By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Tom Loeffler is a smart guy.
Of course, you don’t get your name on the door of the managing director’s office at a major boxing promotion company without being a smart guy, so labeling him smart is by no means breaking news.
Nonetheless, some credit should be given where clearly it is due.
On any given Tuesday in Los Angeles, Loeffler could be on the phone negotiating a deal for consensus heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko, working out logistics for IBO cruiserweight title-holder Ola Afolabi or commenting for a press release concerning middleweight KO machine Gennady Golovkin.
And it’s on behalf of the latter fighter – who faces Mexican veteran Marco Antonio Rubio this weekend in defense of his IBO and WBA straps – that he’s has worked his latest master stroke.
Not only is the Saturday fight at the StubHub Center for the IBO belt that Golovkin will defend for the ninth time and the nonsensical “super” status of which the WBA deemed him worthy earlier this year; it’s also for a trinket that, while worthless on its face, could make for interesting chatter in the future.
Rubio enters as the WBC’s “interim” champion, which is simply another way for the fee-hungry organization to ransom a recognition-hungry fighter for a few extra bucks in exchange for a concocted new term for what had previously been labeled as a “No. 1” or “mandatory” challenger.
Because he was next up to meet Sergio Martinez while the Argentine recovered from injury and didn’t obstruct a vastly more lucrative bout with Miguel Cotto, Team Rubio got the privilege of wiring some cash to Mexico City so their man could trot out a gaudy green belt and call himself a “champion,” too.
But it’s a Golovkin victory that might actually make the pseudo-title mean something.
Not only would a victory boost the native Kazakh to 31-0 and not only would a KO stretch his stoppage streak to 18 fights, but a win would presumably lift Loeffler’s man onto Rubio’s mandatory perch – which would in turn force the hand of Team Cotto and others when it comes to Miguel’s next move.
• Would Cotto follow the letter of the WBC law and risk his belt against Golovkin rather than making an anticipated match with Canelo Alvarez?
• Would he pursue the Canelo bout and leave the PR folks to answer the “how could he dodge his most legitimate middleweight challenger” questions?
• And if he chose the latter path but did so on middleweight class turf, would the Bible-toting folks at The Ring revoke his champion-for-life status in favor of Triple-G?
No matter how it plays out, it’s an eventful scenario Loeffler is looking forward to prompting.
“Rubio is clearly the best move at this time for GGG and will lead to the winner of Cotto/Canelo fighting him or vacating the WBC title,” he said. “How some people rate Cotto over GGG at 160 is beyond me. Nobody that I have spoken to thinks he would have a chance against GGG.
“Rubio would have beaten Sergio at 160 in that last fight, and that is why they paid him a step-aside fee to avoid his mandatory obligation so they did not risk the Cotto fight. The goal for Gennady is to unify the middleweight division titles, so we have to go step by step and that made the most sense with Rubio being the interim champion and mandatory for Cotto.”
As for Golovkin himself, he’s going about his pre-fight business in the same quiet way.
He treated Rubio with respectful kid gloves during a recent phone chat, using words like “rough,” “strong” and “tough,” while not mentioning the fact that the 34-year-old hasn’t faced anything resembling a top-10 middleweight since a unanimous loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012.
His only other fling with the cream of the 160-pounders ended in a ninth-round TKO to Kelly Pavlik, in the then-champ’s first bout after he’d been bamboozled by a youngish Bernard Hopkins, then 43.
Rubio is 6-0 with five KOs since the Chavez loss, defeating the likes of Jorge Cota, Carlos Baldomir, Michel Rosales, Marcus Upshaw, Dionisio Miranda and Domenico Spada. He’s ranked ninth by the IBO and was elevated from unranked in September to No. 5 in October by the WBA.
The Independent World Boxing Rankings have him 10th.
In Golovkin’s last four fights, he’s beaten fighters slotted 11th (Matthew Macklin), 22nd (Curtis Stevens), 16th (Osamanu Adama) and fourth (Daniel Geale) by the IWBR.
None of the last four fighters Rubio has beaten rate higher than Spada at No. 71.
“He's got power. He's got a very good left hand,” Golovkin said. “He does a great job in his fights and he's got a good record. I know it's not an easy fight for him or for me. It's not an easy fight for either of us. But the fans will really enjoy it. We'll be putting on a good show for the fans. He's the best opponent right now for me. He's the best boxer from Mexico in the middleweight division.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO/WBA middleweight titles – Carson, Calif.
Gennady Golovkin (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Marco Antonio Rubio (No. 5 WBA contender/No. 9 IWBR)
Golovkin (30-0, 27 KO): Ninth IBO title defense; Seventeen straight wins by stoppage (66 total rounds)
Rubio (59-6-1, 51 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Thirteenth fight in United States (8-4, 6 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Rubio is a respected, rugged veteran who’ll no doubt be willing to go out on his shield. And that’s exactly what’ll happen before the first round bell rings. Golovkin in 1
WBA featherweight title – Carson, Calif.
Nonito Donaire (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Nicholas Walters (unranked/No. 24 IWBR)
Donaire (33-2, 21 KO): First title defense; Held titles at 112, 118 and 122 pounds
Walters (24-0, 20 KO): First title fight; Second fight in United States (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Donaire’s won a bunch of belts and even got a “Fighter of the Year” tag from the BWAA a couple years back. But he’s not impressed anyone in a while. He won’t here either. Walters in 9
Last week's picks: 0-2 (LOSE: Soliman, Molina)
2014 picks record: 70-24 (74.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 617-218 (73.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.