Next month the world will witness one of boxing’s biggest fights ever, on American soil, but when the two all-time greats Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather finally hang-em-up; American boxing will have seen better days.
Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin (Triple G) from Kazakhstan is one of boxing’s most likeable and avoided boxers. A softly spoken, modest character – he carries a punch that could knock out a mule and that makes promoters grin from ear to ear.
His prominence in the middleweight division has been a quiet spectacle that’s grown louder over the past two years, he’s stopped his last 19 opponents, has one of boxing’s highest KO percentages – and the Triple G ‘Big Drama Show’ as he calls it - is getting very loud.
On May 2 a winner will be decided in perhaps boxing’s biggest ever event, the Pacquiao – Mayweather megafight
, but the vacuum left after these two greats retire - which is presumably not far away - will need filling not least to satisfy the broadcasters.
Even seasoned middleweight Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto who has all but cleared up the division, and is undoubtedly set for the Boxing Hall of Fame, is avoiding Triple G more obviously than a mouse avoids a cat.
Who can blame him? This relatively small middleweight GGG is making easy work of fighters that usually last the distance with top-level opposition. The Kazakh's rule is different, get caught clean by GGG and you’ll get knocked out. It couldn’t be simpler.
The great Heavyweight depression
Boxing’s heavyweight division was once the Holy Grail of all sports, let alone boxing, but the last 10-15 years since Lenox Lewis hung up his gloves in 2004, the division has seen a depressing demise
This is true, although there has been a revival of sorts more recently with a crop of young decent Brits and Americans among the pack.
America now has a heavyweight champion in Deontay Wilder, who is the country’s first man to hold a portion of the strap since 2007. He is a promotional dream in the American sense: flashy, loud, and powerful.
There we have the Brits: Tyson Fury, the verbose but likeable traveller, David Price, who has been set back a couple of times, but could still make a fuss in the division, and the Olympic Gold medalist Anthony Joshua.
If a promoter could create Britain’s most perfectly marketable boxer – they would most probably create Joshua precisely as he is.
It’s a division that’s been shared for over a decade between the two Klitschko brothers Vladimir and Vitali, who are in their own right great boxers, but both lacking serious competition within their time in the spotlight. Vitali has retired, and Vladimir knows his belts are for the first time during his reign, most vulnerable to leave his waist.
Has America had its day?
If we look at boxing’s
top-ten current pound-for-pound (p4p) list all but two are American (Floyd Mayweather at the top and Timothy Bradley hovering mid rank), this list has traditionally been the preserve of the Americans – the nation that produces the sports’ megastars.
Go back 15 years and 60% of the p4p top-ten were Americans, now it’s 20% and when Mayweather retires, which isn’t far off, it’ll be 10%.
The p4p list has made way for the likes of GGG, a Kazakh; Sergy Kovalev the Russian knockout artist, Cuban master boxer Guilermo Rigondeux, Nicaraguan puncher Roman Gonzalez, Britain's hardman Carl Froch – and many of the sports’ prospects are headed from a varied pool of countries.
Despite casual critics who claim boxing is in the doldrums, the oldest sport in the world is more likely in its greatest shape for the best part of two decades. The difference is that it’s not all about America now.
Welcome to the Big Drama Show.