GGG/Canelo Negotiations on the Ropes – Good for Middleweight Division?
By Tom Hochbaum: Oscar De La Hoya and Eric Gomez have been very vocal about the fact that Gennady Golovkin has made financial demands which render the GGG/Canelo rematch unlikely. This fight not taking place on Mexican Independence weekend this September would be a huge financial blow for each fighter. The sport of boxing needs mainstream interest, and fights like Golovkin vs Canelo II could certainly deliver.
The first Canelo-Golovkin fight was a major success, selling 1.3 million PPV buys and grossing over $27 mil at the gate (3rd largest gate in boxing history). The rematch was projected to do even better numbers, considering the controversy from the first fight and the saga since the final bell. That appears to be in serious jeopardy at this point…and the Middleweight division may be better off as a result.
To provide some recent historical context, Gennady Golovkin is widely regarded as the legitimate Middleweight champion, and has been for several years now. He spent what seemed like an eternity seeking a career-defining fight against a crossover star while mowing down the competition at 160 lbs. After Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez defeated Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto for the WBC Middleweight title in November of 2015 he claimed he would “put the gloves on and fight him (Golovkin)” during the post-fight interview. It seemed that Golovkin’s wait was over. His days of chasing champions like Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, and Miguel Cotto to no avail could be forgotten. Golden Boy Promotions had other plans, though. Oscar De La Hoya was quoted as saying that the GGG vs Canelo fight needed to “marinate” in order to build the promotion. Canelo even sacrificed the WBC Middleweight belt to delay the Golovkin fight. Many boxing fans believed that Golden Boy Promotions was merely waiting for Golovkin to age and show a chink his armor. In March of 2017, Golovkin did exactly that. Then 34, GGG fought top-ranked contended Daniel Jacobs to a close decision victory, ending his 23 fight KO streak. Jacobs, who skipped the morning weigh-in mandated by the IBF, was dropped early in the fight but recovered and used his size and athleticism to disrupt the Golovkin attack enough to hear the judges’ cards. This prompted Golden Boy to make the long-anticipated fight, announcing it WWE style after a shameless cash-grab on Cinco De Mayo vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The revenue split for the first fight has been reported to be 70/30 in favor of Canelo Alvarez. Golovkin reportedly made numerous concessions to make this fight, including the venue itself. The fight was a good one, both fighters displaying the technical skills which vaulted them to such a lofty platform. While the fight was highly competitive, it wasn’t quite the “war” it was billed to be. As is the case in most other “super fights”, Canelo and GGG each showed a great deal of respect for his opponent. The fight was less about reckless abandon and risk taking than it was strategy. While close, most boxing fans and pundits feel that Golovkin did enough to earn the victory. Two of the judges disagreed. Judge Adelaide Byrd scored the bout 118-110 in favor of Canelo and Don Trella scored the fight a 114-114 draw. Byrd’s scorecard was so atrocious that many feel there was some foul play or scandalous activity involved. Trella’s card, while not totally far off, included a 7th round which he scored for Canelo; something that not many boxing fans can get their heads around as GGG appeared to dominate the middle rounds.
After the extremely controversial decision, the boxing world clamored for the rematch. Golovkin’s team wanted an immediate rematch. GGG wishes to fight as regularly as possible thus preferred to fight Canelo sooner rather than later. Golden Boy, however, wished to delay the fight yet again, this time until Cinco De Mayo of 2018, 8 months after the first fight. The details were ironed out and everything was in place for the rematch. This time, the split was reportedly increased to 65/35 for Canelo. It seemed that everything was lined up for the fighters to right the wrong and rectify the situation in the ring. Then came the drug tests.
Canelo Alvarez tested positive for the performance enhancing drug Clenbuterol twice in February. He later pulled out of the rematch with the subsequent 6-month suspension soon to be handed down by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Whether Canelo intentionally ingested the substance to try to get an unfair advantage may never be known as there is a common meat contamination issue in Mexico which the Mexican champ claimed was responsible for his positive tests.
With the rematch canceled, it seemed Golovkin’s career was put on hold once again. And once again, he was waiting on Canelo Alvarez. To make matters worse, the IBF will soon rule whether Golovkin should be forced to fight his mandatory challenger: the little known but very talented and dangerous Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Golovkin may be forced to either fight the low-reward challenger or give up one of his hard-earned titles.
According to Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler, GGG has made it known that he feels he should be compensated to the tune of a 50-50 split for his many concessions and hurdles caused by Canelo. Not only did GGG miss the 8-figure pay day in May, he also may lose his IBF belt if he continues to pander to Canelo and Golden Boy Promotions as he essentially has since late ’15. It may be logical to conclude that Golovkin and Loeffler are simply trying to negotiate a bigger slice of the pie, which would seem reasonable. Canelo vs. GGG I outsold the Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo fight by over 400k PPV buys and more than doubled the gate revenue. Cotto was the A-side of that promotion with a 55/45 split. If Canelo was willing to take 45% to make less vs. Cotto, it does not seem reasonable for his team to demand at least 65% of a bigger fight in the rematch vs. Golovkin. Oscar De La Hoya, however, has stated firmly that they would not move off their 65/35 offer, leading some to believe that they simply do not wish to make the rematch at this time.
De La Hoya has threatened to move on, mentioning other fighters as possible opponents for Canelo. The list that De La Hoya mentioned is extremely telling – Billy Saunders, Daniel Jacobs, Jermall Charlo, and Gary O’Sullivan. Three of those fighters are either champions or legitimate contenders at 160. Spike O’Sullivan, however, is not. Spike was mentioned as a potential replacement opponent for GGG after the Canelo fight was canceled in May. Spike is a brawler and a worthy opponent for a short notice stand-in. O’Sullivan would stand little to no chance vs. a fighter on the level of Golovkin or Alvarez, however. Both times that Spike got a chance to step up, he was thoroughly out-classed. He did not look like he belonged in either fight vs. Billy Joe Saunders or Chris Eubank. O’Sullivan getting the Canelo fight would really be nothing more than a tune-up and thus a real disappointment for boxing fans. Oscar mentioning Spike along with the other names really stood out. O’Sullivan has also been talking like a guy who has already been offered the Canelo fight for quite some time now and many believe that is where Alvarez is headed, unfortunately.
Golovkin, on the other hand, has many intriguing opponents available. Loeffler would most definitely prefer the mega-fight with Alvarez for a king’s ransom, however hardcore boxing fans may benefit from that fight falling through. The aforementioned Sergiy Derevyanchenko may not pique the interest of any casual fans, but those who have seen him know the Ukrainian can really fight. He is a ferocious puncher with good footwork and plenty of skill refined by a lengthy and successful amateur career. A fight with Derevyanchenko may not generate the revenue that Loeffler was seeking for his prized champion, but fans would truly be in for a treat if that contest were made official. There is the added benefit that if Golovkin were to fight Derevyanchenko it would likely take place sometime this summer, potentially in August. This would leave time for another GGG fight in 2018.
WBO Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders also lingers as a potential opponent for either Golovkin or Alvarez. Saunders has a fight scheduled in June vs former Golovkin victim Martin Murray. After that, the popular British champ could offer an attractive alternative for either 160-pound kingpin. A GGG vs Saunders fight at a large outdoor stadium in the UK could bring a massive gate and make for a decent consolation prize in lieu of the huge money rematch.
Loeffler has also mentioned former gold medalist, Japanese sensation Ryota Murata as a potential Golovkin foe. Murata is a huge star in Japan and does monster television numbers every time he fights. A match vs the world champion (who is also half Korean) would likely fetch each fighter an 8 figure pay day, especially if it were held in Tokyo on their popular New Year’s Eve boxing show.
Other great options at 160 include the young and talented Jermall Charlo and the ever-dangerous Daniel Jacobs. While neither is exactly a huge revenue generator at this point, either could be promoted as legitimate threats to Golovkin or Alvarez. Charlo proved his prowess at 154 pounds in recent years but has yet to be tested by a legit middleweight contender. Jacobs is a force at 160 who showed his worth in a close loss to GGG but has not looked quite the same since that hard-fought battle. Ideally, those two could come together on a contract and hash it out in the ring rather than just sit around and hope to be called on by either Golovkin or Alvarez.
To a lesser degree, the talented Demetrius Andrade looms in the peripheral of the middleweight landscape. While physically gifted and extremely dangerous for any opponent, Andrade has never shown the willingness to stay active. At this point, it does not appear that “Boo Boo” will force the hand of either middleweight star any time soon.
While the promoters, networks, sanctioning bodies, and casual fans hold out hope for GGG and Canelo to agree on a rematch, some hardcore fans are okay with this seemingly never-ending saga coming to a close…especially if that opens the door to for some of these excellent alternatives in the middleweight division.