Boxing: GGG continues his winning ways as he looks for a big fight later this year
By Jeremy Wall
Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) scored his twentieth knockout victory in a row Saturday night, May 16th when he defeated Willie Monroe Jr (19-2, 6 KOs) via sixth-round knockout at the Inglewood Forum on HBO. It was Golovkin’s fourteenth title defense at 160-pounds, as he was putting up the IBO Middleweight title and the WBA Super World Middleweight. Golovkin is also the interim WBC Middleweight champion, but that title was not on the line.
“I want to fight a southpaw because I want to show everybody that I can beat any style, it doesn’t matter,” Golovkin told FightNews.com before the bout. “I’m very anxious. This is a big test for me. I remember a lot of fighters, like Canelo, Cotto, and a lot of great champions have had problems with southpaws. So why not test myself?”
Golovkin went into the fight considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet, coming off a win over Martin Murray on HBO from Monte Carlo earlier this year. Murray was the first fighter to take Golovkin to eleven rounds, as Golovkin had only been taken to the tenth round once during his pro career back in 2011.
Monroe went in as a relative unknown and the prefight video package for Monroe promoted the idea that Monroe uncle Willie “The Worm” Monroe had once upset Marvin Hagler and that maybe history could repeat itself. Monroe had won the 2014 ESPN Friday Night Fights eight-man Boxcino tournament.
Golovkin landed 133 of 297 punches (45%) and Monroe landed 87 of 305 punches (29%) during the bout. Golovkin also scored three knockdowns during the fight. He knocked Monroe down twice in the second round, when the fight looked like it could easily have been called by referee Jack Reiss. Monroe narrowly escaped defeat in the second, though, and made the fight interesting, even winning at least a round against Golovkin before being knocked down again in the sixth and telling Reiss “I’m done.”
Golovkin easily won the first round before scoring a 10-7 round in the second. The first knockdown came when Golovkin landed a perfectly timed left hook on southpaw Monroe’s jaw. Monroe was strafing away from Golovkin up to that point, trying to make himself a moving target. Monroe beat the count, but was knocked down a again after a Golovkin combo.
In the third round, Monroe threw more offense and got off defensive mode, which got him into the fight. Golovkin let up a bit on Monroe in the third, but still won the round. In the fourth, Monroe looked like he might stage a comeback. Golovkin allowed himself to be peppered with power shots to the head while they were in the center of the ring. Monroe may have won the fourth round by out striking Golovkin, who took the barrage and told Monroe to keep coming. Monroe isn’t a fighter with much power, though, and it looked like his offensive flurry in the fourth did little to damage Golovkin.
In the fifth, Golovkin came back and scored left hooks to Monroe’s body and overhand rights to his head. Monroe was staggered by a left hook early on, but fought back and landed some combos of his own before the end of the round. In the sixth, however, Golovkin started landing with power and he dropped Monroe with a combo. Monroe got to his knee, but told Jack Reiss he didn’t want to continue.
“We commend Willie Monroe Jr. for accepting the challenge of fighting Gennady, which many other contenders and even titleholders are unwilling to even consider,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, the company that promotes Golovkin.
In his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Golovkin claimed he allowed Monroe to survive the second round and to comeback in the later rounds to give Monroe a chance to make the fight interesting.
”First, I showed him who’s the real champ,” Golovkin said afterwards. “Second, I gave him a chance. I didn’t lose control. “
“This is not just five minutes,” Golovkin continued. “All my friends come to the show. I stay right here. I gave real present.”
“Gennady had him out in the second round but it looked like he let him get back in the fight,” said Loeffler. “He said he wanted the fans to get more of their money’s worth and then he broke him down.”
“We were both in motion and he hit me with a good shot,” Monroe said. “He is strong. Golovkin did a good job. He was easy to hit but he takes a good shot.”
Golovkin has taken up residence in California, relocating his family from Germany. He has become a drawing card in the state, becoming a major babyface with his awkward Eastern European charisma and exciting power in the ring. He even wore gloves and trunks with the colours of the LA Lakers. Ticket sales were strong. Before the fight Loeffler said the 12,600-seat configuration of the Forum was nearly sold out and that they may open more sections.
“My performance was special for you guys,” Golovkin told the crowd at Inglewood. “This was a very good drama show. This was for you.”
Golovkin earned $1.5 million for the fight. Monroe received $100,000. Last week, Canelo Alvarez received $3.5 million to face James Kirkland on HBO at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Mayweather and Pacquiao the week before both received enough money to fund a small war as a reward for fighting in the most lucrative boxing match of all time.
Golovkin will fight again before the end of the year, which will be third fight in 2015. The three biggest names Golovkin could possibly face are Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, and Andre Ward. There are problems getting Golovkin into the ring with all three and it is unlikely Golovkin will face any of them before the end of the year. All three fights are possible next year, or after that.
The main holdup in getting Golovkin in against the biggest names at middleweight is that Golovkin is a destroyer and it doesn’t look like anyone can beat him right now. Also, Golovkin has yet to develop into a ratings draw on television. That means the money to face Golovkin is not quite high enough to make taking a risky fight worthwhile for any big name fighter.
The biggest fight for Golovkin would be against Canelo. Of Canelo, Ward, and Cotto, Canelo is probably the only opponent for Golovkin who would have a strong enough name to do the fight on pay per view and make it profitable. Ward and Cotto don’t have strong enough names to make doing a pay per view fight against Golovkin profitable, although that isn’t to say that HBO might not try, anyway.
There are a few issues getting the Canelo fight done. First, Canelo competes at super welterweight (154 pounds) and would need to move up to middleweight to face Golovkin (160 pounds). Golovkin is a big middleweight. Alvarez has fought at middleweight in the past, but not against someone with the power and the size of Golovkin. That power and size would make Golovkin the favourite and it could be a fight that ends badly for Canelo.
The second issue is that Canelo is the singular meal ticket for Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Al Haymon used to provide most of the fighters, including many of Golden Boy’s box office stars, to the promotion, but took his fighters with him when he formed Premier Boxing earlier this year. The only real drawing card Golden Boy has left is the 24-year-old Canelo. Golden Boy is not going to risk damaging Canelo’s drawing power with a bad loss unless the payoff is so massive that it is worth the risk. Right now, there is no proof that Golovkin could draw that massively as an opponent for Canelo.
“I think if it was up to Oscar it would be 2020. I think the public demands that,” said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer, before the fight against Monroe. “It’s the next big fight. We can’t like we did with Manny and Floyd. We have to get these guys while they’re rising. It would be a great fight in Cinco de Mayo next year or during Independence Day next year. I think the build-up would be perfect.”
“Canelo? Not the future — right now I am ready for the big fights,” Golovkin said in his post-fight interview. “Miguel and Canelo. Right now. Not in the future. I am ready for the big fights right now. The next show.”
“When the day comes for me to move up to 160 I will face the best in the division. Sincerely and with humility I don’t see any real competition for me. Greetings to everyone!” Canelo said on Twitter after Golovkin beat Monroe.
“It’s not realistic to fight Canelo until at least next year,” said Loeffler. “[Golden Boy says] the fight needs to be built, but the way Canelo sold 31,000 tickets last week and the way Gennady sells here in L.A., I don’t know how much more it needs to be built.”
One thing that Golden Boy might be waiting on is for age to expose chinks in Golovkin’s armor. Golovkin is already 33 years old. If Golden Boy waits two or three years to put Canelo against Golovkin, Golovkin will likely be past his athletic prime, whereas Canelo would still be in his. A couple of years would also give other opponents the chance to expose ways to beat Golovkin that Canelo could take advantage of when the time comes.
The problem with waiting for the big money fight in combat sports is that because fights can’t be controlled like in pro wrestling, you end up with plans being ruined by an upset along the way. Usually it is best to make the money fight as soon as possible. But in the case, it is probably only the best for Golovkin and HBO. If Golovkin faces Canelo on pay per view within the next year, Golovkin would be the favourite to win and it would cross Golovkin over to pay per view for his future fights and turn him into a drawing card. But for Canelo and Golden Boy, it isn’t worth the risk right now because they don’t care about making Golovkin into a drawing card. They are about him being a drawing card going into the fight, so they can get a payoff commensurate with the risk of fighting Golovkin.
WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman is reportedly permitting Miguel Cotto to defend the WBC Middleweight belt against Canelo later this year, assuming Cotto gets past Daniel Geale on June 6th on HBO. But the catch is that the winner of Canelo-Cotto has to sign a contract stating that he will defend the WBC belt against the interim champion Golovkin.
“We are going to fight in September, the truth we already want to important dates, Mexican dates,” Canelo’s trainer and manager Eddy Reynoso told ESPN Deportes. “We’re going to fight in September and look for an interesting fight. We are going to fight on September 12, who, with the best that is available to Saul. We’re going to sit with De la Hoya. We want the big fights, we are already ready to go get the fighters…, the best fighters that are in the category.”
Cotto would also be a solid opponent for Golovkin, although not as big of a draw as Canelo. “We can’t make those guys [Canelo and Cotto] fight him. If we could get Cotto in the ring it would be great. Canelo looks like he wants to wait to build it up some more,” said Loeffler.
“I respect Miguel Cotto. Miguel is a great champion,” said Golovkin. “After this fight [against Monroe], I don’t know who wins, but I stay here and wait for my big fight.”
The third major name that Golovkin could fight besides Canelo and Cotto is Andre Ward. “I respect Andre,” Golovkin said. “Maybe right now he is not ready. Right now Canelo and Cotto, then Ward.”
Ward is scheduled to face Paul Smith on June 20th on BET for Jay Z’s Roc Nation promotions as part of a time buy. It will be Ward’s first fight since he beat Edwin Rodriguez by unanimous decision in November 2013.
Tom Loeffler is claiming that the financial demands of Ward make a fight between him and Golovkin hard to put together. Ward’s financial demands would necessitate the fight airing on pay per view, according to Loeffler.
“I don’t want easy fights,” Golovkin said. “I’m ready now. Not the future, but now. I want to fight Canelo or Cotto. I want to fight them now. After Canelo or Cotto, then Andre Ward can go.”
Ward fighting Golovkin in the fall would make sense, with the winner of that fight to face the winner of Cotto-Canelo on Cinco de Mayo next year, assuming Cotto gets past Geale and Ward gets past Paul Smith in a few weeks. Cotto-Canelo, Golovkin-Ward, and then the winners of the those two fights would be promoted by HBO, with only Golovkin-Ward probably not being strong enough to air on pay per view. This combination of fights gives HBO a counterpoint to a Floyd Mayweather fight in September promoted by Showtime on pay per view, which they can run against with Canelo-Cotto. It also gives HBO a counterpoint to a possible Mayweather fight next May should Mayweather choose to fight and fight someone other than Pacquiao, as HBO can run with Canelo or Cotto against Golovkin or Ward on pay per view.
But with Ward wanting to face other opponents later this year, that means for a fight this September Golovkin will have to fight someone else to stay busy waiting to see what happens with Cotto-Canelo. “We will keep doing what we are doing while we try to get a big one,” Loeffler said. “People love to come out and come to see him fight regardless of who he fights. People just want to see him in the ring because he is so exciting.
“I want to fight to unify the titles,” said Golovkin. “For me, it’s very important [to clarify] who’s No. 1; who’s best in the world in the middleweight division? Absolutely, I hope for a big fight with Miguel and, of course, I want a unification fight with Andy Lee. I think he’s ready and, of course, my dream fight is against Floyd.”
Loeffler has said that Golovkin may fight twice more this year, once in September and once in December with possible locations for the September fight being Mexico, England, or Germany, and then returning to the US in December. Besides WBO Middleweight champion Andy Lee, another possible opponent is the winner of the June 20th match for the vacant IBF Middleweight title between David Lemieux and Hassan N’Dam.
“We’d like to plan his [Golovkin] next fight for September,” Loeffler told FightNews.com. “Cotto has a tough fight for June, and we’re going to keep doing the same formula. We can’t wait on fights. If we can get Cotto in the ring, which Gennady is the mandatory for, that’s a great fight. Canelo, it looks like he wants to build that fight, which is great. It could be next year. You can’t force someone to fight. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. The people come out regardless of who Gennady fights. September is the target date.”
There have also been talks of Golovkin facing Mayweather, but it is a far-fetched dream match at this point. “Of course, it is my dream fight,” Golovkin said. “Obviously, Floyd, he is a great champion, and a little bit different style. Floyd, he’s a smart guy. He does a lot of moving. For my style, a little bit different, I like drama show, I like real fight, like close fight. I want show, big show — big drama show.”
Abel Sanchez has said that the only fighter that Golovkin would be willing to come down to 154-pounds for is Mayweather, which would make Golovkin a massive super welterweight. “Only for Floyd,” said Sanchez. “There’s no reason to go down for Canelo. Canelo hasn’t made 154 in three fights over. I’m sure he’ll be moving to 160. But for Floyd, most definitely.”
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to find a real solid guy that’s going to push me for that last fight and when I go out, you know, I want to go out with a bang,” Mayweather said recently on Shade 45 SiriusXM Radio regarding his next fight.
Golovkin is unlikely to be the fighter that sends Mayweather out with a bang, though, because of the size difference and the belief that Golovkin would defeat Mayweather. Floyd is not going to risk his perfect record at this stage of his career by putting Golovkin over on his way into retirement. Mayweather is more likely to face someone who is a credible opponent, but unlikely to win, such as Amir Khan, who faces Chris Algieri on Spike TV later this month.
Whether Golovkin can score the big fights depends on Golovkin’s ability to draw money. His fight against Murray aired on a Saturday afternoon on HBO and drew 862,000 viewers, peaking at 938,000. It was ahead of HBO’s Saturday afternoon fights from 2013, which were Froch-Groves II (700,000) and Klitschko-Pulev (620,000). The replay that night added 571,000 viewers for a total of 1.433 million. Prior to that, Golovkin drew 1.304 million viewers for his fight against Marco Antonio Rubio, peaking at 1.323 million and 984,000 viewers against Daniel Geale, peaking at 1.048 million.
Boxing has been on a roll this year. Premier is drawing record ratings with their aggressive expansion on network television and Mayweather-Pacquiao was the most lucrative fight in history. But HBO has also been doing well. Last week’s Canelo-Kirkland fight drew 2.146 million viewers and peaked at 2.296 million, HBO’s best since a 2006 fight between Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver. The Canelo-Kirkland broadcast included the replay of Mayweather-Pacquiao. And a few weeks ago, HBO drew 1.637 million viewers for Wladimir Klitschko’s Heavyweight title defense against Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden. HBO hadn’t drawn a rating that high since 2012, although the rating for the Klitschko fight was of course later surpassed by the Canelo-Kirkland bout. The most watched fight on HBO in 2014 was Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. versus Bryan Vera, drawing 1.39 million viewers, peaking at 1.53 million.
It has been interesting because 2015 has been the first year since the UFC became huge in 2006 that boxing has entered back into the American mainstream. Boxing has had major pay per views during the last ten years that have drawn well, but this year is really the first time since the UFC became popular that boxing overall as an industry looks to have some life.
There is real competition for dollars between boxing and UFC. It is not a coincidence that the only major network Al Haymon isn’t working with for Premier is Fox, which has the UFC. And UFC loading up their May pay per view to compete with Mayweather-Pacquiao is not coincidence, either.
In many ways, UFC’s primary competition is not Bellator, but Premier Boxing, as well as HBO. WWE is also a major competitor for UFC. The typical consumer only has so much money to spend and for instance it is likely that most UFC fans dropped $100 to see Mayweather-Pacquiao this month and it is unlikely that most of these fans have another $60 free to spend on combat sports to watch the upcoming UFC pay per view.
It’s about what kind of audience a promotion draws. Dana White likes to refer to himself as a fight salesman, talking regularly about how his job is to sell fights. But Dana doesn’t sell fights. He sells audiences. The UFC’s primary product is their television audience, which they are selling to Fox (and elsewhere internationally). The fighters are the ones who sell fights, as they sell their fights to the UFC, who then converts those fights into an audience and subsequently sells the audience to Fox. Fox then sells the audience to advertisers. Advertising is the reason that UFC’s primary product is their audiences and not their fights because Fox makes more money the bigger the audience within the right demographic (young males with good jobs). The more money Fox makes from ads, the more that UFC is worth.
Pay per view and subscriptions services such as Fight Pass or even HBO work a bit different, but are still related to the sale of audiences rather than fights. UFC needs free television space to hype their pay per views and Fight Pass, as without television UFC is back to where they were before 2005. But to stay on TV, UFC has to be able to sell an audience to a network, who then packages that audience to advertisers. That means in order to make money off pay per view or Fight Pass, UFC still has to be able to sell audiences.
Boxing is similar. Haymon’s business model is the same as UFC in regards to UFC’s revenue from Fox, as well as on pay per view (Haymon doesn’t have a Fight Pass type service, although it has been rumoured). Haymon needs to be able to sell his audience to advertisers. The supply chain is shorter on Haymon’s side compared to UFC, though. For the UFC, Fox pays them to produce content to gain an audience and then Fox sells that audience to advertisers. For Haymon, Premier pays networks like NBC and CBS for the air time and then sells their audience directly to advertisers. The difference is that for the UFC, Fox is selling the audience to advertisers, whereas for Premier, Haymon rather than NBC, CBS, or ABC, is selling the audience to advertisers.
HBO has a totally different business model because HBO doesn’t have advertisements, but instead makes their money as a subscription services, similar to Fight Pass in a sense. HBO takes at least half of the subscription fee that users pay to their cable providers to access the channel. HBO thus isn’t selling an audience to a third party, like the business model used by UFC and Haymon.
What all of this means is what has basically been the reintroduction of boxing to the masses by Al Haymon has increased boxing’s overall exposure, with audiences trickling over to HBO broadcasts and putting boxing into direct competition with the UFC. But for now, boxing is selling a different audience demographic than the UFC. People that watch boxing are much older and spend far less money on consumer products like video games, hamburgers, and energy drinks, compared to people that watch UFC. That means UFC’s audience is a more lucrative product compared to Haymon’s audience.
But if boxing continues to grow in popularity and prove the sport’s success so far in 2015 isn’t just for the short-term (which it may very well be), then that growth could put boxing into competition with the UFC for the UFC’s target demographic of males 18-34. It’s a long-shot and it will probably take years to happen if it happens at all, but if boxing can grow with males 18-34, that will hurt UFC because Haymon will be paying for television time and then turning around and selling ads, rather than UFC being paid for TV time and the network needing to sell the ads to make a profit. And if Haymon gets to the point where the networks pay him for TV time, he could undercut UFC on price, making it difficult for UFC to ask for more money when their contract comes up with Fox. But that all depends on Haymon hitting the same target demos as UFC, which is unlikely to happen the way things look right now.
The point is that for boxing to work, the boxing people have to be able to put together the major fights like Mayweather-Pacquiao, or Canelo-Golovkin, or Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev, among other bouts. Haymon’s massive expansion may eventually bring all of boxing under one umbrella the way that all of MMA is essentially controlled by the UFC. But we’re a long way from that happening and UFC has the distinct advantage compared to boxing in putting together fights that draw an audience because of all the people involved in putting together a major boxing match and the politics these people bring to the table.
On the undercard of the Golovkin-Monroe bout, Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) made his debut on American television by knocking out Edgar Sosa (51-9, 30 KOs) in the second round at flyweight. Gonzalez is considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet and putting his HBO debut on the undercard of a Golovkin fight was an obvious move to get as many people watching Gonzalez as possible. It was the second successful defense of Gonzalez’s 112-pound title.
It worked. Gonzalez looked like a new star by destroying former Junior Flyweight champion Sosa in a few short minutes. Nicaragua’s Gonzalez scored three knockdowns in the second round before the fight was called at 2:37 of the second round. The 35-year-old Sosa was obviously brought in as a showcase opponent to introduce Gonzalez to American audiences. Gonzalez, 27, is a trainee of the late Alexis Arguello, the greatest boxer in Nicaraguan history. Gonzalez began training under Arguello in Managua at the age of fourteen. Arguello committed suicide in 2009 at the age of 57. Debuting on HBO at the Inglewood Forum was a big deal to Gonzalez because the Forum is the venue where Arguello had many of his biggest fights.
“With the grace of God and through my training with Alexis Arguello, I was able to put on a performance like this,” Gonzalez said. “I am so happy to be here on HBO. I’m very happy with my performance. He was a tough fighter, but my power made the difference. I want to fight Juan Estrada next, hopefully on HBO and hopefully in the United States.”
“He was good. He surprised me, but he is a very good fighter,” said Sosa. “I can’t tell if he’s the best because it only went two rounds. If the fight had gone longer, I would know more. It wasn’t one particular punch that hurt me. It was a series of punches that hurt me.”
Gonzalez-Sosa was the first time in 20 years that HBO has aired a flyweight match, the last bout being a Danny Romero fight in 1995. “I am grateful for the opportunity that HBO has given me, to put me in a position where I can show the world my ability — it’s a blessing,” Gonzalez said before the bout. “If everything comes out as planned, after this fight other big things will happen. I am definitely going to focus on this fight with Sosa for now, and hopefully everything comes out as planned. And if so, I would definitely like a rematch with [Juan Francisco] Estrada.”
Juan Francisco Estrada (32-2, 23 KOs) is the likely next opponent for Gonzalez. Estrada lost to Gonzalez by unanimous decision in 2012 at junior flyweight. It was an exciting fight and a rematch could be a fight of the year candidate. Another possible opponent for Gonzalez is WBO Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue. The Inoue fight would presumably take place at 115-pounds.
Credit for the idea of bringing flyweights back to HBO goes to Peter Nelson, HBO’s VP of Programming. “Roman is one of the brightest lights in boxing,” Nelson told RingTV.com. “Those who know the cognizant of boxing, hardcore fans, members of the press, have great awareness to the spectacular fights that he’s been in as well as the fight he’s in next week that augurs to be a tremendous all action fight with Edgar Sosa.”
“There is still plenty of richness in the flyweight division itself,” continued Nelson. “We’ve seen fighters at that weight reinvent themselves with greater regularity than fighters at heavier weights. We’ve seen that in iterations of careers, whether we see the great fights with [Juan] Estrada; Brian Viloria is constantly a threat. Fighters like this can always make good, quality fights with a fighter like Roman Gonzalez, who always comes to fight. He’s an all-action kind of fighter. So there’s a great profound, richness to the division. It also augurs well for what else is there for him if he decides to move up in the coming years.”
That HBO is bringing back flyweights in a year where there is a ton of boxing on television is no coincidence. The amount of boxing being produced on TV in 2015 means that promotions need more fighters to fill television time and will start to look to fighters they would normally use otherwise. HBO is in a war with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing and both sides need to think outside the box in order to bring in as much fan interest to their respective products as possible. Gonzalez is an example of HBO thinking outside the box.
Gonzalez earned $200,000 for the fight and Sosa earned $40,000.