Who Will Rule The Middleweights?

The middleweight division has for the past year been as tantalizing and frustrating as watching an X-rated video on a patchy internet connection: you know the content is hot, but the darned circumstances don’t allow things to get close to the climax. While Miguel Cotto made a career statement by dethroning the long-reigning champion Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin keeps watching from the sidelines. At the same time, members of the lower echelons of the weight class keep making noise and hoping to land the opportunity to make a splash in the division.

But perhaps not all of the ranked contenders have the same goals in mind. For instance, today we learned that undefeated WBO beltholder Peter Quillin has vacated his title, thus dissolving his previously inked agreement to face the powerful Russian up-and-comer Matt Korobov. And fans seem to be as disconcerted by the intriguing matchup falling by the wayside as by trying to decipher the motives of Quillin. After all, the Brooklynite stood to earn close to $1.5 million dollars for the fight–by far the biggest purse of his career. While many observers considered Korobov a live opponent, Quillin was considered the favourite in that match, so unless a new and less dangerous opponent is readily available for a similar amount of money, it’s difficult to say what moved Quillin to avoid Korobov.

Cotto destroyed Martinez
Cotto destroyed Martinez

Adding another layer of opacity to the immediate future of the weight class is newly crowned champ Miguel Cotto, who made it known this week that he’ll sit out the rest of the year as he waits for a worthy opponent to measure himself up against–and for his trainer Freddy Roach to clear his schedule a bit. Cotto made a splash when he dominated and punished “Maravilla” Martinez at Madison Square Garden in front of his rabid and loyal fanbase, and being the huge draw that he is, will no doubt stage a major comeback in 2015. What remains to be seen is who will be the winner of the Cotto sweepstakes.

What is easier to ascertain is that the most deserving challenger has no chance at all to get the call from the Boricua. Gennady Golovkin recently signed up to defend his portion of the middleweight crown by taking on veteran contender Marco Antonio Rubio. The Mexican–best known for posting a losing effort against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. a couple of years ago–is viewed by some as an interesting challenge, since he is durable and has even staged a couple of visible upsets. However, the fearsome Khazak is still expected to prevail, although it’s hard to see how Rubio’s scalp would in any way enhance Golovkin’s resume or earning power. And the latter is an especially poignant issue, which recently manifested itself in Golovkin’s travails in selling tickets at the Madison Square Garden for his previous fight, and which Freddy Roach jabbed at when he said Golovkin “can’t do ten cents on pay per view“.

Is Golovkin the king in waiting?
King and pauper?

Of course, the obvious choice for Cotto’s big fight in 2015 is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who is gradually moving up from the super weltwerweight division with no small amount of help from handy catchweights. It’s interesting to note that the undisputed middleweight champion could potentially attempt his first defense not against the number one contender–Golovkin–but against an opponent coming up in weight. What’s also interesting is that Cotto himself is far from a full-fledged middleweight: against Martinez he tipped the scales at a lean 155 pounds. Golovkin, on the other hand, seldom weighs in at less than 159 pound for his fights.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing of the current middleweight landscape is that Cotto vs. Canelo is a megafight waiting to happen, while a fight between either of them and Golovkin would do maybe half as much business. This despite the fact that both Cotto and Canelo made their bones–and amassed their fanbase–while fighting below middleweight. And it’s also a bit disappointing to admit that Gennady’s natural charisma, great talent, and murderous punching power don’t come close to bridging the appeal gap with Cotto and Canelo.

Will Canelo cut Cotto's reign short?
Will Canelo cut Cotto’s reign short?

If fans think this is more than a little disheartening, imagine how Golovkin feels about the whole thing. But shining a different light on it, we have to acknowledge that big fights are also good for the sport. When big boxing stars collide, the sport gets a chance to strut under the spotlights and perhaps win over a few more fans. And who knows? Perhaps Golovkin will eventually have the chance to prove himself against the winner of Cotto vs. Canelo, a fight from which the victor’s star will emerge even shinier. Maybe–hopefully–some of that shine will eventually rub off on Golovkin himself.

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