In the spirit of the holidays, ESPN is celebrating the season with our own "12 Days" wish list of the fights we want to see most, regardless of promotional or other entanglements. Keep checking back over the coming days to see new fights revealed, discuss our choices, or even suggest some of your own in the comments section or via Twitter using #ESPN12Days.
For as spectacular a one-man wrecking crew as unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin has looked throughout his reign of terror in 2013, there are many who still need to see him against A-level competition before giving him his due.
All of this despite the fact that Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs) has accomplished a devastating run of nine title defenses -- all by knockout -- and 15 consecutive stoppages overall, while showing unmistakable evidence of elite power, poise, chin and technique.
The bigger problem has been that the very best are unwilling to face Golovkin, 31, causing him to basically offer an open challenge to literally any fighter over an unprecedented four-division span from 154 to 175 pounds.
Meanwhile, the division's lineal champion, Sergio Martinez, has heard his own legion of doubters assert the notion that he has entered a state of marked decline thanks to an aggregated toll of injuries and age (he turns 39 in February).
The majority of the fuel for this argument was built up after Martinez's contested victory over then unbeaten Martin Murray in April, even though "Maravilla": (1) rushed back too quickly from knee and hand injuries suffered against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., (2) took Murray lightly while focusing too much on putting on a show in front of his hometown fans in Buenos Aires and (3) fought outdoors in a driving rainstorm.
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs), a late-bloomer who didn't take up the sport until age 20 or win a title until his mid-30s, is still just over a year removed from the most dominant performance of his career in the fight against Chavez (despite overcoming a knockdown in Round 12). With a break of more than one full year by the time he makes his expected return this spring, the reports of his demise could prove to be exaggerated.
The best remedy, of course, for either fighter to quiet the suspicions of his own critics would be the two to fight each other. It's not only a mouth-watering style matchup between two pound-for-pound-level talents -- one a slick counterpuncher and the other a stalking slugger -- it's also the best realistic fight in boxing that could be made in 2014.
Should Martinez secure a big-money showdown with Miguel Cotto in June and get through unscathed without defeat, injury or the announcement of his own retirement, the battle for true division supremacy against Golovkin would be unavoidable. Simply put: There would be no logical excuse for the fight not to be made.
Martinez has talked publicly in the past of his willingness to face Golovkin and has been nothing but a stand-up champion since taking the crown from Kelly Pavlik in April 2010. The question, of course, is whether his promoter, Lou DiBella, and manager, Sampson Lewkowicz, would share the same interest in making the fight.
Ironically, the only fighter this decade besides Golovkin who has endured a tougher time securing deserved fights with the biggest names in the sport is Martinez. Pairing them together would be the right thing to do.
By using his athleticism to land countershots from dynamic angles to beguile Golovkin and defend his crown, Martinez would secure a bookending victory to a Hall of Fame career no longer in question.
Conversely, if Golovkin proved able to walk down Martinez with power shots before forcing the aging champion into submission, it would cement his credibility and catapult him to stardom.
But there's an even more important dynamic to this fight, and it's something we don't always get to see in today's cold war promotional climate: the opportunity for an authentic changing of the guard in one of boxing's few glamour divisions.
And that still means something.
— Michael Hopson (@Mike32H) December 21, 2013
— RJ Berger♏ (@CrispyCreamCris) December 18, 2013
If Martinez looks great against Cotto, then I want Martinez vs Mayweather @ 154, Sept, best challenge for Mayweather I'd buy it #espn12days
— Stan Griffin (@Stan_13) December 25, 2013
disagree with golovkin vs Martinez. Martinez will have to employ the same tactics he used against pavlik but with older legs #ESPN12Days
— Joydeep Sen (@Joydeep3000) December 25, 2013