27th September, 1980. Wembley Arena, London. Looking like he could eat lightning and crap thunder, Marvin Hagler had just destroyed Alan Minter in three bloody rounds.
But instead of celebrating, and having his arm held aloft by the referee as the new middleweight champion of the world, Hagler and his handlers were cowering in the center of the ring, beer cans and bottles raining down on them. They had to run the gauntlet of more missiles as they hightailed it to the safety of the changing rooms.
Former Champion, Vito Antuofermo, working for Italian television, was attacked by a drunken fan. “I straightened him out on the floor with just one punch, what else could I do,” Vito said afterwards.
It had taken Hagler 54 fights, and seven years as a pro to finally win the title, and he would have expected his reign to begin in more auspicious circumstances.
But things didn’t get much better for Marvin.
He craved the big fights, and was desperate to show he deserved the respect and accolades accorded the likes Leonard, Hearns, Duran, and Benitez. But he had to settle for three years of humdrum defenses for chump change, against fighters such as Fulgencio Obelmejias, Mustafa Hamsho, Wilford Scypion, Caveman Lee and Tony Sibson.
Marvin had to wait for Duran, Hearns and Leonard to climb up in weight to provide him with the super-fights, super paydays and acknowledgement he craved.
Bernard Hopkins also had to pay his dues, bigtime, before he hit the big times.
After winning the IBF belt in April 1995, Hopkins made 12 defenses, against obscure fighters such as Steve Frank, Joe Lipsey, William Bo James, Andrew Council, Robert Allen, (twice) Syd Vanderpool, and Antwun Echols (twice).
Hopkins’ big break came in 2001, when he became part of the Don King/HBO tournament to crown an undisputed middleweight champion.
Facing former welterweight and light middleweight champion, Felix Trinidad in the final, the lack of respect accorded Hopkins was reflected in the smaller man being made favorite. A clearly aggrieved Hopkins took him to school, before registering a 12th-round KO.
Three years later, Hopkins had his highest-profile fight and biggest payday, when he faced Oscar De La Hoya, who had been gifted the WBO belt against Felix Sturm.
Gennady Golovkin is now treading the same path as Hagler and Hopkins, as he seeks those big meaningful fights.
Since winning the WBA belt in December 2010, Golovkin has KO’d all 16 of his challengers. But opponents such as Gabriel Rosado, Mathew Macklin, Daniel Geale, David Lemieux and Dominic Wade, were not exactly stellar names.
IBF welterweight champion, Kell Brook, jumped straight to 160 without a stop-off at 154, to provide Golovkin with his highest profile fight, and biggest payday to date of $5 million. He took a steady beating, but sporadically made things interesting, before his corner threw in the towel in the fifth round with Brook suffering double vision, courtesy of a broken orbital bone.
Golovkin is now waiting on Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya recently announced that he had offered Golovkin’s camp a minimum of $10.m for a September 2017 fight. “1 am offering you a substantial amount… Take the offer, sign the contract, and let’s make the fight,” he said, refuting claims he had made a low-ball offer.
Claims and counter claims are de-rigueur in long drawn out negotiations before a mega-fight, but the impression persists that the Canelo camp have adopted the Mayweather modus-operandi: delay the fight as long as possible to build up anticipation and hence its dollar value, and as an added bonus, the other guy gets older and further past his prime. Golovkin is 34, while Canelo is only 26.
Demand for Golovkin-Canelo is growing, and it’s likely the fight will happen late 2017. Meanwhile, Golovkin has other options on the table. Negotiations have started for a fight against WBA “regular champion”, Daniel Jacobs, and HBO have a November 26th date set aside.
WBO champion, Billy Joe Saunders is also sounding off. “I definitely want you on your next available date,” Saunders trumpeted via video after the Brook fight. “I’ll give the fans what they want to see, and I saw faults and flaws in you last night that I know I can pick out.” Perhaps Saunders should bear in mind Mike Tyson’s words: “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.”
Some fans on social media are calling for Golovkin to move up to 175 to challenge the winner of the upcoming Kovalev-Ward light heavyweight title fight.
But Golovkin like Hagler, is a small middleweight. In the 1980’s Hagler showed little interest in a proposed fight with 6-foot 2-inch light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks.
Alternatively, Hopkins, a big middleweight, was happy to go up to 175 where he won a world title, and made successful defenses.
Triple G is a natural middleweight, and doesn’t have to go up in weight to seek greater challenges or to secure his legacy. Like Hagler and Hopkins before him, it appears his patience is paying off, and big fights are on the horizon at 160. If after cleaning house, he decides to go up to 168 or 175 to test himself, it would merely be a bonus for boxing fans curious to see if his bone breaking power has the same effect on bigger men.
Ollie Odebunmi has been a boxing fan for over 40 years. He is the author of the “Last Great Heavyweights – From Ali and Frazier to Lewis and Tyson”, available on Amazon in paperback and kindle.