This should be the norm, shouldn’t it? Murderous-punching middleweights Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux will square off at Madison Square Garden Saturday night on HBO Pay-Per-View. Hopefully it’s the start of a round-robin style middleweight tournament that includes Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, who will fight each other about a month from now. I use the word “hopefully” because in this sport, nothing matches up the way it’s supposed to. The square peg is perpetually being forced into the round hole.
There will be countless previews of Golovkin vs Lemieux, all of which will tout the massive punching power and destructive nature of both fighter. Lemieux is a pure bomber, loading up on every shot in an effort to end nights with a single punch. Golovkin is an assassin: Calm, precise, patient. He’ll stalk, wound, and then finish. The length of time it takes him to do so is irrelevant. First round or 12th round, the results are always the same. The fervor over this fight is pretty clear — people want knockouts, and these two deliver them in abundance. The odds of a 12-round snoozer, rather than a massacre, are quite low.
But that’s not the only reason fight fans have been counting down the days until this thing goes live. This is obviously a tremendous fight on paper. The sad part is that these types of fights have become an exceedingly rare. That might be putting it kindly. If great fights were an endangered species, they’d be right there with the Bolivian Chinchilla Rat in rarity. Promoters have gone to war, advisors have practically monopolized the sport, and fighters have taken money and trinket belts over history and shots at greatness. What are we left with? Awful mismatches instead of top contenders battling for supremacy. Business over fan satisfaction. What nobody seems to understand is that it’s the fans who bring the business
When the news broke that welterweights Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter were penciled in for a bout on December 12, boxing twitter reacted as though we’d be seeing Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns all over again. Now, these are two good, top 10 147 pound fighters. But this fight should simply be another in a long run of quality fights. The fact that people were practically overjoyed at the news speaks volumes about our current situation — if a fight isn’t utter garbage, we’re all in.
Certainly, the over-saturation of Al Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions” on what feels like every network other than E hasn’t helped matters. But blaming Haymon for godawful fights is too simple — boxing had been headed in this direction long before 2,357 PBC broadcasts blasted out of our television screens like Draft Kings commercials this year.
The two biggest promoters in the world, Top Rank and Golden Boy, only recently started working together again after years of animosity kept some of the best match-ups in the world from happening. Even networks have gotten in on the fan-screwing — Showtime climbed into bed with Haymon, only to watch all of their fighters battle on other networks. Their fight schedule is more barren than Mars before Matt Damon got there. HBO, for yet another year, aired nothing from August to October. Last week they finally trotted out Lucas Matthysse, who went home early.
Things have improved this year. Matthysse went to hell with Ruslan Provodnikov. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally fought, and even if the end result was brutal on the eyes, at least it happened. Cotto and Canelo will fight in November in another massive match-up that should be an all-action brawl. Combine that with Golovkin vs Lemieux, and this has been a comeback year.
But again, these shouldn’t be freak occurrences. Boxing is built around fights, not fighters. The sport survived the death of the heavyweight division and the loss of Oscar De La Hoya. It will survive the loss of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as well. But survival isn’t the point, or at least it shouldn’t be. Fans should be drooling over bouts, not laughing as another no-hoper gets pounded on by a titleholder who thinks he’s accomplishing something.
Saturday night, Golovkin will take on what appears to be his toughest challenger to date. Madison Square Garden will be packed, and pay-per-view sales will most likely be very strong, especially when you consider that one guy doesn’t speak English and the other has only a tenuous grasp on the language. Fans will tune in because the fight will very likely be fantastic for as long as it lasts. They’ll explode with every violent punch. Next month, those same fans will be watching as two more warriors slug it out. When it’s over, they’ll look for the next big one.
Hopefully boxing has something to give them.