By Keith Idec
A year ago, Demetrius Andrade had hope.
The undefeated southpaw was headed for his mandatory title shot with WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. The first fight of his promising pact with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN, then a brand-new streaming service not even affiliated fighters knew how to pronounce, was supposed to be his opportunity to completely change the course of what was a career of unfulfilled promise.
Defeating England’s Saunders last October 20 in Boston – no easy task, of course – at least would’ve afforded Andrade a victory over a top middleweight and better positioned him to fight the 160-pound division’s cash cow, Canelo Alvarez, or Gennadiy Golovkin. The middleweight championship rematch between Alvarez and Golovkin then was only two weeks away.
This was still well before Alvarez and Golovkin signed long-term, nine-figure contracts with DAZN, but Andrade had plenty of reasons for optimism. He would make more money than before, become more active and had Eddie Hearn telling anyone who would listen that Andrade deserved the career-defining fights and accompanying paydays that had always eluded him.
The Saunders fight fell apart because Saunders failed a performance-enhancing drug test late last August administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. That disappointing development didn’t prevent Andrade, then the WBO’s No. 1 contender, from receiving his title shot.
Andrade instead dominated Walter Kautondowka, an unbeaten but unknown No. 2-ranked contender from Namibia, on October 20 at TD Garden. Kautondokwa wasn’t nearly as credible an opponent as Saunders, but their promotional plan remained intact after Andrade floored his hard-hitting opponent four times and produced a wide win on all three scorecards.
By then, HBO was out of boxing and Alvarez already had made a five-year, 11-fight commitment to DAZN that could become worth $365 million. Five months later, Golovkin officially had joined DAZN, too, and had his own six-fight contract, reportedly worth slightly more than $100 million.
Though virtually everyone expected Alvarez and Golovkin to fight a third time next month, Andrade appeared to be perfectly positioned to fight one of them once they completed their trilogy. All Andrade and Hearn had to do, it seemed, was continue calling out Alvarez and Golovkin after his wins and apply pressure on them to face the unbeaten middleweight champion who’s willing to fight them whenever, wherever.
The 31-year-old Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs) has held up his end of the deal by beating Kautondokwa (18-1, 17 KOs) and optional opponents Artur Akavov (19-3, 8 KOs) and Maciej Sulecki (28-2, 11 KOs). Unfortunately for him, Andrade remains the odd middleweight out, a high-risk, low-reward world champion who just can’t lure any of boxing’s best 160-pound fighters into the ring.
Hearn discussed Andrade’s predicament with a group of reporters recently, when he was asked about Andrade facing Golovkin or Alvarez.
“I think [Golovkin-Andrade is] a great fight,” said Hearn, whose company recently became Golovkin’s co-promoter. “Demetrius Andrade is a little bit in the same boat as Billy Joe Saunders. Really tricky, very good fighter, tough to beat. Like, for me, Canelo should be fighting Demetrius Andrade. He shouldn’t be fighting [Sergey] Kovalev. It’s a good fight, but he should be fighting the other champion in the division.
“But you can’t really criticize Canelo Alvarez because his resume’s stellar. Right? So, it’s tough to say, ‘Oh, you’re not fighting [Andrade].’ He just boxed Danny Jacobs, and he beat him. And he wants to fight Kovalev. Again, that’s a tough fight. But for me, if you’re not fighting Triple-G, which is the fight he should’ve taken, then you should be fighting Demetrius Andrade.”
Alvarez apparently is headed for a fight versus Kovalev, the WBO light heavyweight champion, November 2 in Las Vegas.
As Hearn indicated, it’s tough to criticize Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) for moving up two weight classes to challenge Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs). It’s still clear that, for whatever reason, Alvarez has little interest in fighting Andrade.
Golovkin, meanwhile, will fight for the IBF title that recently was stripped from Alvarez. The Kazakh knockout artist will fight Sergiy Derevyanchenko for that unclaimed championship October 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Even Derevyanchenko will now have had two meaningful middleweight fights since Andrade joined DAZN and Matchroom last summer. The Ukrainian contender lost a split decision to Daniel Jacobs in their IBF middleweight championship match 10 months ago, but Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10 KOs) still will make a career-high purse – the type of money Andrade was willing to accept to battle Alvarez – for fighting Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KOs).
Andrade? He has no idea what’s next.
The former WBA and WBO 154-pound champion can’t even land a fight with Jacobs, another former middleweight champion affiliated with DAZN and Matchroom. Jacobs, who’s friendly with Andrade, has moved up to the super middleweight division and could be headed for a November bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Saunders signed with DAZN and Matchroom earlier this month as well, yet he also has moved up to the 168-pound division. Saunders is expected to make his first defense of the WBO super middleweight title against an undetermined opponent in his DAZN debut sometime in the fall.
Andrade would move up to 168 pounds to fight Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs) or Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs). They seemed about as reluctant to fight him as Alvarez and Golovkin, though.
Jermall Charlo, the WBC middleweight champion, is available. A title unification fight with Charlo likely would require Andrade to appear on Showtime or FOX, however, because Charlo has remained loyal to Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions organization and hasn’t been receptive to overtures from Hearn and DAZN.
Charlo (29-0, 21 KOs) still hasn’t taken part in a big middleweight fight, either, but he seems to have chosen that predicament more than Andrade.
Golovkin is the No. 1 contender for Andrade’s title. If he defeats Derevyanchenko, Golovkin likely would pursue what would technically be a title unification fight with Japan’s Ryota Murata if Alvarez doesn’t change his mind about boxing Golovkin a third time.
That leaves Andrade in the same frustrating position he occupied prior to winning the WBO title. He has been busier and he has been paid pretty well, but now he’s just a high-risk, low-reward world champion – still the odd middleweight out.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.