In this middleweight title fight, the champion can’t help but repeatedly blast the challenger he’s not fighting. The challenger is fired up, more so at a reporter than at the long-reigning champ. The challenger’s promoter is talking about how a loss will make the champion great and the champ’s promoter is desperately trying to ensure that everything remains on track for the big fight he hopes comes next.
Golovkin will defend his WBA and WBC middleweight belts, but not the IBF title against Martirosyan on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in a bout broadcast by HBO.
It was supposed to be Golovkin against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on pay-per-view, a fight that seemed to have the potential to hit 1.6 million or more sales and capture the world’s attention.
Instead, Alvarez tested positive twice for performance-enhancing drugs, pulled out of the fight, was suspended for six months and now eyes a Sept. 15 date with Golovkin.
Golovkin barely conceals his disdain for Alvarez, who blamed eating contaminated meat for his positive tests, and promoter Oscar De La Hoya. He’s put the likelihood of a rematch with Alvarez at 10 percent and shrinking fast.
When he spoke of Martirosyan, he did so with little passion and in a perfunctory way. But when Alvarez and De La Hoya came up, Golovkin lit up and spoke with a passionate tone he rarely users in public.
He called Alvarez “a cheater” and “dirty” and said he’s mystified why Alvarez has yet to be tested since the Nevada Athletic Commission suspended him for six months. De La Hoya said in an interview last month with TMZ that Alvarez “will get tested every single day from now until the fight,” but that hasn’t happened and no one at Golden Boy could say why, or when.
It left Golovkin boiling mad.
“I am fighting Vanes, and he is a professional and not an easy fight, but all the time, it’s ‘Canelo, Canelo, Oscar, Canelo,’ and nothing else,” Golovkin said. “This is wrong for this sport what happened. Vanes is a worthy opponent and we should be talking about him, but instead everyone is making excuses for the guy who had the [positive] test.”
Martirosyan is the 2004 U.S. Olympian who was the unexpected, and highly criticized, choice as Golovkin’s replacement opponent. Once Alvarez withdrew, lawyers of promoters for Sergiy Derevyanchenko wrote to the IBF demanding that Golovkin defend the belt against him on May 5.
The IBF granted Golovkin an exception from the mandatory, but won’t sanction Saturday’s bout with Martirosyan, who hasn’t fought in two years. The IBF ruled that Golovkin would have to defend its belt against Derevyanchenko within 90 days of the Martirosyan fight if he is successful.
But that 90-day period would also run up against an Alvarez fight, which with all the controversy that has gone on since their first fight last year has gained a lot more interest.
Martirosyan hopes to upset all the plans by defeating Golovkin. He has spoken respectfully of Golovkin, but unleashed a tirade on a reporter who had been highly critical of him getting the fight.
“I’ve been fighting since I’ve been 7 years old and a reporter who has never fought once in his life has no idea what it is like,” Martirosyan said, his voice tinged with anger. “He doesn’t know what it is like to have to lose weight and to make weight and to take head trauma and have to get an MRI. It’s a physical and mental battle. He doesn’t do that and he doesn’t understand that. Instead of being a real reporter, he’s becoming a fan of certain fighters and hyping up those fighters. But with other fighters, he’s putting Floyd Mayweather down! Are you [expletive] kidding me? I just want to see respect. Hey, if someone doesn’t think I can win the fight, OK, but respect the fact that I’m the one putting my life on the line here. How many people get asked, ‘Hey, do you want to fight Golovkin on short notice?’ like I was and said, ‘Absolutely, no doubt. Let’s do it,’ like I did?”
Martirosyan’s promoter is none other than Don King, who after a career promoting many of the biggest fights in history has largely taken a back seat in the last 10 years. King is 86 and has few fighters in his stable now, but he hasn’t much changed.
At the news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, King went on a rant about how the unbeaten Golovkin would need to lose first to be considered a great fighter.
“In the inimitable words of Muhammad Ali, he says ‘You have to lose to become a whole champion,’ so there is no disgrace in losing if you come back,” King said. “You get knocked down, you get back up, you dust yourself off, and get back into the game. And I promise you, Golovkin, we will give you a return match. This will not be an opportunity where you will be knocked down and discarded. No, no, no. Fair play for the boxer. You have an opportunity to become bigger than ever. Show them what you can do in losing. We know what you can do in winning. There is no question about that. You are Triple-G. You have more belts than anybody.
“Now that we know how you can win, let’s see what you can do when you are like the guy that gets knocked down and he is on the corner because he just lost his job, feeling sorry for himself. The man who had a virus, a cold and he can’t seem to get up and go get it. Show us to be a champion of the losers. This great boxer Golovkin has a chance to show how great he is, to come back after he lost, instead of winning all the time. So the winning will end on Saturday night on Cinco De Mayo, and he will be born again.”
Perhaps, though Golovkin is better than a 20-1 favorite and a Martirosyan win would be up there with Leon Spinks over Muhammad Ali and Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson as one of the most stunning upsets in the sport’s history.
Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, has repeatedly reminded Golovkin of what can happen when a fighter isn’t focused on the task at hand. He’s done his best to turn the focus from Alvarez to Martirosyan and believes that, despite Golovkin’s angry words, he’ll do just that on Saturday.
“There isn’t any pressure on Vanes because nobody expects him to win and when you have a guy with talent who can go in and fight pressure-free, that’s a dangerous guy,” Sanchez said. “He has the same opportunity that Buster Douglas had when he fought Tyson. Nobody expected him to do anything, but look what he did. But we train our guys to be at their best, regardless of who they’re fighting. G knows Vanes from the 2004 Olympics and he knows he has to be prepared, and I think he is. Vanes is a revitalized guy getting this chance, and Gennady knows what he needs to do to get the job done.”
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