Forget about May 5.
Gennady Golovkin’s stranglehold on the middleweight division isn’t going to be supplanted by a one-time junior middleweight title challenger like Vanes Martirosyan. At best, Martirosyan is a middling 154-pound also-ran who hasn’t fought in almost two years, hasn’t looked good in at least three and probably has never really possessed a high enough talent or skill level to warrant the amount of television exposure he’s received as a professional prizefighter.
Big fight. Good money. Good for him. But this fight is totally bunk.
Golovkin-Martirosyan is probably only happening because Golovkin is already 36 years old, desires another big payday before the end comes and is one win away from tying Bernard Hopkins’ record for middleweight title defenses (20). GGG is likely the most popular boxer in the world right now (sans a retired Floyd Mayweather), and HBO probably feels like it could use a bump in ratings right about now, too.
Look, belaboring the abysmal reality of #GGGVanes being the biggest thing happening on the historically important boxing date of Cinco De Mayo weekend isn’t really my main goal here, but I look at it as a necessary evil. Because this ridiculous fight is a symptom of a larger problem facing the sport right now.
HBO boxing is failing at being what’s it’s supposed to be.
Why are there not more intriguing and important fights on what is supposed to be boxing’s biggest and best television platform? GGG vs. Vanes even being a thing right now is indicative of a huge issue nobody seems all that interested in talking. HBO Boxing is losing relevance. Whether we’re talking bout rival Showtime’s work, ESPN’s Top Rank bonanza or the PBC conglomerate, HBO is no longer the top dog in boxing.
And giving the go ahead to fights like Golovkin-Martirosyan is a huge reason why.
Martirosyan has no chance of beating Golovkin. He’s too small. He doesn’t have enough power. He isn’t very skilled. Hell, Martirosyan isn’t even a middleweight. Yet, when faced with the idea of either making Golovkin face a legitimate opponent (after the NAC put a stop to the fight that was supposed to happen this weekend, Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez), HBO greenlighted the silly promotion which lies before us today.
I get that they ran out of time. They wanted Golovkin to fight on May 5, and in order to save the date for both the fighter, his television partner and the promoters, they decided to move forward with Martirosyan, a former title challenger from a weight class below. In the sport of boxing, this kind of thing happens all the time.
But the reality is that it shouldn’t happen. It’s dumb, pointless and virtually meaningless to the middleweight division in general. And HBO’s deference to having standard practices when it comes to competitive matchmaking is giving boxing fans less and less reasons to make boxing part of their Saturday nights.
Why did Golovkin’s team waste time in trying to vet 21-year-old 154-pound prospect like Mario Munguia? Wouldn’t the time connecting to Munguia’s team and all other stakeholders involved in such a promotion be better spent looking for an actual middleweight contender?
Golovin, age 36, is celebrated as one of boxing’s greatest middleweights. That’s fine. He’s one of the sport’s elite performers and he consistently dispatched the competition with ferocity. He’s a joy to behold both inside and outside the ring, and he certainly deserves the kind of high praise he’s getting for his impressive credentials.
But has he really even cleaned out the middleweight division yet?
There are plenty of decent competitors at 160 pounds. Why were fighters like Demetrius Andrade left to beg for the bout via social media and press release? Was Gary O’Sullivan’s money demands, something probably more in line with fair compensation for such a big fight in his career, really that far out of line? Could HBO not pony up a little more dough for their belle cow, Golovkin? And where were the negotiations with Billy Jo Saunders, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Ryota Murata and other relevant middleweight fighters in all this mess?
Would really none of them get in the ring with Golovkin on May 5?
Let’s say they wouldn’t. Tell me this. Is Golovkin’s supposed drawing power really not capable of pulling in enough money to draw a serious threat for the unified middleweight champ?
If the answer is no, then May 5 should just have been cancelled. At this point, who cares about that date anyway? Why not immediately start working on getting a real contender for a later date?
Look, Golovkin won’t be around forever. A relatively late bloomer because of his arduous start on the European circuit, GGG has little time left in the sport to carve out his permanent legacy. He’s one of boxing’s greatest current champions and going forward he will be remembered as one of the middleweight division’s most destructive forces.
But there are no excuses for a money fighter with arguably boxing’s most powerful television entity in his corner. Golovkin-Martirosyan is a huge letdown, an unnecessary promotion and a slap in the face to ever other relevant 154 to 160-pound fighter in the world today.
Worse than that, it’s a fight that really doesn’t matter. We, the people who support the sport we love with our time and money, deserve a lot better than that. We, the people who pay for HBO subscriptions and buy GGG hats and shirts, need to demand and expect so much more. They do this kind of thing to us because we let them.
The GGG-Martirosyan promotion is an irrelevant farce. Enjoy the fight all you want on Saturday night, just be honest about what it is, and what it probably means to the sport going forward.