Tuesday, May 15, 2018

After Tying Hopkins, What Options Are Available For Gennady Golovkin?

The twentieth world championship defense of the Middleweight world championship reign of Gennady Golovkin represented an opportunity to add his name to the history book of Boxing. For if he were successful in defense of his crown he would equal the historic feat of future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins by tying the all-time record for most successful World Middleweight championship title defenses that Hopkins set during his reign that spanned from 1995-2005. Of course, there are other comparisons between the two.

As this observer pointed out prior to Golovkin’s twentieth title defense on May 5th, both Golovkin and Hopkins share the similarity of each having to establish their reign as a Middleweight world champion largely away from the main spotlight of the sport, and each of them arguably had to clean out the division before getting the opportunity to face fighters that most would consider to be stars of the sport. An argument can also be made that each faced opposition that most Boring fans did not regard highly for their respective twentieth title defense.

Some may recall following Bernard Hopkins’ knockout of Oscar De La Hoya to unify the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO Middleweight crowns in September 2004, Hopkins having faced and defeated one of the biggest stars in the sport at the time faced top Middleweight contender Howard Eastman in February of 2005. Despite being a top contender who entered the fight rated number one in the World Boxing Council (WBC) Middleweight ratings at the time, Eastman was not widely known to casual Boxing fans and his challenge of Hopkins was outright dismissed by some. Hopkins would go on to defeat Eastman via twelve round unanimous decision in what could be described simply as a great fighter plying his trade in a workmanlike performance.

Much as was the case for Hopkins, the undefeated Golovkin would also face an opponent treated with little regard by some as he defended his unified crown against longtime Jr. Middleweight contender and former world title challenger Vanes Martirosyan at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. As most Boxing fans know, Martirosyan stepped in on short notice following the suspension of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the man who was originally scheduled to face Golovkin in a highly anticipated rematch of their controversial draw last September in Las Vegas.

While much like Oscar De La Hoya was one of the top stars of the sport during his time competing in the sport, Alvarez has acquired such status and the circumstances, which led to the scheduled rematch being cancelled has also resulted of criticism of both Alvarez and Golovkin. Although I discussed the circumstances of what led to the rematch falling through in previewing Golovkin’s fight against Martirosyan, what did not get much attention from yours truly prior to the bout was the criticism directed toward the champion Gennady Golovkin.

Criticism for primarily the selection of Golovkin’s opponent as some felt Golovkin could have chosen to make a defense against undefeated contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who is currently rated as the number one contender in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Middleweight ratings, which would have made it one of Golovkin’s mandatory championship defenses. The primary reason why I did not touch much upon this subject was primarily due to the understanding that the circumstances were such that Golovkin was insistent on competing on the scheduled day of what would have been the Alvarez rematch and the limited time frame the parties involved had to first find an opponent and more specifically find an opponent that would be approved by the respective athletic commission with the limited time frame in mind. It should also not be overlooked that among the stresses that led up to the fight for the champion, the venue was also changed from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV to the StubHub Center on the same time frame. Circumstances that do not tend to resolve quickly.

While some Boxing fans may not know, understand the circumstances that surrounded this fight, or simply might not view Golovkin and his promoter’s choice of opposition as a “Popular” or “Appropriate” move and thus voiced their criticism, one should consider all of the above. The criticism notwithstanding, it was fair to question whether or not all of the above and what had to be a stressful period of time for Golovkin would have any negative effect on him in this fight.

In addition to the circumstances that surrounded this title defense, it was also interesting to see if Golovkin, a man who carved out a reputation as one of the sport’s feared “Knockout Artists” would look to reestablish that reputation after going the twelve round world championship distance in his last two fights. Prior to those two bouts, a unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs and the draw over Alvarez, Golovkin had stopped twenty-three opponents consecutively.

Golovkin was also facing a man in Martirosyan who had been inactive for nearly two years and was fighting as a Middleweight for the first time after spending his entire career as a 154lb. Jr. Middleweight. As I pointed out in previewing this fight, it is as much an adjustment for the fighter who has a change in opponent on short notice as it is an adjustment for the fighter stepping in to take the fight with limited time to prepare. Although most would rightfully conclude that the challenger was in this instance at a disadvantage, Martirosyan was not intimidated by Golovkin and attempted to fight him. Despite this observer’s view that he needed to be an elusive target and look to offset Golovkin’s pressure attack by attempting to outbox the champion, Martirosyan was willing to stand and fight Golovkin.

As several previous Golovkin opponents have found out however, opting to stand and fight a fighter with the type of punching power that Gennady Golovkin has can have brutal consequences. Despite showing his mettle, Martirosyan could not avoid and withstand Golovkin’s power and a brutal barrage of punches sent the challenger down and brought an end to the fight in the second round.

Ultimately the twentieth title defense of Gennady Golovkin’s reign as a Middleweight world champion produced an outcome that was expected by many Boxing fans, despite the circumstances that led up to it. The reign of Bernard Hopkins atop the division came to a controversial end in his twenty-first title defense when he lost a twelve round split decision to Jermain Taylor in July 2005.

Of course, no one knows who might be able to derail Gennady Golovkin’s ongoing reign over the Middleweight division at the present time. The question of who will be Golovkin’s next opponent however, is one that will be a topic of discussion until there is an official announcement made. Some might be of the opinion that an effort should be made to remake the rematch between Golovkin and Saul Alvarez.

Although that may indeed be the “Popular” choice of Boxing fans, this observer disagrees. There is no doubt in my mind that Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez will eventually square off for a second time. The fact however, is that the scheduled rematch was cancelled, not because of a fighter being injured in training as sometimes happens, but due to one fighter having tested positive for a banned substance. While there may be some who would say that the cancellation, financial fines, and suspension should be enough, a question this observer asks his readers is, if a fighter is fined, suspended, and loses a significant “Payday” due to the cancellation of a fight due to what was at the time a pending suspension with said fighter pulling out of the scheduled bout before said suspension became official, then why should there be a suspension if the fighter suspended will have the same opportunity that was before him prior to his suspension with perhaps even more financial benefits than would have been the case if the bout had taken place as originally scheduled?

Even though this observer is not intending to single out Saul Alvarez, I believe it sends the wrong message if the rematch were to occur shortly after Alvarez completes his suspension. The wrong message to the critics of the sport who routinely point out the flaws in Boxing and constantly ridicule the sport over questions of corruption, but more importantly the wrong message to the fans of the sport of Boxing, who tirelessly support the sport in good times and bad, many of whom felt cheated out of an expensive pay-per-view price by the outcome of the encounter between Golovkin and Alvarez.

What would be an alternative that would be more beneficial for the sport in the long-term? The logical alternative in my mind would be for Golovkin to fulfill his mandatory title defense obligations in order to keep his world championship unified and assuming he succeeds in those title defenses then look to finish unifying the Middleweight division by facing the winner of the upcoming WBO Middleweight world championship fight between undefeated champion Billy Joe Saunders and top contender Martin Murray, which is scheduled to take place in June.

This would allow the fighters who have earned number one contender’s status in each organization’s respective rankings rankings, who Golovkin holds world championships to get their respective title shots, but would also lead the way to determining one “Undisputed Middleweight World Champion.” It would also allow Alvarez time to not only get himself back in active competition once his suspension is served, but perhaps will also allow him time to demonstrate that the circumstances that led to his suspension will not occur again particularly among fans who have seen his suspension as an opportunity to question his previous accomplishments throughout his career. Whether such questions are fair is something that fans will make up their own minds about. If Alvarez does show that this suspension is not and should not be viewed as a reflection of his career by what he does going forward and if he can win a few fights while Golovkin tends to other business and if Golovkin continues to win, then the rematch should be remade.

While this alternative, which in this observer’s eyes is the “Right” thing to do and “Makes Sense“ with the long-term benefit of the sport in mind, I realize that there are some who will see what could be done in the short-term particularly  financially by remaking the rematch as soon as Alvarez completes his suspension and would not view the opinion of yours truly as the “Popular” option. There are times however, when what is "Right" for the sport in the long-term "Big" picture should take priority over what would be "Popular." This is one of those times.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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