Now that Gennady Golovkin has predictably laid waste to IBF mandatory challenger Dominic Wade, thoughts of GGG turn to the summer or fall, when we'll surely next see him in action, and almost as surely, not in the fight everyone wants to see, against Canelo Alvarez.
With Alvarez set to face Amir Khan on May 7, and purposely avoiding saying he wants to fight Golovkin any time soon, and promoter Oscar De La Hoya kinda-sorta admitting that he's not that interested in making the fight happen in 2016, either, Canelo-GGG is unlikely if not impossible for September, when we originally had hoped to see it go down.
Billy Joe Saunders
Saunders (23-0, 12 KO) holds the WBO title, which Golovkin would love to have to add to his collection. With GGG repeatedly stating a strong and legitimate desire to unify all four middleweight belts, Saunders is on the hit list alongside Alvarez. And if Alvarez won't fight him this year, Saunders would, in many respects, be the next-best option for Golovkin.
Truth be told, as good a fighter as the 26-year-old Saunders is, I have my doubts anyone would really see him as a threat to Golovkin. There's nothing in the style matchup that suggests Billy Joe would be able to keep GGG from doing as he pleases, which Golovkin has been doing with everyone. Of course, that's true of pretty much anyone out there at 160, so it's not a knock specifically against Saunders.
BJS was offered this fight for the April 23 date, but he and promoter Frank Warren turned it down. I've personally never blamed them. Saunders won the belt from Andy Lee on December 19 with a careful performance that looked to keep Lee from landing his devastating counter shots, working just enough to secure the win in the end, after a hot start that saw Saunders drop the Irishman twice in the third round. He was offered career-best money for the Golovkin fight, but chose to wait for now. He was scheduled to face Max Bursak on April 30, but has pulled out of that fight.
Would Saunders rush into fighting Golovkin next, without a "victory lap" defense for his first time as "world champion"? It's unlikely. But it's possible that without Canelo, K2 and HBO will be desperate enough for any sort of "legitimate" Golovkin foe that Saunders could be offered too much to turn down.
Johnson (19-1, 13 KO) was expected by some (including myself) to get the April fight with Golovkin, but an injury forced him to turn it down. He was featured on the Golovkin-Lemieux undercard last year for a reason, though, and if he's healthy and ready to go, his time to face GGG could be next.
The 32-year-old Johnson, originally from the Bahamas, is a solid mid-tier fighter, a fringe contender, and his most notable performance to date is either a win over previously unbeaten prospect Willie Fortune in 2013, or a controversial TKO loss to Curtis Stevens in 2014. Since the loss to Stevens, he's gone 5-0, but wins over Mike Gavronski, Valerio Marte, Humberto Toledo, Alex Theran, and Eamonn O'Kane really don't amount to a better résumé than the likes of Dominic Wade and Willie Monroe Jr had coming in to their fights with GGG, and that's exactly the sort of matchup that it would be on paper. Johnson is unlikely to get bowled over as quickly as Wade did, but would it surprise anyone?
Chris Eubank Jr
"Too soon," you're probably saying. Yes, I agree. But the Eubanks are a brash father-son duo, and even if it's just talk meant to get attention, both Sr and Jr have expressed confidence in a potential matchup with Golovkin.
Eubank (22-1, 17 KO) is 26 years old and his best wins have come against Dmitry Chudinov, Nick Blackwell, and Spike O'Sullivan. Solid wins, all of them, for where he's at as a pro. He also lost a very close fight to Saunders in late 2014, coming on hard down the stretch and nearly pulling off the upset. At the time, Eubank was thought to be too green to deal with a fighter like Saunders, a former amateur standout, seasoned beyond his years in many ways. But he hung in.
Now, obviously, Golovkin is a better fighter than Saunders, and a different sort of risk to take. But Eubank is fast, is explosive, and does have power. There is another possible wrinkle: if he fights Golovkin, Eubank could say -- no matter what -- that he took the Big Risk that scared Saunders. Of course, a rematch between Saunders and Eubank, who really don't like each other much at all, is also entirely possible.
You gotta hand it to Jacobs (31-1, 28 KO). While other middleweights find different ways to say they're not going to fight Golovkin but are often too proud to not act like they would definitely do it in a heartbeat, Jacobs pretty much ignores Gennady Golovkin's existence.
And why not? It's a nice little fantasy for the 29-year-old Jacobs right now. He gets to call himself "middleweight champion of the world" when his belt -- the WBA "world" title -- is simply a secondary version of one of the two Golovkin holds and regularly defends. He's got that Haymon/PBC backing, he's an easy guy to root for -- and really just a nice guy, period -- and nobody has really started breathing down his neck about fighting GGG yet, so he's just playing it cool for the time being.
Jacobs is coming off of an 85-second destruction of Peter Quillin in December, a fight that made him look like he just might be the most dangerous opponent out there for Golovkin at 160, simply because he has really explosive power. It's easy to forget that he got clipped and dropped four months before that against Sergio Mora, who isn't exactly a puncher. That's the kind of thing that gives you pause. That and Dmitry Pirog stopping Jacobs back in 2010.
But there's no doubt that Golovkin-Jacobs would be fireworks. Both guys fight offense-first, neither of them terribly cautious. And Jacobs battering Quillin around the ring makes a pretty good case that he's got the power to hurt and stop anybody in the division if he can land. This fight seems pretty unlikely, but without a Canelo fight, is the one I personally would like to see most.
Blanco (12-0, 5 KO) is a 30-year-old Venezuelan fighter, a 2008 Olympian who had a nice amateur career. This fight probably sounds absurd, and it sort of is, honestly, but Blanco does hold the (exceedingly pointless and unnecessary) interim WBA middleweight title, so technically he's somewhere in the mix for a title shot. (Maybe he'll fight Jacobs instead at some point?)
Blanco beat veteran Sergey Khomitsky for the interim belt last October in Caracas, about eight years and five months after Golovkin stopped Khomitsky in five rounds.
Blanco had a nice run as an amateur, competing in Beijing, as mentioned, and also winning silver at the 2007 World Amateur Championships in Chicago, then bronze at the 2009 Worlds in Milan. Here's a short list of notable fighters he beat in the amateur ranks: James DeGale, Shawn Porter, Vijender Singh, Darren Sutherland, Alexander Brand, Ezequiel Maderna, Marco Antonio Periban, Luis Garcia, Dmitry Chudinov, and Adilbek Niyazymbetov.
Don't get me wrong, though. I'm telling you that Blanco is a good opponent for Golovkin. I'm just inserting him here in case he winds up getting the fight. Now you know who he is, in case you didn't before.
Wild Card: Hassan N'dam: Kinda wanna see how many times Golovkin would knock him down before the fight gets stopped.
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UPDATE (4/25/2016): It was brought to my attention that I inadvertently stole a Dan Rafael joke/line about Daniel Jacobs and Golovkin in this article. I realized that I had after it was pointed out to me in the comments, and admitted that I definitely had done so. I don't want anyone to think I am not taking this matter with the utmost seriousness, however. Here is how I feel: