By Michael Rosenthal
Golovkin KO 2 Martirosyan: Gennady Golovkin evidently needed to release pent up frustration on a cool Saturday night in Carson, California. And Vanes Martirosyan happened to be in front of him. Poor Vanes.
Martirosyan was the middleweight champion’s choice to replace original challenger Canelo Alvarez, who tested positive for a banned substance in March and was subsequently suspended. The former U.S. Olympian has credentials, as he had fought on even terms with the likes of Erislandy Lara, Jermell Charlo and Demetrius Andrade at 154 pounds. And for three minutes-plus Martirosyan held his own against Golovkin, who took a number of eye-catching punches in the opening round.
Then hell overtook the Armenian-American.
Golovkin, one of the biggest punchers in the sport, landed a whirlwind of 10 clubbing shots in about five crazy seconds, Martirosyan sank to one knee and then collapsed face first as a pro-Golovkin crowd of 7,837 went nuts. That was that. Referee Jack Reiss counted him out at 1:53 into the round.
“It was like getting hit by a train,” Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 knockouts) said immediately afterward. We all can imagine.
Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs) reveled in a spectacular moment and the adulation from his fans in Southern California, where he lives and trains. His gratification certainly had it limitations, however.
He should’ve been fighting Alvarez for around $25 million in Las Vegas, not an inactive junior middleweight for a fraction of that figure in an L.A. suburb.
Make no mistake: Golovkin took a beating on this night too. Hence the anger.
Further gratification should lie ahead, though. If common sense prevails, Golovkin will meet Alvarez in September, shortly after the Mexican’s suspension ends. That means the gargantuan payday – based partly on projected pay-per-view numbers – would be delayed by four months-plus, which is hardly the end of the world.
Alvarez also lost a lot of money but will have his windfall in the fall. Golovkin will get his cash and have the opportunity to settle the unfinished business of their first fight, which ended in a draw even though most believed Triple-G deserved the nod. And the fans will get the fight they want to see.
Win, win, win.
Now let’s hope the powers that be don’t screw it up. This is boxing, after all.
Golovkin-Alvarez II: Golovkin made it clear in the ring immediately after he stopped Martirosyan and at the post-fight news conference that he wants to fight Alvarez in September, which should be no surprise.
Triple-G can make far more money against Alvarez than any other potential opponent. And after everything that Golovkin has endured since the failed drug test – including acrimonious words between the fighters – he would relish the opportunity to do to Alvarez what he did to Martirosyan and prove he’s the better fighter.
Remember: Golovkin is 36 years old. He probably has only a half dozen or so more fights at or near his best to build his fortune and his legacy. He doesn’t have time to waste.
Alvarez doesn’t need Golovkin as much as Golovkin needs him. Canelo could approach a $50 million payday in the rematch, which would ease the pain of the money he lost when he was suspended. That’s a powerful incentive to make a deal. At the same time, Alvarez, a bigger pay-per-view draw than Golovkin because of his large Mexican fan base, can earn huge sums against other opponents and is only 27. He presumably has many big-money fights ahead of him.
Plus, Alvarez might be angry enough at Golovkin and perhaps the boxing world to make everyone wait for the rematch.
Which way will it go? Money is almost always the deciding factor in “prizefighting.” I can’t imagine that that Golovkin and Alvarez would pass up the opportunity to make Mayweather-like money, particularly because the fans want it.
And Alvarez has an extra factor to consider: He’ll look bad if he follows his failed drug test by refusing to face Golovkin as soon as possible. Alvarez must start to repair his image.
Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, said he and Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions have already begun negotiations for a fight in September. Loeffler said Gomez told him that Alvarez will enter a drug-testing program, which would be a prerequisite before Golovkin would fight him.
So there is reason for optimism if that’s the fight you want to see.
David Haye: The good news for Haye is that there should be no doubt that he’s finished.
The fighter we saw lose a second time to Tony Bellew on Saturday barely resembles the athletic and physically imposing phenom who terrorized the cruiserweight division a decade ago. The current version of Haye is a lumbering, broken-down wreck. His body simply won’t do as it’s told.
Tony Bellew made that clear, putting Haye down three times and stopping him in the fifth round. That follows an 11th-round KO in their first fight, in which Haye fought for a number of rounds with an injured Achilles’ tendon.
Haye had no excuses this time. As he said, “The better man won.” Much better.
The fact Haye likely will have ended his splendid career with consecutive knockouts against a fighter he almost certainly would’ve beaten in his prime will be hard for him to swallow. The silver lining, if there is one, is that he can tell himself that he gave everything he had. He trained hard, he fought hard. He just doesn’t have it anymore.
I truly hope he sees that and walks away. After all, it seems inconceivable that he could rebuild after two bad losses and with a damaged body.
And he can take solace in the fact that he was one of the best cruiserweights of all time, an excellent athlete with tremendous punching power. He held major titles for a short time – in 2007 and 2008 – but made a strong impression, going 21-1, with 20 knockouts, before becoming a full-fledged heavyweight in 2008.
As a heavyweight, he won a major title by outpointing giant Nikolay Valuev in 2009 and went 7-3. He lost his title to Wladimir Klitschko in 2011 in what amounted to a mismatch. He never again fought for a major title as his body gave out.
That setback and the disappointments against Bellew will fade in time. Haye will be remembered as an exceptional fighter.
Golovkin’s team depicted his victory over Martiroysan as his 20th successful title defense, which would tie Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight record. I don’t buy that. He made five of those defenses as the secondary WBA titleholder, as Felix Sturm and then Daniel Geale held the “super” belt. Thus, in my book, he has made 15 successful defenses. Please don’t read this as some sort of criticism of Triple-G, though. The fact he has been arguably the best middleweight in the world for eight years is more important than a tally of title defenses in an age when “championships” are so diluted. And he is still a titleholder. He could catch and then pass Hopkins yet. … I hope Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 KOs) is able to put the setback behind him quickly. He made the right decision to fight Golovkin – you can’t pass up such an opportunity – but he faced overwhelming disadvantages, including his two-year layoff and lack of experience at 160 pounds. The sample is small but I think he demonstrated in the first round that he can still fight. … Bellew said after beating Haye that he wants to fight former heavyweight champ Tyson Fury, who is making a comeback after a long layoff. Good call. I don’t think Bellew would beat Fury, who is both bigger and better than he is, but I don’t relish the thought of Bellew climbing into the ring with punchers like Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. He’s too small. I like the Bellew-Fury fight for Fury, too; Bellew is a good fighter who has made himself marketable with his victories over Haye. That’s a big fight in the U.K. … Cecilia Braekhus, the welterweight champion and biggest star in women’s boxing, made history by taking part in the first women’s bout in HBO but was fortunate to get past Kali Reis on the Golovkin-Martirosyan card. The Colombian-Norwegian outboxed Reis (13-7-1, 4 KOs) early but the underdog came on in the second half of the 10-rounder, including a knockdown of Braekhus (33-0, 9 KOs) in Round 7. Braekhus won 97-92, 96-93, 96-93 but the fight probably was a little closer than that. Braekhus is a very good boxer but has little power, particularly against a bigger, stronger fighter like Reis, who had been fighting primarily as a middleweight. There is talk of a Braekhus-Claressa Shields fight. Shields, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner, is a super middleweight. Braekhus has more experience and probably is a better boxer than the young American but Shields is just too big for Braekhus. That said, congrats to her for the exposure she received. It was a big night for her and for women’s boxing. … Ryan Martin, a contender at both 140 and 135 pounds, looked sharp in his unanimous-decision victory over veteran Breidis Prescott (31-13, 22 KOs) on the Golovkin-Martirosyan card. Martin (22-0, 12 KOs) seemed to be more confident than the last time I saw him fight live, on the Golovkin-Alvarez card last September. He is evolving nicely. Prescott is 11-13 since he knocked out a young Amir Khan in 2008.
Michael Rosenthal is the winner of the 2018 Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing for almost three decades.