Gennady Golovkin didn’t put on the Big Drama Show that we’re so used to on Saturday night, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Faced with a big, in-prime, peaking middleweight opponent, Golovkin (37-0, 33 KO) had to dig a little deeper to secure a decision win — his first since 2008, and the first 12-round fight of his career — but comes out of it still holding the WBA, IBF, and WBC middleweight titles.
Now, the question is what it always is: who’s next for GGG? There are some options out there.
This remains the big one, so long as Canelo does his job and wins on May 6 when he faces Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in a catchweight (164.5 pounds) fight on HBO pay-per-view, in what could very well be boxing’s biggest pay-per-view fight of 2017.
Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KO) has said he won’t “fuck around” and that he does intend to fight Golovkin, but we’ve heard that for a while now, nd in the meantime, all Canelo and Golden Boy have done, quite frankly, is “fuck around,” including taking a weird risk to move up beyond the middleweight limit — a limit they refused to meet in full to face Golovkin before — to fight Chavez, a naturally much bigger man who will have some advantages, even if none of them are in skill. They also moved back down a full pound to the junior middleweight limit to face Liam Smith last September, another curious move. Basically, any weight that doesn’t have Gennady Golovkin has been palatable for Canelo and his team.
Rationalize it however you want, but the reality is that a lot of people think Canelo fears Golovkin. Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe it’s just that Golden Boy fears the fight. That said, Daniel Jacobs making Golovkin look more human than machine for the first time in years can only help. Perhaps they saw things in that fight that make GGG vulnerable to Canelo, and to be honest, you could make those cases. Jacobs did some good work, frustrated Golovkin at times, and had him looking kind of stale at points in the fight.
The ideal for the Canelo team would be to strike while the iron is still hot, but starting to cool a bit, before the majority of people really realize it’s cooling. That time could be now. GGG is not getting any younger, and if Alvarez defeats Chavez impressively, their confidence could soar.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr
Worth mentioning just because Chavez (50-2-1, 32 KO) could, in theory, beat Canelo, and then he’d surely call out Golovkin for a fight. And Chavez is worth money still, and would certainly be worth more with a win over Alvarez in May.
It’s hard to see it happening, though, even on a good deal. Golovkin has been adamant about staying at middleweight, and for some good reasons. He’s not a big middleweight by any means, and generally stays right around the weight limit, making it very comfortably. Moving up in weight is just not something he’s ever had in his plans. He may simply be a career middleweight, period, and there’s really nothing wrong with that, though it does potentially take some good fights off the table at 168 or even at catchweights.
Golovkin-Chavez probably wouldn’t happen, as there’d be little to gain for Golovkin and they’ve just shown no intent to do catchweight fights or go up to 168, at least not before unifying 160.
Billy Joe Saunders
Speaking of unifying 160, the only belt Golovkin doesn’t hold is the WBO title held by Saunders (24-0, 12 KO). GGG’s biggest goal is unifying the division, even more than fighting Canelo. When Canelo had the WBC title, they wanted that fight more desperately for the WBC title shot than for Canelo and the money, with Abel Sanchez saying repeatedly that if Canelo didn’t want to defend against them as had been agreed, he could just vacate, which eventually he did, giving the title to Golovkin.
Saunders turned down an offer to face GGG last year, but has said since then that he’s willing to do the fight. It might be the wise idea for him. Frankly, his title reign has not exactly set the world on fire. In fact, it’s been pretty much nothing at all. He edged past Andy Lee in December 2015 to win the title, fading badly in the second half of that fight after a fast start, and then had several cancellations and postponements in making a defense last year, before finally taking on Artur Akavov in December. Saunders barely got past the unheralded Akavov.
The Golovkin fight is probably the biggest money fight he can get, and if Saunders is vulnerable enough to almost lose to someone like Akavov, why not take the leap for the better money against Golovkin? There’s a lot more glory (and, again, money) in losing to GGG than there is in scraping past fringe contenders.
A rematch with Jacobs could be palatable. GGG-Jacobs wasn’t a great fight, and certainly wasn’t the fight that was sold or expected by most, but it was a good, tactical fight with some intriguing developments.
Can Jacobs (32-2, 29 KO) do better? He’s the younger, bigger man, and may have learned more about Golovkin than Golovkin learned about him, so to speak. Maybe, but maybe not. Perhaps it would be a repeat. Perhaps Golovkin would score a more decisive victory in a second go-round.
The Jacobs rematch probably only happens if both Canelo and Saunders balk. Not to say it couldn’t happen after one or both of those fights, but it’s unlikely to be next.
Andy Lee (35-3-1, 24 KO) returned to action on Saturday, too, beating KeAndrae Leatherwood by eight-round decision on the off-TV undercard at MSG.
Lee, 32, is an Irish southpaw with some fans in New York, and is the safety if everything else falls through, perhaps. If Canelo doesn’t want to fight in September, if Saunders can’t be lined up, if Daniel Jacobs can’t come to rematch terms, then there’s always Andy Lee, a former titleholder and a credible enough opponent for an HBO fight. Don’t mistake this in any way as enthusiasm for Golovkin-Lee; I have none, really. It’s just a possibility if better ideas fall through, which they often will in boxing.