The Trouble with Triple (G)
By Donavan Leonard: As of the time of this writing, Gennady Golovkin is still without an opponent or a venue for his hopeful return to the ring May 5th. With Canelo Alvarez dropping out of the bout after two failed drug tests, Golovkin and his team have been scrambling to put together a bout for the unified middleweight champion.
(Photo credit: Hogan Photos)
Throughout the replacement process, some unsatisfying opponents have fallen through (Spike O’ Sullivan, Jaime Munguia), and some mouthwatering names have been left largely unspoken by GGG’s team (Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Demetrius Andrade), leaving Vanes Martirosyan as potentially the last hope for Golovkin to preserve his schedule.
Golovkin was not the fighter that failed a drug test and dropped out of the bout and should not shoulder the blame for the highly anticipated event originally scheduled for Cinco de Mayo becoming a pedestrian walkover bout. It is a shame that in his potentially record-tying defense of the middleweight crown, the response of the boxing world will most likely be a collective yawn. Here are the options that seem to be on the table:
Follow through with the defense against Martirosyan. This is an opponent that nobody appears to want. A record-tying defense should be against a big name. An exciting opponent. An active opponent. Martirosyan does not fit the bill for any of those categories. He is a fighter best known for being a good fighter, a quality opponent, and for giving both Erislandy Lara, Jermell Charlo, and Andrade difficulties in the ring. In reality, he is not a bad “filler” opponent–much better than Bermane Stiverne in the rematch with Deontay Wilder, and comparable to Petr Petrov stepping in to face Ivan Baranchyk in their recent lightweight eliminator bout. There have been weak defenses by champions throughout the history of the sport, and this is certainly not the most egregious offense. The problem could come from the IBF, as Derevyanchenko’s promoter Lou DiBella has expressed interest in having Golovkin stripped of the title if his next defense is not against Derevyanchenko. This is a win-lose scenario for Golovkin if it stands. He can stay active, get a small (for him) payday for his camp and time away from his family, see how his handling of Martirosyan compares to other opponents. bide his time to see how long Canelo will be suspended…and still lose one of his belts. This might be the safest short-term option, as an expected win would keep his options open, and a unification fight with Derevyanchenko sometime in 2019 could be bigger than merely a title defense against him.
Fight Derevyanchenko. If DiBella and Derevyanchenko are willing to take this fight for extremely short money, make them prove it. Although Derevyanchenko is a very good opponent, he doesn’t have the professional seasoning of Golovkin. A win over the cub before he becomes a lion would be reminiscent of Bernard Hopkins beating Glen Johnson or Jermell Charlo facing Erickson Lubin before the youngsters in those fights (Johnson/Lubin) had enough experience at the top to take the heat…or the belt. This is the option that seems to make the most sense to outside observers, as there is no negative. A win ties the record. Golovkin stays active and on schedule. Boxing pundits respect Derevyanchenko and would laud the choice of such a dangerous opponent. Golovkin would satisfy a mandatory and would not have to fear the possibility of being stripped of the belt he beat off David Lemieux. But…there is the possibility that the fight would not come to fruition on May 5th, as DiBella could try to force it to a purse bid. Any numbers would have to be agreed upon almost immediately for this fight to take place with the limited funds available.
Cancel the fight and look for a possible unification with Billy Joe Saunders in June. Much of Golovkin’s persona has been connected to holding “all the belts.” Saunders holds the only generally recognized belt, the WBO, that Golovkin does not currently possess. Saunders cannot fight in May due an injury but claims he can be ready in June. In a perfect world, where everything is drawn up by fans, this makes sense. The IBF mandatory could be pushed back and Golovkin would finally have the chance to be the undisputed middleweight champion. However, there is no guarantee that Saunders would be ready June 23rd as he is currently claiming. That is also another month out of the ring for Golovkin if all went according to schedule. Any delays and it could be July or later before he is once again in action. The biggest problem with this is the date. Last year when Golovkin was discussing a bout with Saunders for June 10th in Kazakhstan, Golden Boy Promotions told him that if he did, he would not get the fight with Canelo. That would not be enough time, according to them, to properly promote the fight, and there could also be risk of Golovkin sustaining injury. June 23rd is even later in the year, so this would virtually eliminate Golovkin from a rematch this year with Canelo if the suspension is reduced to six months. “All the belts” is a great slogan, but he would not be doing his fiduciary duty to his family if he was to forego the “Canelo Lottery” in exchange for a smaller payday against Saunders.
There are no easy answers for Golovkin. He will be skewered for a “stay busy” defense, with the possibility of losing one of his belts. He can take on an opponent who is viewed to be a much better fighter for a much smaller payday than either probably deserve. He can pack his bags, decide he has wasted a training camp, and see how negotiations play out with Saunders. Or another option…wait until after Canelo’s hearing April 18th to decide. If the suspension is for a year, then Golovkin will not be able to fight Canelo until May 2019 anyway (technically February, but Canelo won’t fight until Cinco de Mayo), and can better plan his schedule. Golovkin and his camp need to look out for their own best interests regardless of the criticism. Triple G has been left a mess that was not of his own making. The hope is that he is not the one who suffers most out of this debacle, and that the final decision of him and his team will be applauded for its boldness or forgiven for the circumstances.