By Steve Kim
WBA middleweight titlist, Gennady Golovkin is scheduled to make his next appearance on HBO on November 2nd. The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York has been reserved. On the strength of his recent activity (he's fought three times already in 2013 and four times within the last calendar year) and the spectacular nature of his victories -- which have all been knockouts -- Golovkin, a native of Kazakhstan, has become a fan favorite who has developed a cult following within the sport.
HBO has clearly made Golovkin one of its priorities moving forward.
He's also become the sports latest bogeyman, the type of fighter who is perhaps simply too dangerous for his own good. While he brings a lot of risk to the table, he doesn't necessarily give you a multi-million dollar payday for it. Hey, if you're going to take a beating (like Grzegorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado and Nobu Ishida all did) you might as well get paid an incredible amount for your troubles.
Golovkin, taking the mantle from pugilists of the past like Winky Wright, Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams, is the latest "Most Avoided Man in Boxing," which in itself is a commendation of your skills but also a condemnation of your career prospects. There are very few boxers in the sport who, by virtue of their star power or standing within the sport, can leverage whatever fights they yearn for to come to fruition. An unfortunate reality of this sport is that the more lethal you are, the more difficult it is to get boxers to dip their toe into the pool.
Curtis Stevens seems to be the latest example of this. Prior to his fight against Saul Roman on August 3rd he made it very clear that he would be more than willing to face the fabled 'GGG.' The big puncher from Brooklyn certainly said all the right things before impressively blowing out the normally durable Mexican out in one round on the NBC Sports Network.
Stevens as the B-side made perfect sense for this particular fight: he was from New York, he talked a good game and had a series of scintillating knockouts that were all nationally televised. Soon, K2 Promotions made an offer on behalf of Golovkin to Stevens and his promotional entity, Main Events, which would pay him $300,000. This initial offering was mulled over and basically rejected. Over last weekend, Main Events tweeted:
And they would add later:
If Stevens has to KO more guys to be paid what we believe he's worth against Golovkin then so be it. We believe in him.- Main Events (@Main_Events) August 10, 2013
Main Events believes that Stevens, who would earn a career-high payday for facing Golovkin in November, simply wouldn't be getting enough for their troubles, as of this moment. Again, risk versus reward. But that didn't stop Stevens from tweeting this out in the aftermath:
It's clear that Main Events wants to continue to develop Stevens as an attraction and therefore build his market value before facing Golovkin for a higher amount in the future. Which is certainly their prerogative. But in the meantime, Golovkin needs a dance partner.
The question is who?
His advocates will say that he's the most feared man in boxing. And they would have a point. His detractors will counter-punch by saying he's faced a rather nondescript roster of foes. And they also would have a point. Golovkin is underrated and overrated at the same time.
Perusing the Ring Ratings, you see the options are limited for a myriad of reasons -- most of them due to the fractured nature of this business and the unwillingness and unavailability of the middleweight contenders.
Going down the line:
• Sergio Martinez: who is the true recognized champion at 160, struggled mightily against Martin Murray back in April and lingering knee issues will keep him sidelined till 2014. When he returns, word is that he will face Miguel Cotto at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Cotto is still a marquee name and a more lucrative (and easier) option that Golovkin.
• Daniel Geale: The defending IBF belt-holder faces Darren Barker this Saturday night on HBO. He seems like a logical choice to face Golovkin should he win, but the IBF has stated that Felix Sturm is mandated to get the winner of this bout.
• Felix Sturm: Well, read above on Geale. Also, it has to be pointed out that during his tenure as the WBA champion, Sturm did everything he could to avoid Golovkin.
• Peter Quillin: "Kid Chocolate" could be returning to the ring in late October but what is a bigger issue is that he's under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, which basically disqualifies him from appearing on HBO.
• Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Well, where do we begin? Not only has he had to recently postpone his September 7th return against Brian Vera, but it was scheduled to take place at super middleweight. The perennially troubled Chavez last fought on Sept. 15th, 2012. Being a cash cow, it's doubtful that Bob Arum would make this matchup for the time being.
• Martin Murray: This tough Brit gave Martinez all he could handle in his last bout but his gaining entry into the United States is problematic given his Visa issues related to past legal problems.
• Hassan N'dam: Word is that this game Frenchman, who was bounced up and down like a Super Ball last October by Quillin (who knocked him to the canvas six times) is the front-runner to land this assignment.
• Darren Barker: As mentioned above, should he defeat Geale and capture the IBF title, he is obligated to face Sturm next. Barker is best known for going 11 rounds with Martinez back in 2011. It's doubtful he would dump the IBF belt (should he win it) to face Golovkin.
• Marco Antonio Rubio: At the moment Rubio is angling to become the mandatory challenger for Martinez by getting a rematch with Chavez Jr., or by convincing the WBC that another ranked contender should be named to face him for the interim title. While it may make sense for Rubio to fight Golovkin for his belt, again, the thinking here might be that Martinez is not only a more lucrative opportunity, but a more winnable fight.
It's clear that there are middleweights.
But in reality, there are very few options.
Steve Kim began covering boxing in 1996 and has been writing for Maxboxing.com since 2001. He is also a regular contributor for Boxing News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he tweets (a lot.)