By Tris Dixon
Crowns are passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes they are won and sometimes they are lost, but one constant remains. They do, inevitably, change hands.
Gennady Golovkin still sits atop the middleweight throne this week – if not the linear throne, of course – but his crown has slipped.
They may be in a noisy minority, but there are plenty who feel the WBA, IBO WBC and IBF champion lost to Brooklyn’s Danny Jacobs, and that Golovkin didn’t earn to walk out of the ring with his unified crown.
Following eight years of dominant inside-the-distance victories, he was forced not only to go to the scorecards but to go 12 rounds for the first time in his 37-fight career. Not only that, but he came within a whisker of losing his long held titles.
Jacobs pushed him incredibly close in New York’s Madison Square Garden in a battle some are already calling a Fight of the Year contender. Perhaps it wasn’t quite that good, but it certainly exceeded the meager expectations of those who figured Jacobs was just another victim in waiting.
The fight served to illustrate that the gap between GGG and other leading middleweights is not as great as either we first believed, or is as great as it was a year or so ago.
The beauty of the closeness between he and Jacobs was not that just that the margins were so tight on the night but that it opened up possibilities for more intriguing matches at middleweight, not least the long-awaited and perhaps now more viable mooted contest between Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who many reckon has spent a couple of years ducking the feared middleweight king.
After the fight, Jacobs said he now had Golovkin’s respect. He already did, of course, and he already had the respect of the boxing community having battled back from cancer several years ago. That was surely a far more intimidating prospect than what he was faced with on Saturday.
“Now I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and see if I can get the rematch,” Jacobs lamented. “If we could do it again, I’d love to. If not, I’ll move forward.”
The big money in the division remains the GGG-Alvarez fantasy clash. That has arguably become even more attractive and possibly even more lucrative given what happened in New York.
GGG looked beatable and anyone who made him an 80/20 or 70/30 favourite over Canelo beforehand might have subsequently reconsidered narrowing those odds.
And if the flame-haired Mexican impresses in that strangely intriguing May 6 showdown with Hispanic rival Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in Las Vegas, the gap could close further still.
Many will have different ideas about the morally correct next move for GGG. Jacobs supporters will say he deserves a rematch, sooner rather than later. And with some members of the audience in Madison Square Garden changing their allegiance towards the American during the bout, it is easy to see how the Golovkin-Alvarez fight could be shelved yet again.
However, many will think the right thing to do for Triple G is to continue actively pursuing the long-awaited fight with the Mexican.
Golovkin may take an interim bout. A clash with Billy Joe Saunders, the WBO champion, has frequently been mentioned for this year. Saturday’s winner said post-Jacobs that was his preference, too.
“My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division,” he commented. “[WBO titlist] Billy Joe Saunders is the last step of my dream. Hopefully we could have the fight in Kazakhstan. I’d want that fight next – 100 percent.”
And old foe David Lemieux is once again a hot property after his devastating knockout of Curtis Stevens.
While Team GGG won’t ever want to say it, they will have to cash in at some point. The big money won’t be on the table indefinitely. If Saturday is any indication – and no one should be chucked on any kind of scrapheap after one fight – the sand is running through the 34-year-old’s timer. He turns 35 in April.
Canelo’s supporters will likely be emboldened by what happened in New York.
But to talk about GGG and Canelo is to detract from Jacobs and Golovkin. This was simply not the GGG show in New York, as advertised. Danny Jacobs played a hugely significant role in a hugely interesting fight. His part moving forwards in the middleweight picture should not be diminished. Maybe he can land Saunders or Lemieux, but it will surely be Golovkin he’d prefer. The Kazakh is showing signs of slowing having shipped too many shots against welterweight champion Kell Brook last September and then being taken to the wire by Jacobs.
Decline is inevitable but the crown has not yet been passed. Golovkin may still be the king of the middleweights, even though the linear king is Canelo.
The king was nearly knocked from his throne on Saturday but still he lives. They both do. The kings aren’t dead. But they must fight. Long live the kings.