The Dangers of Playing It Safe: Golovkin vs Martirosyan
Gennady Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world right now. There are fighters such as Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade who will soon be making similar claims but for right now it is fairly difficult to talk a sensible person out of this fact. He holds all but one of the important belts and would be favoured to take the remaining strap away from Billy Joe Saunders – an improved but generally inconsistent middleweight who is probably going to 168 before Golovkin can fight him.
This sentence will stand in as a long explanation of Canelo's situation, something that I feel exhausted simply talking about: Canelo is suspended and he is, for now, out of the conversation. Forget about him for now.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about one Jaime Munguia. He appears to be extremely legit and has shown this in his last three fights which have been systematic destructions of fairly good competition. I watched his fight against Jose Paz and came away with the sense that he was an immense puncher with some defensive flaws that border on dangerous, but that he was ultimately not too far away from ascending the division should he choose to stay there.
He did not. Instead, Munguia began looking at moving up to 160 which is where he enters the picture for this discussion. Someone, apparently with little respect for Munguia's long-term health and viability, tried to make Munguia with the middleweight king in what would surely have been a rollover and frankly dangerous mismatch. The NSAC kyboshed this idea, preferring to create an even more dangerous matchup for Golovkin to take out his frustrations in.
.. a 154 pounder who has not fought since Erislandy Lara basically shut him out in May of 2016, is going to move up to middleweight and challenge for Golovkin's belts. I was on Twitter and saw someone say Vanes can flat out fight! Good match! I've reported his account and called the police.
Martirosyan is a decent junior middleweight with little punching power and a largely unimpressive record of 0-3 in world title fights. He counts losses to Jermell Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, and of course Lara in those fights which is not in and of itself embarrassing. Those guys are world class and have been in pound for pound discussions for much of their careers. He even put Andrade on the canvas, which still surprises me whenever I see it happen. His career at 154 is very solid, but the highlight is a draw against Lara in which Dave Moretti decided he wanted to feel different and special, scoring a rare 10-10 round.
None of this matters, because the fight is not meant to be competitive. A version of Golovkin at 60 percent of his normal self would beat Martirosyan. No, Golovkin is going to walk out and club the smaller man around the ring for somewhere between one and five rounds, after which he will either be knocked out or politely told that he must go to the hospital and that the fight is over. I like watching Golovkin work and while I abhor intentional mismatches as potentially devastating to the sport and the particulars, I don't think this is dangerous to the point of mortal concern. Under different circumstances, say if Martirosyan has been active the last few years, we might even call him a live underdog.
What interests me is the constantly shifting public opinion around Golovkin and his promoter, Tom Loeffler. I once joked that Loeffler was the least powerful promoter among the big guns, but he seems now to have advanced himself into the conversation. The Superfly cards have been greatly successful, and he must be thanked for providing Naoya Inoue an American showcase. He has also steered GGG into a place where he is at least knocking on the door of stardom. Fighting on PPV, starring in Jordan commercials, becoming HBO's guaranteed action fighter – Loeffler deserves credit for helping Golovkin get here.
Something else I want to credit him with is not making a fight with Sergiy Derevyanchenko on three weeks’ notice. According to some people at HBO, namely podcast hosts Raskin and Mulvaney, the money they had available to them for paying Golovkin's opponent was minimal and Derevyanchenko's team was looking for a big payday. Complicating matters is the fact that Derevyanchenko is the mandatory for the IBF strap. Some people – overzealous and foolish – were playing the mandatory card in saying that Golovkin should either make the fight or be stripped. Derevyanchenko is far, far too good of a fighter to prepare for on three weeks’ notice just as Golovkin is far too dangerous to take on short notice if a loss will essentially end your viability in the division. No one really wanted that fight, least of all Derevyanchenko.
Will that fight be made, possibly in the summer? Maybe, especially if Canelo and his team decide that September will be a tune-up for him instead of the rematch with Golovkin. On a proper camp and without the distractions he's faced in the last few weeks, Golovkin is surely favoured but the fight remains compelling. We will have to wait and see what happens after May 5th.