This certainly isn’t the Cinco de Mayo pay-per-view blockbuster that boxing fans had in mind.
Yet here we are —, a subsequent tainted beef scandal and the insistence from unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin that the show must go on — just days away from boxing’s Super Bowl weekend with a fight that should exceed the almost barren expectations it has been stamped with.
As far as late replacements on less than three weeks’ notice are concerned, Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) could’ve done far worse — and very nearly did — forVanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs).
Adding in their combined craft and penchant to come forward, however — not to mention the mecca for action fights that is the StubHub Center as the backdrop —has the potential to be entertaining theater for the Carson, California, crowd (HBO, 11 p.m. ET).
The knocks against Martirosyan, 32, are certainly clear and present: A career junior middleweight, the native Armenian hasn’t fought in two years. He also hasn’t won a fight since taking a majority decision from Ishe Smith in 2015.
But the 2004 U.S. Olympian has also been in an almost perpetual training camp over that time after three straight fights fell apart. Martirosyan is also a large junior middleweight who may end up being the bigger fighter come fight night against “Triple G,” who is considered a small middleweight.
“[Martirosyan] is a good fighter, I remember him in 2004 [Olympics] in a couple of fights and he was good,” said Golovkin, who won a silver medal for Kazakhstan. “He has a very strong chin and he is a little taller and has a longer reach. He has a lot of good experience. He has fought a lot of good boxers. I know my style and it matches up good with his but my style is much more interesting.”
HBO Boxing fight card
|Gennady Golovkin (c) -3000||Vanes Martirosyan +1100||Middleweight title|
|Cecilia Braekhus -10000||Kali Reis +16000||Women’s welterweight titles|
True to Golovkin’s words, Martirosyan has also built a reputation of daring to be great and taking on difficult challenges — including Erislandy Lara (twice), Demetrius Andrade and Jermell Charlo — that others weren’t necessarily lining up for. Because of that, “The Nightmare” will be anything but intimidated in the face of Glolovkin’s powerful reputation, which included 23 straight knockouts from 2008-16.
“Most of GGG’s opponents — when they got into the ring they already lost,” Martirosyan said during Monday’s media teleconference. “They already thought about the power before they got in the ring and they fought defensive. Gennady is a monster and he hits really hard. So they got in the ring scared and I don’t get in the ring scared. I am going to do my thing.
“I just want to see where I belong in the sport. I never had the opportunity to show.”
The reason for Golovkin’s single-minded insistence that a fight of some kind take place on May 5 seemed to have more to do with his age and the want to avoid long layoffs than anything else.
“He just turned 36 on April 8 and we may not have him for that many more years so let’s enjoy as many fights as we can for as long as we can,” Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez said.
Golovkin competed just twice in 2017 thanks to how long negotiations for fights against Danny Jacobs and Alvarez played out. Had he punted on Saturday’s date and waited out Alvarez’s six-month Nevada Athletic Commission suspension ahead of a September rematch, it would’ve created a one-year gap of inactivity.
Tom Loeffler, GGG’s promoter, revealed there were at least four occasions when he thought the fight date couldn’t be saved — including potential opponents either turning down big money (Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan) or getting rejected by the Nevada commission, where the Alvarez rematch was originally set to take place.
“If it were up to Gennady, he would fight three or four times a year,” Loeffler said. “He knows one punch can change a career and you don’t know, so fight as much as possible. He is the most entertaining boxer today and he trains to put on a good show, even if that means taking some punches to throw more back.”
If you take Golovkin at his word, his pursuit of equaling Bernard Hopkins’ division record for title defenses didn’t appear to mean all that much to him Monday when he said, “It is numbers, only numbers.” But the typically mild-mannered GGG, who hasin how outspoken he has been against Alvarez for testing dirty, gave a surprising answer about how it would feel to stand alongside Hopkins in the history books.
“It will mean a lot but compared to Bernard Hopkins, my record is much bigger — stronger and bigger,” Golovkin said. “This is a good situation for me and for my fans and that’s it.”
Loeffler jumped in to quickly reiterate Golovkin’s mission statement — regardless of title defense record or not, big name opponent or late replacement — remains on doing one thing.
“I think [the middleweight record] is bigger for everyone on the team, like Abel Sanchez and myself,” Loeffler said. “We understand the historic perspective of what Gennady has accomplished in his career and could potentially accomplish on Saturday and be successful in another title defense. He just wanted to fight. He told me he didn’t care who and he didn’t care where just, ‘I want to fight on Cinco de Mayo,’ and that was my job.”
While Hopkins has yet to form a public rebuttal to Golovkin’s comments, Sanchez believes his fighter gets the nod historically as a middleweight due to his variety of opposition.
“If you look at [Golovkin’s] record, he hasn’t had any rematches in there,” Sanchez said. “Everybody he fought has been a new opponent. The great Bernard Hopkins fought twice against [Antwun] Echols and three times against Robert Allen. We are fighting new guys every time. By tying it, and if he decides to stay at middleweight and break the record in the future, is great for boxing history and good for historians to look back upon.”