The Big Drama Show is in town this Friday, yet it feels more like Apathy Theater.
Behind closed doors at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, IBF middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs) is set to defend his title against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KOs) of Poland. Golovkin and Szeremeta were supposed to fight earlier this year but “GGG” suffered an injury and then, you know, pandemic.
Lemme be upfront and tell you that this fight sucks. We’ll cover it because it’s a Friday early evening show that should deliver a knockout. It is otherwise a waste of the undeniable twilight of Golovkin’s career. The IBF may be the only major sanctioning body that is reasonably consistent with its mandatory challenger rule, it also produces arguably the worst number one contenders within its rankings system. Szeremeta is a good, European-level fighter but he doesn’t have a decent world-level win to his name apart from uh... 2016 Kassim Ouma? And Ouma was beaten by Golovkin five years prior. His last outing saw him stop Oscar Cortes, a man who’s spent more than half of his career campaigning at 140 lbs or lighter. Szeremeta is a light puncher and there’s no reason to believe he troubles Golovkin unless GGG has completely tapered off.
It’s been a quiet and sad descent for the Kazakh power-puncher. Consider that it was only three years ago that he had his controversial first fight with Canelo Alvarez, finally landing the high-profile, big money fight that he’d long desired. It took Golovkin six years into his pro career to make his United States debut, steadily gaining a fanbase among hardcores and casuals for his fan-friendly style and infectious, broken English (and sometimes Spanish) personality. He was a bona fide ticket seller in California and New York without being a pay-per-view draw.
Golovkin adopted the “Mexican style” persona to describe his aggressive approach to fighting. He also had a reputation of being avoided by top foes such as Sergio Martinez, Peter Quillin, and Miguel Cotto, and of course Alvarez himself. As Golovkin had taken apart a steady stream of good but not great level of competition, Canelo had become the clear-cut golden ticket.
Two fights with his bitter rival have come and gone, and his official record against him is 0-1-1. It could just as easily be 2-0 or even 1-1. The sequel was more exciting than the original, yet the series will forever be marred by Adelaide Byrd’s 118-110 Canelo scorecard in the first matchup, which the majority of the public believed he won. Still, Golovkin likely pocketed north of $40 million combined, likely more than the entirety of his pre-Canelo career put together. In some respects, Canelo has been the best and worst thing to happen to his career.
As HBO shuttered its doors, DAZN opened its wallet and gave GGG a lucrative contract that has since been restructured. The streaming service had expected by now that he would’ve had a trilogy bout with Canelo. It not only hasn’t materialized but Alvarez seems uninterested in a third fight. Instead, Golovkin has fought Steve Rolls and is about to fight Kamil Szeremeta. In his one legitimate challenge against Sergiy Derevyanchenko last year, he scraped past the Ukrainian to win the vacant IBF title and his promoter Eddie Hearn said he was battling illness coming into the contest. Derevyanchenko seemingly had Golovkin more hurt than anyone else who’d previously fought him, and the heavy body shot attack that used to be a staple of GGG’s arsenal was frequently used against him that night.
While I’m not one to discount the idea that he’d been ill, it seems a more likely explanation that he’s battling the undefeated Father Time. The power appears to still be there. Based on Thursday’s weigh-in he’s still in great physical shape. But he’ll be 39 next year and he’s been a pro since 2006. His exciting style is another way of saying that he’s not a defensive mastermind — it’s his chin that’s otherworldly.
If he’s still chasing one last fight with Canelo, it’ll surely either be a futile exercise or a definitive loss that’ll close the chapter on this rivalry once and for all. Perhaps it’s fitting that he’s in Canelo’s shadow this week, taking on a heavy underdog on a Friday evening while Alvarez is fighting in front of fans against the formidable Callum Smith on the very next night. Who knows how things would’ve changed had Golovkin had officially won either of the Canelo matchups?
Even looking outside Canelo, other options for Golovkin include Jermall Charlo, WBO champion Demetrius Andrade, secondary champion Ryota Murata, or even a move up to super-middleweight. But virtually all of those other options that a few years ago would’ve been seen as highly favorable for Golovkin now seem more like question marks than anything else. There’s also no guarantee that Golovkin gets any of those matchups or would even be interested in them in the first place.
Pre-Canelo, Golovkin vs. Szeremeta likely still gets full attention just because watching Gennadiy style on someone is fun. Post-Canelo and as he creeps towards 40, it looks more and more like we’re witnessing Golovkin fade into obscurity after such a fascinating rise to the top.