As expected, Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1) blitzed through Vanes Martirosyan on a Saturday night HBO card. The only question was when the knockout would come as while Vanes was a talented amateur, he has been nestled between journeyman and challenger for his career….oh yeah and he never fought at middleweight while being inactive for two years.
Of course we would be discussing the rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Triple G in a normal world. But after Canelo tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol (in which a hair follicle sample gave indication that the ingestion came from tainted meat), the Nevada state commission suspended Alvarez for six months. With only three or so weeks to find an opponent, Team Golovkin settled on Martirosyan though challengers such as Demetrius Andrade and mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko offered to step in on short notice.
First, no one can blame Vanes for taking the fight. He has to make a living and you know, he landed a solid combo on Golovkin early in Round 1 that actually made me award him the opening stanza. He got knocked out for the first time in his career (he has fought Jermell Charlo and Andrade before but went the distance) after Golovkin demonstrated a dazzling, and brutal, combination that ended the bout easily. I’d argue that besides the bodyshot knockout of Matthew Macklin, it was Golovkin’s most “highlight reel” KO in his HBO career.
Second, I am a Golovkin fanboy but I really can’t fully blame Tom Loeffler and Golovkin for not picking Andrade (who has been more inactive than active as of late) nor Derevyanchenko (whose stellar amateur pedigree and 12-0 beginning indicates he will be a player in this division now, not later). Sadly its a business but I do hope both fighters get a crack at Triple G within the next two years.
However we cannot be hypocrites either. How would we all feel if Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr. were to fight but with a month to go, Thurman got hurt and was replaced with Ricky Burns or Julius Indongo?
But still, Golovkin is finally in the place he wants to be…but maybe two years too late. It is no secret that he has significantly upped his competition over the three fights beforehand (we can’t forget that Kell Brook, at the time, was a well-regarded welterweight with two intact eye sockets) and looked a lot more mortal than the thunderstorm that eviscerated the likes of Macklin, Curtis Stevens, David Lemieux and Martin Murray. He is not the boogeyman but the prize. Golovkin’s draw against Alvarez was controversial but significantly boosted his profile as not just a boxing cult figure but a fringe star.
But let’s face it….the rematch with Alvarez is too lucrative to not pursue. Let’s still weight the options.
CURRENT LEGACY & FINANCIAL WINDFALL MATCH: CANELO ALVAREZ
Regardless of the clenbuterol, Canelo is the biggest star in boxing. He is basically a guaranteed pay-per-view match and is an elite fighter that draws eyes upon every fight. He’s a paycheck with a legacy boosting stature.
What makes everything better is that the bad blood from the draw and the positive tests will create more intrigue. The public and media thought Golovkin edged the first fight but Alvarez made it close (I had it a draw) and Triple G is another year older. This should actually sell better now that there is more than just a “who is the best” storyline.
Also if Golovkin wins? He beats the number one star in the sport (though Anthony Joshua might have a claim to that shortly) and has the marquee win on a resume that could use one.
UNDISPUTED: BILLY JOE SAUNDERS
Golovkin has told us numerous times that his one goal was always unification and a fight against Billy Joe Saunders would provide him just that. Saunders, of Britain, is a bit of a troll (cut from a very similar cloth of Tyson Fury) but after a ugly win over Artur Akavov and a boring win over Willie Monroe Jr., Saunders put on a clinic against the powerful but limited David Lemieux.
Saunders and promoter Frank Warren seem to now want the fight, after admitting to not wanting it previously, and Saunders does have a voluntary defense against the veteran Martin Murray (who apparently is guaranteed a title shot every 18 months) on June 23rd. After that though? The slick Saunders at his best can make a lot of fighters look lost (see the opening six rounds against Andy Lee) though his consistency and stamina can leave a bit to be desired.
If Golovkin wants to unify, this might be his last chance.
THE MANDATORY: SERGIY DEREVYANCHENKO
It is easy to feel the need to compare Golovkin to the Ukrainian standout Sergiy Derevyanchenko. They both had stellar amateur backgrounds, have risen quickly through the middleweight rankings and Derevyanchenko might just find himself avoided for quite a bit.
At 32, Derevyanchenko is still in his prime but more importantly he is the IBF mandatory for Golovkin. Derevyanchenko and promotor Lou DiBella fought hard to replace Alvarez when the latter dropped out, and the IBF could have stripped Golovkin for refusing to fight, but gave him an exemption on the condition that the Ukrainian and Kazakh stars fight in early August.
Derevyanchenko is a bit of an unknown but his dismantling of veteran Tureano Johnson was impressive and he showed a high work rate with a keen dedication to breaking down the body. He will be a problem for anyone he fights and is ready for a big fight. He might not bring the most economic value but looks to be the future boogeyman of a division that is heating up.
FUTURE LEGACY: JERMALL CHARLO
His Twitter handle is @FutureofBoxing but Jermall Charlo is beginning to look like part of the present. After moving up from 154 pounds, Charlo has gotten quite comfortable at middleweight and is in position as Golovkin’s WBC mandatory. There are some network related issues that could halt this bout, which would be a shame but Charlo does seem to want the fight after an emphatic knockout over Hugo Centeno Jr.
Charlo is a brash American, with a mean streak in the ring and a constant chip on his shoulder. He’s got a tremendous jab and reach, and has shown some tenacious power. Now, he’s only two fights deep at middleweight and doesn’t seem to be next in line.
My boldest boxing prediction is that one of the Charlos (Jermall’s twin brother Jermell fights at 154) will face off against Errol Spence Jr. in the next pound-for-pound superfight. Spence Jr is only at 147 but will certainly rise in future years and I can see the Charlos being very comfortable at their weight class.
Jermall might be the torchbearer at 160 in the not-too-distant future (alongside Derevyanchenko) and has the personality to carry pay-per-view headliners. If Golovkin wants to ensure his legacy lasts in future years, the Charlo fight would be a perfect bout between the present and the future.
The only other person I’d like to see Charlo fight, besides Golovkin, is Danny Jacobs in what would certainly be a showdown between the best two American middleweights.
THE VENN DIAGRAM OPTION: RYOTA MURATA
Boxing can be bullshit and corrupt, as we all know. Sometimes we do not get what we want and are forced to settle for something a bit lesser, than try to get excited about our fifth preference because the sixth one looks worse.
Insert Ryota Murata, the talented Japanese fighter who serves as Golovkin’s WBA mandatory. Murata has one blemish on his record, but it might be one of the most criminal ones in recent memory, and does serve as one of the more lucrative options given his starpower in Japan. He satisfies a mandatory, does have a future in the division but is perhaps the most beatable of these options. A fight against Murata would be uninspiring, not because its a bad fight necessarily, but just would be a mini-letdown with all these more tantalizing options.
Most feel that Danny Jacobs was the fighter who put up the toughest fight against Golovkin though Jacobs hasn’t exactly been inspiring in fights against Luis Arias and Maciej Sulecki. Jacobs probably deserves a rematch but might get squeezed out, though a win against any of the listed above would easily put him in the top of the order.
Gilberto Ramirez has been vouching for a Golovkin fight for a bit, and that could give Golovkin his first chance at a belt in another division (“Zurdo”, as he is known as, fights at 168). Ramirez has really not fought anyone since winning the WBO belt and just scraped by Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart in a fight that should be run back.
Chris Eubank Jr. is rumored to be replacing George Groves in the WBSS finals against Callum Smith, which is just some bullshit, but if he wins that fight…he would have a belt and is beatable, brash, and recognizable enough to potentially bring home a nice payday.