Time to call their bluffs?
On the night of Dec. 19, Billy Joe Saunders narrowly out-pointed Andy Lee to capture the WBO middleweight title. It was a rather dreary fight at the Manchester Arena that, for long stretches, had a lot of nothing going on. For much of the bout, the British audience seemed rather bored by the proceedings but, in capturing a major world title (y’ know, those things that are supposedly not very important), he suddenly became a major player in the 160-pound division.
And Saunders became the focus of one Gennady Golovkin, the holder of the IBF and WBA belts, whose goal is #AllTheBelts.
As Golovkin awaits his big money opportunity against consensus champ Saul Alvarez – which may or may not happen this fall, regardless of what the WBC decrees – he has April 23 circled on the calendar for his next outing. An offer was made by K2 Promotions, Golovkin’s promoter, to Saunders to unify their titles at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Reportedly the offer is in the neighborhood of $3.2 million, which certainly looks like an enticing offer from “GGG” and K2. Hey, you want all the belts, it’s gonna cost you but, according to Saunders, it’s not just about the money. It’s also about geography as he is now insisting this fight take place in jolly ol’ England.
If it seems like they are already saying, “Thanks but no thanks,” it’s because…well, they are.
And you can’t really blame them if you think about it. Warren and his fighter understand that their very value is predicated on having possession of the WBO belt (again, those meaningless li’l things) and that they can continue to parlay that title into lucrative defenses, even if they aren’t against marquee names for a few years. Hey, it worked for Joe Calzaghe, right? And there are much safer fights out there for Saunders, such as a rematch against UK nemesis Chris Eubank Jr., who Saunders defeated in 2014.
But to put this into perspective, what Saunders is being offered is more than what Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin got combined for their battle on Dec. 5. Sergio Martinez was guaranteed just $1.5 million to defend his middleweight title against Miguel Cotto in the summer of 2014.
So, again, why not take the offer?
Well, remember this: The boxing business is all about risk versus reward and while, on the surface, the “reward” is seemingly exorbitant regarding what Saunders has accomplished, what many are missing is the risk involved in facing Golovkin. It’s not that you just might lose, it’s that you get punished and maybe embarrassed. It’s one thing to get out-boxed and lose a decision. It’s a whole other thing to get destroyed physically. Sometimes, the price isn’t right, regardless of the number.
To put this into perspective, let’s just say Saunders got a million-dollar payday to face Lee (and most industry insiders believe he received about half that). That would mean the current offer on the table to face Golovkin in the spring is three times more than that amount.
What’s so interesting about Saunders’ demand of having home canvas advantage is that his bout against Lee drew right around 3,000 to 4,000 patrons. Ricky Hatton, he’s not. Perhaps this fight having been postponed and being so close to Christmas had an adverse affect on the live gate but it really looks like just another obstacle thrown in Golovkin’s quest to unify the middleweight division.
But it says here that it’s time for Golovkin to call Saunders’ bluff and agree to face him in England, at the Manchester Arena, at Wembley Stadium, the O2 Arena, in his living room or backyard. Get on Travelocity or Expedia; book the flights; break out the passport and make the trip. It’s something K2 Promotions’ Managing Director Tom Loeffler – who will be conversing with Warren this upcoming week – says they will consider.
Unlike many other sheltered fighters of today’s era, Golovkin is a well-traveled performer who has boxed on a few continents and it’s evident that, at this juncture, he has out-grown the small room in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
(When it comes to this dynamic, Loeffler told UCNLive.com, “Obviously HBO is much more interested in having the fight here in the United States. Gennady has proven he can sell out the biggest arenas in the United States, so it just depends on how the economics work out.”)
Will this entice Saunders to face Golovkin next? Most likely, no but for Golovkin to fulfill his mission of monopolizing all the middleweight straps, he has to make certain concessions and exhaust all possibilities. This continues a troubling trend of marquee middleweights who simply refuse to face him. It was pointed out by Cliff Rold of BoxingScene.com that this was really started in Germany by Felix Sturm several years ago. As Golovkin stamped his arrival into the States, said trend was continued by Sergio Martinez, then Miguel Cotto and now “Canelo” Alvarez, whose uneasy redhead now wears the crown.
Loeffler has maintained, for the longest time, that, to even get the Matthew Macklins and Martin Murrays of the world, they had to be overpaid for their services. Golovkin is just the latest “Most Avoided Man in Boxing.” In the recent past, there have been skilled prizefighters like the aforementioned Martinez, Paul Williams and Winky Wright, to name a few, but what separates Golovkin is he is actually an attraction, one not just relegated to fighting in front of half-filled casino ballrooms to mediocre television ratings.
Even now, Golovkin is the B-side to Alvarez and, before Canelo, Carl Froch (if that fight would have come to fruition) but you would think everyone else currently at 160 would jump at the chance to fight for career-high paydays.
Alas, it still doesn’t seem to be enough of an impetus.
Did you see the Twitter sparring between Sullivan Barrera (@sullivanbarrera) and Andre Ward (@andreward) over the weekend? It was glorious…Top Rank Promotions’ CEO Bob Arum is very hopeful that a deal can be reached for a fight between WBO super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham and Gilberto Ramirez before the Tuesday purse bid. Arum also says he wants to have featherweight prospect Oscar Valdez on the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley undercard on April 9…So is Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter finally consummated?…So Stacy Coley is coming back for his senior year at Miami?! That’s big…The Lakers and Byron Scott need to just keep letting their youngsters play and learn through their mistakes…I’m still stunned by the ending of the Steelers-Bengals game…So is it going to rain this upcoming week?…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.