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The Middleweight Power Grab

by Adam Thorn

This weekend is a monumental one for the middleweight division. The weight class does not have an Ali trophy to contest, but all of its belts are up for grabs this Saturday, September 16th. Only the London leg of the middleweight power grab has had anything remotely vulgar about it, with Billy Joe Saunders and Willie Monroe threatening death and various other unnecessary unpleasantries on one another. Their dust up, despite being for Saunders’ WBO belt, is but hors d’ouvres to the Las Vegas bout between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez seven or so hours later. That fight is a blue moon, Hagler versus Hearns type of event and needs no selling; GGG’s IBO, IBF, WBA and WBC titles will be available.

But how will these two fights change the middleweight scene? Will we arrive at Sunday morning with two new champions, or the same ones, both ready to climb in with one another and settle finally where the belts lie? Is it irrelevant what happens in London as Saunders and Monroe aren’t at the level of the other two anyway? What if Billy looks astonishing against Willie, better even than Golovkin did? Will the main event in Las Vegas be so good that the fans and fighters want an immediate rematch, or will it be a damp squib like Mayweather against Pacquiao, with no one crying for seconds?

The potential for change is exciting, the potential for excitement; palpable.

London

Much is made of Saunders’ inactivity, but he’s fought once more in the last two years than Monroe Jr. and more recently, too. Willie has not seen action for a year. The American may have fought some big names, and beaten some, but he is not exactly a banger, with only six knockouts to his name. Saunders, too, is hardly known as a puncher, but he has double Monroe’s tally, with twelve. Despite the needle between the men, including some handbags at the media engagements this week, this fight is highly likely to be technical.

Saunders is a slight favourite to win, and with a home crowd behind him, and seemingly in a good frame of mind for the bout, he should retain his belt. Probably by way of a decision. He made his desire to fight either of Golovkin or Alvarez clear at their press conference in London for BoxNation. It is pretty obvious most boxing fans and media see Golovkin and Alvarez as the division top two, but both of these fighters want their crack at that winner. Given he’s never lost as a professional, and Monroe was knocked out by Golovkin, it would perhaps be more interesting to see Billy Joe try to summit the division.

If Saunders can beat Monroe Jr. he has a very strong hand (and a very persuasive promoter) to help convince whoever comes out on top in Las Vegas to a fight. Golovkin is well know in the UK after walking through Kell Brook’s brave effort to dispatch the Sheffield man. Both Alvarez and Golovkin may view Saunders as a soft touch, particularly if Billy does not beat Willie convincingly, and fancy their chances of unifying the division against him. Were he to victor, Monroe Jr. could find himself shunned, although the same perceived “easy touch” logic might come into play. An emphatic, brutal win for either BJS or Monroe Jr. seems unlikely, but were it to happen it may make the other men think harder about unifying, or encourage the demand, it all depends on their fight.

Las Vegas

The main event of the evening, whatever or however many cards you’re watching that night, is undoubtedly Golovkin against Alvarez. We’ve got plenty of opinion on how the fight will go on Hellraiser, click the following links to see them. Paul Duckworth took an early look at the contest, our fighters and writers all had brief predictions, Lee Robertson wrote a fantastic in depth prediction and Mickey Helliet as always, has his video blog on the fight

The contest at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas has been billed as “Supremacy”, and few will argue that both of these men are high up the pound for pound rankings, and even fewer that the winner would move up even further. Whoever is victorious will also be in prime position as the lineal champion in the middleweight division. But whether they’d have a plethora of options to pursue, or simply one or two realistic ones all depends on how this fight goes, and also how BJ and Willie get on.

Golovkin is the favourite, his long and successful amateur career and unbeaten record, along with his vaunted power, mean money will be being put down in huge amounts on the bigger man dominating a smaller opponent. But Canelo has grown into the size admirably, and has also been putting opponents away for fun, albeit mostly at super welterweight. Talk of Golovkin perhaps ageing, and Alvarez surging into his peak years only make this more enticing a prospect than a fight featuring two guys with a combined 76% knockout percentage and only one loss already is.

This is a huge fight, where both men could emerge with reputations enhanced. Only one will have those four belts, however.

What Next?

While it is tempting to think that the winner between Golovkin and Alvarez will go and attempt to clean up the division against the Saunders against Monroe Jr. fight, the amount of talk between the two of a rematch is noticeable. This fight will earn both well, and if it is remotely close there’d be huge desire from all who stand to profit from a rematch, i.e. not just the boxers, for part two to be immediate. Perhaps if it is a bore, or grossly lopsided, as pretty much nobody anticipates, a rematch would be less palatable until after another fight, or at all.

Particularly if Golovkin and Saunders emerge with their belts, looking good in the process, it is not unfathomable to imagine them sharing a ring very soon. In fact it may be the most likely next step. If Canelo beats GGG so close that it’s a borderline robbery, he may also go elsewhere for a fight, allow Golovkin to decline some more, and clean up the division. Whatever happens in both fights, due to his loss to Golovkin it is hard to envisage Monroe Jr. being a part of anyone’s plans.

There is, and whisper this like a bad rumour that’ll never happen, another option. Two men, whoever those two are, win on Saturday. A great opportunity for a full unification is presented, such as Tyson Fury’s after his Klitschko win. The governing bodies, though, decide otherwise and the belts are fractured for mandatory and monetary reasons. That possibility should, for now, be ignored like an elephant in the room; until it starts knocking over the furniture we politely ignore it.

Looking to the future is fun, and boxing is in exciting times, but this Saturday, the two course middleweight meal makes for a sunny day in autumn. Enjoy it for what it is, an aligning of the stars. A rare moment of genuine high octane, pure entertainment. This is why we love boxing, savour it.

Posted: 15th Sep 2017

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