He added: “In the first rounds I came out to see what he had, then I was building from there. I think I won eight rounds.” Golovkin said: “Look at my belts. I’m still the champion. Of course I want a rematch.”