Boxing fans don't always get to see the fights that they want, or the fights that they should. Political struggles with the promoters and managers and power brokers who actually make the fights shut down a lot of enticing matchups that the public would love to see, and have taken their toll on the sport's popularity. After all, who wants to spend time watching a sport where the best often do not fight the best?
But political problems are not an issue, at least for now, in the coming would-be middleweight mini-tournament featuring Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux on October 17, and Miguel Cotto vs Canelo Alvarez on November 21.
Sure, there may be other hangups. If Golovkin wins on Saturday as expected, would the Cotto-Canelo winner want to fight GGG next? In the case of Cotto, it's worth wondering whether he'd want to fight Golovkin at all. I'm not saying Cotto is scared, I'm just wondering if he truly sees himself as a middleweight champion, or if he sees himself as a guy taking advantage of payday opportunities who isn't really intending on fighting in the true middleweight division.
For now, though, let's all pretend. Let's just go ahead and have some fun and make believe that this thing is set up as it is, with three of the four titleholders and the sport's top junior middleweight in a middleweight box-off, winner takes all. (Well, most, since WBO titleholder Andy Lee is not involved.)
Who ya got?
GGG would have to be considered the odds-on favorite. Not only is he generally considered the top fighter in the division despite Cotto's status as "real" world's champion thanks to his win over one-legged, shot Sergio Martinez in 2014, but he is certainly the most accomplished in the division.
Golovkin (33-0, 30 KO) has held some version ("world" or "super world") of the WBA title since 2010, back when Felix Sturm was avoiding facing him at all costs. While wins over the likes of Milton Nunez, Lajuan Simon, and Makoto Fuchigami weren't a lot to get excited about, the talent and ferocity were there. He just had to prove it. He's done so over the last three years, destroying everyone who has dared to get into the ring with him.
Best Case Scenario: Golovkin takes out Lemieux in a handful of rounds in a brutal slugfest, then handles the Cotto-Canelo winner the same way he's handled everyone else, by ending the night early and looking sensational.
Worst Case Scenario: Lemieux catches him with something big and scores the 2015 Upset of the Year before Golovkin can even get to that big money fight with Cotto or Canelo.
Toughest Opponent: It may actually be Lemieux, thanks to his power, but I'll say Canelo Alvarez, who is a sturdy junior middleweight with the frame to move up well to 160, and is the better and smarter boxer between himself and Lemieux. Canelo isn't really flashy, but he is well-rounded, and he takes advantage of overeager opponents nicely.
Easiest Opponent: It is really, really, really, really, really difficult to imagine the 5'7" Cotto, a former junior welterweight, doing much of anything with Golovkin, even with all his talent, skill, and experience. Cotto is going to the Hall of Fame someday. Golovkin would chew him to pieces. Too big, too strong.
David Lemieux looked like a candidate for career washout when he lost a fight to Marco Antonio Rubio in 2011. He looked like a shoo-in for career washout when he followed that up with a loss to Joachim Alcine. But after pairing up with Marc Ramsay, the Montreal slugger has redeveloped his game, gotten his confidence back, and become a better fighter than he ever was before.
Part of that is simply experience. Lemieux thought and fought like he was bulletproof before facing Rubio, and he learned a very valuable lesson that night. The follow-up defeat to Alcine could have totally derailed his career, but he dug his heels in and learned from that setback, too. Lemieux (34-2, 31 KO) is 26 and has a lot of career left to go, and has become the legitimate top middleweight he was supposed to be pre-Rubio.
Best Case Scenario: Lemieux has not just improved, but has become an elite level fighter. He upsets Golovkin by knockout and goes on to overpower the Cotto-Canelo winner, too.
Worst Case Scenario: Golovkin shrugs off Lemieux's power and lays waste to him inside of three rounds on Saturday night.
Toughest Opponent: Golovkin, easily. He's the only guy who can match Lemieux's power, and is really sort of a nightmare matchup for Lemieux.
Easiest Opponent: Cotto. Cotto is a small man for a middleweight. I cannot stress this enough. Do you really see Miguel Cotto taking power shots from guys like GGG or Lemieux well?
Cotto, 34, is a changed fighter under trainer Freddie Roach. There's really no doubt about that. And when you look back at Miguel Cotto's lengthy, highly successful career, trainers have been an issue for him more than once, and he never seemed to quite gel with anyone after he and his uncle Evangelista had their falling out.
Cotto briefly trained "under" Joe Santiago, his friend who was no boxing trainer. In reality, Cotto trained himself (quite foolishly) for his fight with Manny Pacquiao. A stint with Emanuel Steward wasn't unsuccessful, but didn't last. His pairing with Pedro Diaz got some good results, but also didn't last, and though they won fights together, and Diaz is a very good trainer, they were never quite right for each other.
With Roach, Cotto (40-4, 33 KO) has a trainer who wants to go offense first. That is what Freddie Roach does, for better or worse. He is an excellent trainer on the offensive side of the sport, and Miguel Cotto, who at his best is a ferocious body puncher and a stone cold killer in the ring, fits Freddie like a glove. But is Miguel really a middleweight? Again: no, not really.
Best Case Scenario: Miguel Cotto proves me wrong, beating Canelo Alvarez impressively and then not just fighting Gennady Golovkin, and doing so at a full 160 pounds, but he outboxes and frustrates GGG over 12 rounds, neutralizing the bigger man with smart offense and a lot of movement.
Worst Case Scenario: Young, strong Canelo Alvarez is too much for Cotto in November, and the setback convinces Miguel to fire another trainer and get more tattoos.
Toughest Opponent: Golovkin. Big, strong, hard puncher, and an all-around good boxer. GGG's biggest weakness, supposedly, is his occasional disregard for defense, his willingness to take dead clean shots. Against the comparatively tiny Cotto, he could and would do so.
Easiest Opponent: Probably Alvarez, who doesn't have quite the stunning power of Golovkin or Lemieux, though Canelo is a better all-around fighter than Lemieux. None of these three seem easy for Cotto, though. As a middleweight, Cotto has beaten an injured old man whose body was falling apart on him, and a light-punching, past-prime Daniel Geale. As good as Cotto looked in that fight, none of these guys are going to fold the way Geale did.
Canelo Alvarez, 25, has been a bona fide star in Mexico for several years now, and has been a notable name on the American boxing scene since he was 19 years old, when he turned heads by stopping Miguel Cotto's older brother Jose Miguel Cotto on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard. But he's still a very young fighter, even considering the fact that he's about to mark his 10th anniversary as a professional.
Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KO) has beaten everyone along the way since breaking through in 2010, save for Floyd Mayweather, who made Canelo look a little green back in 2013. Whether that was Alvarez's fault for not trying to use his superior size to bully Mayweather, or his team's fault for putting together what would be an absolutely absurd plan to box the world's best boxer at center ring, I don't know. But he's come back from that to knock the crap out of one-dimensional sluggers Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland, and beat Erislandy Lara last year, adding to an impressive résumé that sometimes doesn't get enough credit.
Best Case Scenario: Canelo proves he's not only in line for the dollar for dollar throne that Mayweather has left behind, but that he might be part of the pound for pound race, too. He beats Cotto handily in November, then outboxes Gennady Golovkin and shuts down the very last of his doubters.
Worst Case Scenario: Cotto, like Mayweather, proves too crafty and too smart for Alvarez, bringing more questions about Canelo's game planning against elite opponents on a big stage.
Toughest Opponent: Golovkin. (I realize this is the same for everyone except Golovkin, and I'm now purposely avoiding crafting a THOUGHTBOMB about how GGG would really be his own toughest opponent.)
Easiest Opponent: Probably Lemieux. Even though he's bigger and stronger than Miguel Cotto, he's not as smart a fighter nor as accustomed to the big stage. Physically, Cotto is a less demanding foe for Canelo, but Lemieux just seems like an easier style matchup for Alvarez.