The opening bell: So what abut GGG?
There are only 27 days until unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin is supposed to enter the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and defend his title for a potentially record-tying 20th time.
However, GGG still has no opponent in the aftermath of Canelo Alvarez's two positive drug tests that forced him to withdraw from the fight and GGG Promotions getting the OK from the Nevada State Athletic Commission last week to move the card out of the cavernous T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas down the street to MGM Grand. Had Alvarez not bowed out, the commission would have canceled the fight anyway at an April 18 hearing on Alvarez's drug tests.
So Golovkin, who turned 36 on Sunday and is not getting any younger, is in a tough spot because GGG Promotions' Tom Loeffler is trying to promote an HBO PPV event on extremely short notice with no opponent yet signed, no undercard announced, no HBO support programming in the can and no ticket information released on either how to get them for the MGM card or how to exchange original T-Mobile tickets (which were much more expensive).
Unqualified prospect Jaime Munguia was proposed as an opponent, but when it was conveyed to GGG's team that the Nevada commission would not approve such a blatant mismatch, he fell by the wayside. Fringe contender Spike O'Sullivan has been in the mix, but that's also a poor fight, not to mention that word is that GGG is not interested in giving a Golden Boy fighter a payday after its star fighter, Canelo, so badly messed up his plans.
GGG has also shown no interest in tough southpaw opponent Demetrius Andrade, an undefeated former two-time junior middleweight titlist, nor has there been any interest shown in IBF mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who is next in line now that Canelo, the WBC's mandatory challenger, is on ice.
Derevyanchenko's team is pressing for the fight since it is next up in the sanctioning body rotation system for mandatory challengers for unified titleholders. I have seen the Derevyanchenko team's letters to the IBF, and they make a great case that if GGG doesn't face him next he should be stripped of that belt. Belts are supremely important to Golovkin. He has said for years he wants to claim all four of them; he has three.
He probably could avoid being forced to give up the IBF belt if he could unify in his next fight (IBF rules allow unifications to trump mandatories) and that means facing Billy Joe Saunders, who has the fourth belt.
With no magic to May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) for a non-Mexican fighter such as Golovkin, it seems to me the best course of action for Golovkin is to forget the HBO PPV disaster waiting to happen and move on to making a deal for late June, when Saunders is supposed to be ready to return from a hand injury.
However, late last week, Top Rank reached out to Loeffler to see if he was interested (or if it was contractually doable, given GGG's ties to HBO) in the possibility of making a deal with Top Rank to distribute Golovkin's May 5 fight on an ESPN platform. Once that happened, I'm told, HBO came to the table and is looking for the money to place GGG's fight on regular HBO.
But whether Golovkin fights on May 5 on HBO PPV or on regular HBO, be it against O'Sullivan, Derevyanchenko (which is the right fight because he's a legit opponent in a likely crowd-pleasing fight that would satisfy a mandatory obligation) or somebody else, it needs to be finalized. Time's a-wasting.
Best weekend fight: Hurd-Lara
In a highly significant fight to unify junior middleweight world titles, Jarrett Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs) and Erislandy Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) produced a classic battle at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It's a clear fight of the year contender, which is surprising given that Lara has rarely been in entertaining fights. But this one was special.
It began fast and got better and better, culminating with Hurd's clean left hook knockdown of a fading Lara with 37 seconds to go in the 12th round. The knockdown turned out to be the difference in Hurd winning 114-113 on two scorecards with Houston-based Cuban defector Lara winning 114-113 on the third. I thought Hurd, of Accokeek, Maryland, didn't need the knockdown to win, but it was a very close fight won by the younger (27-34), stronger, bigger man, whose relentless pressure (which he promised to employ) was the difference.
I have been a severe critic of Lara's for years because of how boring his fights have been, and because even when he's outclassing an opponent he refuses to do anything more than the least needed to win. But unlike countryman and fellow former amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux, who quit due to a bruised hand against Vasiliy Lomachenko in his biggest fight in December, Lara deserves enormous credit for his performance. Hurd was physically beating him in the late rounds, digging brutal body shots and swelled his right eye, but Lara didn't quit like Rigo. Instead, Lara dug down and did what prize fighters are supposed to do: He fought his heart out. He just lost the better man, and there's no shame in that.
The next step: Hurd is a beast and will give anyone in the division, or at middleweight, a rough night. But next is probably a three-belt unification with Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs) this fall, assuming Charlo wins June 9 (opponent TBA), in a payoff fight of Showtime's heavy investment of time and money in the division. If for Hurd-Charlo is derailed, Hurd-Kell Brook has action written all over it, and it's politically makeable.
Bloodbath of the weekend: Truax-DeGale II
On the Hurd-Lara card, James DeGale regained his super middleweight belt by outpointing Caleb Truax -- 117-110, 114-113, 114-113 -- in a rematch of Truax's monumental majority decision upset win in December. But this one was a messy bloodbath not for the faint of heart, that sent both of them to the hospital to get checked out after the fight -- in the same ambulance.
The fight was filled with grappling and head-butting and not very fan friendly, but credit to DeGale (24-2-1, 14 KOs) and Truax (29-4-2, 18 KOs) for fighting hard despite cuts. Truax wound up with cuts over both eyes, but DeGale suffered a horrendous cut on over his right eye in the third round and it bled like a river. It sprayed ringside as well, including droplets landing all over my left arm and shirt. But DeGale remained calm, did the job and got the deserved win even though he's showing signs of slippage.
An unfortunate aspect of the fight was that DeGale's cut was ruled from a punch by referee Robert Byrd when Showtime's replays showed it was 100 percent from an accidental head-butt. The commission needs to be able to use replay to make sure that doesn't happen. Fortunately, the ruling didn't affect the result.
The next step: Truax called for a rubber match, and DeGale said he'd be willing, but we don't need that. The result was clear and the fight wasn't very good. DeGale is now obligated to face interim titlist Jose Uzcategui.
In case you missed it....
Super middleweight Rodolfo Gomez Jr. (13-4-1, 9 KOs) TKO8 Ricardo Mayorga (32-11-1, 26 KOs). Fighting in his hometown of Laredo, Texas, super middleweight Rodolfo Gomez, 28, stopped long-faded former welterweight and junior middleweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga, 45, of Nicaragua, who has been knocked out in three of his last four fights and is about a decade past relevance. After Gomez (13-4-1, 9 KOs), hammered Mayorga with a head shot in the eighth round, he went down, and although he beat the count, referee Tony Garcia stopped the fight. Mayorga (32-11-1, 26 KOs), is a sad case. Friend and manager Rosendo Alvarez, the former world titleholder, reportedly didn't want him to take this fight and when he did he walked away. Worse, Mayorga, whose best days were at 147 pounds, was supposed to make 168 for this fight but weighed in at 175 (light heavyweight) and paid a fine.
In his first scheduled 10-rounder, 2016 super heavyweight Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka, 25, of France, stopped countryman Cyril Leonet, 34, in Paris, in Yoka's toughest test as a pro. It was a sweet knockout as Yoka (4-0, 3 KOs), detonated a perfect right hand down the middle that connected with Leonet's chin to drop him hard. Leonet (13-10-3, 4 KOs), beat the count but referee Christophe Hembert waved it off with 40 seconds to go in the fifth round.
It was easy work for former bantamweight and featherweight world titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (66-10, 54 KOs), 36, of Mexico, who pitched the shutout against Marlyn Cabrera (24-2, 11 KOs), 30, of the Dominican Republic in a junior lightweight bout in Ixtapa, Mexico. All three judges scored the fight for Gonzalez 120-108. Cabrera's only previous loss came by second-round KO to ex-junior lightweight titlist Javier Fortuna in September.