Canelo Alvarez. Adrien Broner. Gennady Golovkin. Whether you're a fan of any of them, none of them, or all of them, they all share a common trait: They've been hyped into something that they've yet to truly back up in the ring, a mixture of management and TV networks attempting to create a star, and also not yet risking them against much by way of bona fide competition.
Of the three, you could argue that it's Broner, believe it or not, who has proven the most. Last night's narrow win against Paulie Malignaggi was a bit of a dud performance for the 23-year-old American, who was making his Showtime debut after two years of strong pushing from HBO, but it was also a victory over a respected, legitimate opponent. Oddsmakers expected a landslide, and so did many fans, but the fact remains that Malignaggi is a better win than Golovkin has to date, and better than most of Canelo's, too.
By single fight results, Alvarez's win over unbeaten Austin Trout in April of this year is certainly the greatest achievement of the bunch. But Canelo's hyped victories over damaged goods like Shane Mosley and Kermit Cintron or undersized guys like Josesito Lopez, Matthew Hatton, or Jose Miguel Cotto, hold no more weight than what Broner has done against the likes of Gavin Rees, Martin Rodriguez, Vicente Escobedo (Broner missed weight, but so did Canelo against Hatton), or Eloy Perez. The only thing separating those sets of wins are "name value," which is often sold in place of current, real world credibility.
Add Daniel Ponce De Leon to Broner's win over Malignaggi, and you can form an argument that he's done more than Canelo has thus far. I'm not making the argument, because that's not really what I want to talk about here, and is merely a sidetracked way of getting to my point.
Alvarez and Broner, due to heavy hype from HBO, Showtime, Golden Boy, Al Haymon, and The Machine, as it were, have met a ton of resistance from dedicated boxing fans, and often from the boxing media. Paid handsome sums and given relatively easy roads to superstardom, Alvarez and Broner have become poster children for an era where networks and their associates attempt to make stars, rather than giving them a platform to organically become stars.
So what of diehard fan favorite Gennady Golovkin? To quickly ask the question you now likely see coming from 50 miles, what in the hell has Golovkin done that Alvarez or Broner have not, and why does he receive the unconditional love of many of the same people who grind their teeth bitching about overhyped Canelo and Adrien?
Golovkin, now 31 years of age compared to Canelo and Broner in their early 20s, has really beaten nobody better than they have, and has no wins on his record that match Trout, Malignaggi, or Ponce De Leon, at least. This year, Golovkin has defended his WBA middleweight title against Gabriel Rosado, a decent 154-pound fighter, and Nobuhiro Ishida, a subpar 154-pound fighter who had no business getting any sort of world title shot.
The wins were predictable, just as 2012 wins over Makoto Fuchigami and Grzegorz Proksa were, or 2011 victories against Lajuan Simon and Kassim Ouma.
In fact, what is Golovkin's best win? Proksa, who had lost earlier in the year to Kerry Hope? Rosado, who got there by beating also-rans Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell, and Charles Whittaker?
Obviously, fans see the talent in Golovkin (26-0, 23 KO) who has thus far looked like an indestructible machine, a powerful, skilled puncher who brings action because he knows no other way, but also has true boxing ability. And never mind a sometimes porous defense that saw him get tagged cleanly, frequently by Rosado, his chin looks good so far, too, as he's taken shots from Rosado and Ouma (maybe his two shoddiest defensive performances) and marched right through them in the end.
He's strong. He's got pretty fast hands. He can box. He moves around the ring well. He's got, it seems, a chin.
Yet, he's one of the thinnest paper champions in all of boxing, having gotten into the world title mix in 2010 by beating Milton Nunez for the interim WBA middleweight title, and then Nilson Julio Tapia for the "regular" WBA belt. A fight with Felix Sturm never happened, and it's perfectly easy to believe Sturm wanted nothing to do with that. It's too bad, though; even a declined Sturm would stand out clearly as Golovkin's greatest victory compared to what's on his sheet at the moment.
How much can we say that Golovkin has been "avoided"? I do agree that, as it is, Sturm didn't appear anxious to lock horns with GGG. But there were other fighters out there. Did everyone avoid him? Hey, maybe. He's got that sort of aura, and the tales of his gym work are nearly mythical already.
Realities being what they are, though, no matter how you slice it, Golovkin has not been tested to date by someone considered a legitimate contender at 160 pounds. (Also, that deplorable Ishida fight in March was a totally optional defense, a pure stay-busy fight that isn't palatable no matter how you try to excuse it. Ishida had barely won a round in his last two fights, and was still living off the fluke hype of his 2011 win over James Kirkland.)
That should change on Saturday, when Golovkin faces Matthew Macklin (29-4, 20 KO), a two-time world title challenger who gave Sergio Martinez half a scare before being stopped after 11 rounds in 2012, and arguably should have lifted that WBA belt from Sturm in 2011. If he had, maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion. Maybe that's a fight we'd have seen a year ago.
Macklin, also 31, is not going to be confused with a truly elite fighter any time soon, but like the scattered notable wins on the records of Alvarez and Broner, he is a credible foe, and would be an admirable win for Golovkin, who desperately needs something better than another predictable lamb led to slaughter routine.
Macklin, unlike many of Golovkin's opponents to date, is a legitimate middleweight, physically strong, and a guy who can punch. "Mack the Knife" is flawed, makes mistakes, and may well get chewed up by a superior boxing specimen, but at least if that happens this time, we'll know that Golovkin can do it to someone considered one of the ten best in the division, rather than simply a series of physically overmatched and skillfully dwarfed opponents.
Alvarez will face Floyd Mayweather on September 14 in the ultimate test of a young, powerfully promoted fighter. Broner will, we hope, move on to a bigger, better fight than Malignaggi, now that he's apparently letting the fans pick his opponent.
Golovkin doesn't have someone like Mayweather, but at least he's got the real opponent that he and his supporters deserve. There is nothing wrong with jumping on the hype train early, and guys like Golovkin and, yes, Broner and Canelo will always have that coming their way. Not only are they marketed brilliantly, but these are also legitimately talented fighters. Boxing fans -- all sports fans, all anything fans, really -- love a fresh face, and we always want to see the next great stars come along. The inevitable backlash is what it is; the vast majority aren't "haters" or even critics, they are people who want to see greatness unfold before them. Believe me, there are more LeBron James fans than there are LeBron James ill-wishers. The latter group simply tends to be more vocal.
Will GGG pass his first significant test? Logic seems to be that he will. On paper, he looks more talented than Macklin, and there seems to be nothing Macklin does better in the ring. Macklin, though, has been on this type of stage before -- counted out, seen as just "the opponent," and both times, he's done reasonably well, at worst. Golovkin, if he's not what we've been sold, could be in for a rude awakening on Saturday, June 29 -- as could those so eager to crown him the true new king at 160.