The opening bell: On to Canelo?
The fight between unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and late replacement Vanes Martirosyan went just as expected on Saturday night, with GGG scoring a violent second-round knockout over an opponent nobody gave a chance to win or even compete.
As soon as the formality of the bout was over at StubHub Center in Carson, California, and Golovkin had tied Bernard Hopkins with a middleweight-record 20 consecutive title defenses, attention turned to the same place it had mostly been even before the fight: What about the GGG rematch with Canelo Alvarez, which was supposed to take place Saturday in Las Vegas but was canceled because Alvarez failed two drug tests?
In the days leading to the fight with Martirosyan, Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs), 36, expressed doubt about the Alvarez rematch taking place Sept. 15, the date Alvarez plans to fight once his suspension is lifted in August. But after smoking the 31-year-old Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 KOs), Golovkin unsurprisingly said he wanted the fight next.
"I'm ready, 100 percent. Of course he's my priority," GGG said at the postfight news conference.
Said promoter Tom Loeffler: "The rematch with Canelo is the biggest fight in the sport of boxing. Both of them made career-high paydays, we [had] the third-highest gate in Las Vegas. Some rematches go downhill. ... The ticket sales were on pace to break the number we did on the first fight, the pay-per-view interest, HBO said, was much higher than the first fight, and we think if that [rematch] happens -- it's not a guarantee -- it'll be a much bigger fight."
Loeffler said he and Golden Boy president Eric Gomez have been in touch about the rematch. "There seems to be a lot of interest on their side. Naturally, there's interest on our side," he said. "I've been in regular contact with Golden Boy and with Eric, and if there's a way to make that fight happen -- and again, this is a fight where both guys have a huge incentive to make the rematch. Gennady feels, the whole team actually feels, it was a bad decision [a draw] the first time around. He feels he could've done better.
"The way he fought [Saturday], whether it was against Vanes or somebody else, he looked razor-sharp. His speed, his timing, his distance, I think we didn't necessarily see that exact sharpness against either [Daniel] Jacobs or Canelo. And a lot of it had to do with the style of them, wanting to basically survive more than actually fight. But at the same time, Gennady's been in there with other boxers that moved a lot and looked very dominant and impressive, just like he did against Canelo."
One thing that Golovkin, trainer Abel Sanchez and Loeffler said is a must is that Alvarez enroll in random drug testing well before the fight. They want him in a program now, though he hasn't been tested since the fight was canceled.
Make no mistake, it will be difficult making this deal, one for which GGG has every right to seek better terms this time, given that it was Alvarez's fault the fight was canceled. But in the end, the rematch probably will happen because in boxing, as with most things, just follow the money.
Woman of the weekend: Cecilia Braekhus
It was a lot tougher than most of her fights, but undisputed women's welterweight world champion and pound-for-pound No. 1 Cecilia Braekhus (33-0, 9 KOs) retained her title for the 22nd time in a decision win (97-92, 96-93, 96-93) over Kali Reis in the GGG-Martirosyan co-feature.
Reis (13-7-1, 4 KOs), who is a lot better than her record looks, made it an entertaining fight, especially late. The 31-year-old out of Providence, Rhode Island, dropped Braekhus, 36, a Colombia native fighting out of Norway, with a right hand in the seventh round and staggered her late in the eighth.
It was a historic fight, the first women's bout televised by HBO. It made the broadcast when the original co-feature involving Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez fell out.
The next step: Both fighters said they're interested in a rematch, but there are bigger fights for Braekhus, which perhaps HBO will also be interested in. Among the possibilities: a showdown with Layla McCarter; a fight with UFC women's featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, who was ringside and said she wants to cross over to boxing to face Braekhus; or an eventual fight with unified super middleweight titlist Claressa Shields, the two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist who is on her way down to middleweight to challenge for a title, with her goal to go to junior middleweight to face Braekhus. All are interesting fights.
End of the road
While heavyweight Tony Bellew's second consecutive stoppage win over British countryman David Haye on Saturday at the sold-out 02 Arena in London set up Bellew for even bigger business (Tyson Fury or Andre Ward, anyone?), Haye showed he's finished. Done.
Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs), 35, stopped Haye in the 11th round 14 months ago in a fight during which Haye ruptured his Achilles. In the rematch, delayed by yet another Haye injury, Bellew whipped him more easily. Bellew dropped the broken-down Haye twice in the third round and again in fifth round before referee Howard John Foster waved off the one-sided fight at 2 minutes, 14 seconds of the fifth.
Haye is simply a shell of what he was when he was a dynamic cruiserweight champion (2007 to 2008). Since Haye's move to heavyweight, he's been way more sizzle than steak. He won a belt (barely) from Nicolai Valuev and defended it twice against huge underdogs (Audley Harrison and John Ruiz, in his final fight). Then came his miserable excuse-filled (toe) loss to Wladimir Klitschko in their 2011 unification fight and an overhyped win over Dereck Chisora a year later. After a nearly four-year layoff, he had two quick KOs over cannon-fodder opponents before the losses to Bellew.
Haye has taken his fans for a ride while getting rich, and now it's time for him to go away. If he does hang around, maybe he can con a few people out of their money again, but anyone who would pay for another of his fights deserves to be taken for a ride.