In the sport of Boxing it is not uncommon to see a formula applied when it comes to the rise of a fighter to the level of being recognized as a star in the sport. A scenario where a prospect or contender is given valuable television exposure and on the strength of that prospect’s initial performance more television time and exposure could be given while that fighter builds a following.
In the case of undefeated unified WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, his rise to star status in the sport did not begin until he was already a world champion. In September 2012 the Kazakstan-born Golovkin came to the United States to defend his unified world title against Grzegorz Proska. This was not only Golovkin’s first fight in the United States, but also the first time he was seen on U.S. television on HBO Sports.
Prior to this fight, Golovkin had scored victories over notables such as former world title challenger Lajuan Simon and former Jr. Middleweight world champion Kassim Ouma. Along with those wins and his unified world championship, Golovkin also entered his fight with Proska riding a ten fight knockout streak. Golovkin would establish himself as a rising star by dominating the durable Proska and stopping him in five rounds.
Since that fight Golovkin’s star has continued to rise as he has continued to score knockouts. After twenty consecutive knockouts and fourteen successful title defenses, there is no doubt that Gennady Golovkin has become a star in the sport as he has carved out what this observer has often referred to as a path of destruction through the Middleweight division.
As Golovkin has continued to score knockouts and could be in a position to challenge future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins’ record of twenty consecutive Middleweight championship defenses, the most in the division’s history, the question has remained as to who may be able to provide him with a significant test. It has become common after each Golovkin title defense for readers to hear me express my stance in expressing my opinion that I believe it is time for Golovkin to get an opportunity to face fighters who are considered stars of the sport. This observer has also pointed out the similarities between Golovkin and fighters like Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. Fighters who each dominated the Middleweight division for significant periods of time during the respective reigns before finally getting an opportunity to face fighters who were considered stars of the sport.
Although Golovkin has yet to face a marquee star of the sport, one might argue that he could be approaching that opportunity as it was recently announced that Golovkin will make the fifteenth defense of his unified world championship as he attempts to further unify the Middleweight division as he will take on newly crowned IBF world champion David Lemieux on October 17th at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
An indication of Golovkin’s star status in the sport is that this fight will be televised by HBO Pay-Per-View. Although Golovkin has previously headlined a pay-per-view card when he scored a devastating third round knockout over Nobuhiro Ishida in Monte Carlo, Monaco in March 2013, this will be the first major pay-per-view main event in Golovkin’s career.
Golovkin will face what could be a difficult opponent in David Lemieux. Lemieux, who won the vacated IBF world championship with a twelve round unanimous decision over former WBO Middleweight world champion Hassan N’Dam on June 20th has a career knockout percentage of nearly 87% and has a significant following in his native Canada.
It is important to the sport of Boxing that managers, promoters, and networks attempt to create new stars of the sport. Even though the two biggest pay-per-view draws in the sport over the last decade have been Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, one might argue that it will be a challenge for fighters to reach the kind of status that Mayweather and Pacquiao have enjoyed as the sport’s top draws over the last several years.
One reason for that has been a general decline in pay-per-view buys for fight cards in recent years. Some may attribute this decline to the steady increase in pay-per-view prices over the years as compared to previous years. Others may say that it has more to do with the rise of new technologies as well as an overall value and quality of pay-per-view Boxing cards that has led to such a decline.
The recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight broke all existing pay-per-view records generating more than 4.4 million pay-per-view buys in the United States and over $400 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue. The pay-per-view event, which was priced at nearly $90 for the HD broadcast of the fight card will certainly prove to be one of the landmark moments in Boxing history. An argument can be made however, that it will be difficult for networks and promoters to attempt to exceed what was accomplished by those who made the much-anticipated Mayweather-Pacquiao fight a reality.
A difficult task not only due to the steady decline in pay-per-view buys prior to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, but also in finding a fighter or fighters who will generate public support where consumers will buy a pay-per-view Boxing card regardless of what the price of an event might be. Although the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will go down as likely the most lucrative fight in the sport’s history, it was also a fight that suffered a bit of backlash following it from Boxing fans who may have anticipated more of an action fight given what was at stake between the two best pound for pound fighters of their era as well as the expensive price tags that consumers were asked to pay both for those who attended the fight in person as well as those who paid to see the fight via pay-per-view.
One should also consider the recent resurgence of the sport on over the air broadcast television here in the United States as both NBC and CBS have garnered significant ratings as part of the popular Premier Boxing Champions series, which airs on several networks on both broadcast and cable television and has put on several quality fight cards. As more networks become involved in the sport either through the Premier Boxing Champions series or by producing other series focused on televising the best fight cards possible, it may not be difficult to envision a time in the future where Boxing is less pay-per-view centric in a way that is not unlike the eras of years gone by where the sport’s central figures fought on free television.
Despite what could be a difficult task in developing the next big marquee pay-per-view star in the sport, this observer believes the fight between Golovkin and Lemieux is definitely pay-per-view worthy. A battle between two knockout artists, one fighter an undefeated unified world champion who has knocked out his last twenty opponents going against a dangerous fighter who recently won a world title and who has scored thirty-one knockouts in his thirty-four career wins. It is a fight that has “Shootout” written all over it.
Although the sport as a whole may be approaching a different era where the concept of pay-per-view may eventually phase out as we currently know it, this observer believes that the Golovkin-Lemieux fight is one that could produce solid returns in terms of pay-per-view buys. If the actual fight turns out to resemble the “Shootout” that it figures to be on paper consumers will likely be satisfied by what could be a memorable night of Boxing in Madison Square Garden. If that happens, the ultimate winners will not only be Boxing fans, but the sport overall.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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