When I was a kid, I was terrified of my parent’s basement. It was dark. There were weird noises. But the main reason I turned into Usain Bolt when the lights went off was very simple — I’d read Stephen King’s Novel “IT” when I was way, way too young. Most kids were scared of their basements for unspecific fears. Monsters, demons, animals, whatever. I had a very specific fear — Pennywise. Goddamn Pennywise The Clown. My sister, who was a couple of years younger than me, had absolutely no issues hopping down there whenever my mom asked to to get something and making me look like a pussy. She’d come up and smile at me and I’d want to whack her in the face with a wooden spoon. Still, I hauled ass anytime I went to and from that thing. If I could, I’d avoid it entirely.
Gennady Golovkin has been boxing’s version of Pennywise for a couple of years now. And really, they’re kind of similar. They both seem affable, but they smile a bit too much to be considered “normal.” You also don’t want to get within 25 yards of either when they’re angry. Fighters have flat out dodged Triple G for fairly obvious reasons — he delivers merciless beatings, and he doesn’t bring a Floyd Mayweather-like payday incentive to willfully incur said beatings. But for all of the dodgers, he still gets fights. Not very good ones, mind you, but he gets them. Every few months, some poor bastard steps up and Golovkin gleefully pounds the holy hell out of him for a few rounds and then says “I LOVE BOX!” and goes home and slaughters a goat to further satiate his bloodlust. Canelo Alvarez will not be one of these guys. For all of his popularity and skill, for all of the talk of giving the fans what they want, it’s become clear that his handlers are doing what boxing fans loathe the most — stiffing them from a mega-fight.
This has become the norm. Shirk the challenge. Take the money and the easy win, repeat six months later. But every now and then, somebody throws caution (or sanity) aside and takes a major risk. And when it happens, it cranks the magnifying lens ten-fold on the duckers. That’s what Kell Brook has done by agreeing to a bout with Golovkin on Sept. 10 in London on HBO. Brook is a very good fighter, and he’s undefeated. But he’s a welterweight who has never been north of the division going up against one of the hardest punchers the sport has seen in decades. He doesn’t need this fight. He could have taken on somebody in his own division, or at least, someone who doesn’t stand an excellent chance of violently concussing him. But when Chris Eubank Jr.’s team balked on negotiations to fight Golovkin, Brook jumped in. He’ll be paid well, but make no mistake — this takes balls, and it’s certainly no longer commonplace.
One could look at things cynically and say that Brook has absolutely nothing to lose. And if you take away the fear of being bludgeoned, this rings true. If he loses, he can simply move back down to his normal weight and keep going. The only difference will be on his record. He’ll have a loss, a loss earned by jumping up two weight classes to fight a guy everybody runs from like he’s juggling a few vials of the Zaire strain of Ebola. There’s no shame in that.
But if he wins, if he somehow slays the dragon, Brook will be a goddamn superhero. Meanwhile, the guy everybody expected to fight Golovkin will instead fight Liam Smith, a fighter who looks like a 57-year-old librarian and has never had a fight shown in the U.S. And as a bonus, fans will only have to pay 65 dollars to watch this shit. Outstanding. Nothing like giving back to the people.
I’m not sure if Canelo himself is avoiding the fight. But I don’t believe that his promotional company wants to stick their cash cow into a firefight with a homicidal bull. Golovkin’s destruction of another Golden Boy fighter, David Lemieux, probably gave them an extreme case of the Holy Shit This Guy Is Horrifying virus. But how do they feel now, seeing a welterweight move so willingly into the place Canelo is supposed to be standing? More than that, how does Canelo feel? Much of his fan base was built on the idea that the kid would fight anybody. His eagerness to fight punchers like Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland as well as slicksters like Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara endeared him to the boxing public. It has to irk him that the dreaded “ducker” label is now being tossed his way.
Amir Khan jumped at the chance to move up in weight and fight Canelo back in May. Even after getting railroad-spiked into the floor, he and his trainer, silky-smooth voiced Virgil Hunter, called on Canelo to do the same. Move up. Take the risk. Personally, I don’t think it happens. He’s making way too much money to wail on lesser foes. Promoters love to let things marinate. The problem is that more often than not, things get overcooked and nobody eats.
What some of these guys don’t realize is that even with a loss, Canelo would be fine. He’s a damn good fighter, and he’s already reached mega-stardom. His mentor, Oscar De La Hoya, lost a bunch of times and didn’t lose any shine. It happens. Eventually, you realize that the basement isn’t all that scary. Maybe things would go surprisingly well for the Mexican fighter against Golovkin. We just hope he’ll try to find out instead of wasting time. Hell, eventually, Pennywise got knocked out too.
Some Random Notes From Around Boxing:
- Manny Pacquiao’s 14 second retirement reached a fitting conclusion when he confirmed to ESPN that he’d be fighting the guy we’ve all been dying to see in a mega-fight, Jessie Vargas. Perhaps Top Rank is trying to break the laws of mathematics by reaching negative pay-per-view buys. Pacquiao is of course coasting, as he has been for years. The difference is, even when he used to cherry pick, he’d knock the shit out of his man and then sing an off-key ballad. He was always a laid-back fella who fought like his life depended on it. Now he’s a laid-back fella who fights like he’s humoring his young nephew in the ring. “Sure Billy, you did really great in there. I couldn’t even knock you out!” If this thing bombs, and make no mistake – this thing will BOMB, Bob Arum will end up stabbing someone during the broadcast. If I’m Dan Rafael, I’m staying home that night…
- I’ll miss Chino Maidana, who was a bad ass. He gave us so much in so little time, taking the souls of both Victor Ortiz and Adrien Broner, giving Mayweather his toughest fight in years, and giving Erik Morales one last chance to show us what The Grit really looks like. My favorite memory of Maidana is when he annoyed the hell out of human piss-flap Jim Gray by eating a Clif Bar during a post-fight interview. God speed.
- Andre Ward is usually boring as all hell and hasn’t fought anyone even remotely decent in four years. But there’s hope for him. He is sometimes pretty fun to watch, like when he housed Chad Dawson, or beat up Mikkel Kessler, or worked Carl Froch with one hand. Seeing a pattern? Dude makes for pretty okay television when matched with a challenge. I think Sergey Kovalev/Ward starts slowly but turns into a nice scrap. If it comes off.
- Who would have thought that we’d be excited to see a Danny Jacobs vs. Sergio Mora rematch? That was a wild fight for the few minutes it went. Hopefully, nobody’s limbs explode this time around.
(LONDON: Gennady Golovkin (L) and Kell Brook (R) pose for a photo during the press conference ahead of their fight at the Dorchester Hotel on Aug. 1; Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)