By Jake Donovan
For the first time since he's held a version of its middleweight title, Gennady Golovkin will enter a prizefight without the World Boxing Association (WBA) title at stake.
His upcoming September 10 HBO-televised showdown with Kell Brook - an unbeaten welterweight who will move up two divisions - will come without the sanctioning of the WBA, the organization formally announced Thursday afternoon.
Upon the initial reveal of Golovkin attempting the 16th defense of at least one belt versus Brook, the WBA was the lone sanctioning body among the four involved to get behind the event.
"The Championships Committee and the Presidency have not agreed to sanction this bout as a title fight because Brook has never fought as a middleweight," said WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza at the time of the announcement in July. "The intent of the organization is to try to protect the integrity and health of the fighters.
"We do not oppose the fight, per se. But the rules of the organization stipulate that Golovkin and/or his representatives must request special permission in advance to fight Brook. Under the circumstances, if Golovkin were to lose to Kell Brook, the title would become vacant and would not end up in the hands of the British pugilist."
Golovkin and K2 Promotions filed for special permission on July 22, which the WBA acknowledged and promised to review in full detail. A decision was made on September 1, as the Championships Committee voted to allow the long-reigning titlist to proceed with the bout without fear of being stripped, but with the understanding that it would not count as an official WBA title defense.
The determining factor was a boxer with such devastating punching power as Golovkin - who has scored 22 consecutive knockouts dating back to 2008 - entering a world title fight against a career-long welterweight.
Those who will oppose the move will point to Brook outweighing Golovkin by more than 10 pounds at the 30-day WBC safety weight check, where participants cannot weigh more than 10% over the contracted weight limit. Brook tipped the scales right at the 176-pound maximum allowable limit and appears to boast the physique of a true middleweight in recent media workout sessions.
What remains to be seen is if he can carry a middleweight chin into the ring. As much was noted in the failed attempt of Brook's countryman and bitter rival Amir Khan landing on the very wrong end of a highlight-reel one-punch 6th round knockout to Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in his own failed attempt to rise from welterweight to capture the lineal middleweight championship.
The big difference there was Khan "only" moving up eight pounds in weight, with the bout contested at a 155-pound catchweight, Alvarez' weight of choice since at least 2014.
It was also a sticking point - even if he and promoter Golden Boy Promotions refuse to publicly admit - in his decision to bypass a mandatory title defense versus Golovkin, instead vacating the WBC title and deciding the fight will happen when his body grows into a full middleweight frame.
Meanwhile, he is high among a lengthy list of middleweights who claim willingness to face Golovkin, but just not next.
"What I most regret... is that there are no boxers at 160 pounds who have the will to fight against 'Triple G' and Brook has walk up two divisions to fight against him (Golovkin)," noted Mendoza in the hard decision with which the WBA was pressed to make.
Golovkin (35-0, 32KOs) won his WBA title with a 3rd round knockout of Nilson Julio Tapia. He was upgraded to regular titlist and eventually "Super" champion when then-titlist Felix Sturm blatantly avoiding the Kazakhstani knockout artist.
Among his 15 title defenses have also come the inclusion of the IBO, IBF and WBC straps in his quest to become undisputed middleweight champion. The IBO and WBC belts were obtained basically by default, while his IBF belt was earned by scoring an 8th round knockout of then-champ David Lemieux in their unification bout last Octobet in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The bout was to be followed by an epic clash with Alvarez, who had outpointed Miguel Cotto for the WBC and lineal middleweight crown, but whom instead opted for Khan. The decision left Golovkin to face mandatory challenger Tureano Johnson, only for the Bahamian middleweight to have to withdraw and sit out all of 2016 due to an untimely injury and subsequent surgery.
A list of alternate candidates passed on the opportunity before undefeated but unheralded Dominic Wade answered the call. Ironically, the troubled boxer from the greater DC area was granted permission to enter the title fight - which he lost by 2nd round knockout - despite a mountain of legal troubles, including having been placed under house arrest for domestic violence charges for which he will now face jail time.
The WBA was next up in the rotation of mandatory challengers whom Golovkin had to honor, but the sanctioning body agreed to sit on the sidelines and allow for negotiations with Alvarez to run its course before making its decision. The logic was to not stand in the way of the biggest fight to be made in boxing.
By the time Alvarez decided on going in another direction, Golovkin's mandatory challenger WBA "Regular" beltholder Daniel Jacobs had already entered an agreement to take on a voluntary defense versus Sergio Mora. The two met last August, trading opening round knockdowns before Jacobs stopped Mora in round two. The fight-ending knockdown also resulted in Mora breaking his ankle, thus not being able to continue or even fight for another year.
The injury and the traded knockdowns have become part of the hard sell for yet another undesirable middleweight bout on the schedule. which takes place September 9 - one night before Golovkin-Brook.
Meanwhile, Jacobs joins Alvarez on the list of middleweight titlists unwilling to face Golovkin in 2016, along with WBO titlist Billy Joe Saunders, who doesn't seem to want to fight anyone these days.
Golovkin was intent on traveling to England - where Saunders is based - for such a fight, and remained true to those plans when he entered talks for a possible defense versus Chris Eubank Jr. When the second-generation middleweight bailed at the 11th hour, his promoter Eddie Hearn offered up Brook as a willing alternate candidate. The deal was made in the blink of an eye, allowing Golovkin a September return and - with a win - a possible ring return in December to give him three fights on the year.
However, the WBA has ruled that - with wins in their next bouts, which come on back-to-back nights - Golovkin and Jacobs will be ordered to enter negotiations for a mandatory title fight.