Sergio Martinez and the Challengers to His Throne
Last Saturday night, October 20th, Peter Quillin thrilled his hometown Brooklyn crowd by knocking down WBO middleweight champion Hassan N'Dam six times en route to a unanimous decision victory in what has to be viewed as an early favorite for 2012 Fight of the Year.
It was the high point in a night filled with great boxing. And it also brought an end to a very significant and exciting seven-week run in the middleweight division.
During the months of September and October there were four bouts featuring eight fighters ranked in The Ring top 10 at middleweight. The classic complaint from fans against boxing is that "the best guys don't fight each other."
Over the last two months, this has definitely not been the case at 160.
September 15 was the big one, when universally recognized No. 1 middleweight in the world Sergio Martinez battled WBC champion and undefeated son-of-a-legend Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on pay-per-view.
Martinez mostly outclassed the upstart, but Chavez the younger rallied in thrilling fashion in the 12th and final frame, dropping Martinez briefly, before going down by wide margins on the cards.
On September 1, Australian IBF champion Daniel Geale took a surprising split decision from WBA "super" champion Felix Sturm in front of the German's hometown fans.
That same night WBA "regular" champion Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan made his American debut on HBO's Boxing After Dark, knocking out European champion and ninth-rated Grzegorz Proksa of Poland in five rounds.
I covered that card live, and as an eye witness, all I can say is: Wow.
An Olympic silver medalist, Golovkin is a very technically solid boxer with stunning power in both hands. He is a patient, methodical stalker, who employs brutally efficient bodywork to break his opponents down.
I would personally rank him second in the division behind Martinez. In addition to knocking out Proksa, he annihilated Lujaun Simon in one. Simon is a big, solid journeyman who went 15 rounds against Arthur Abraham and 15 rounds that were reasonably competitive against Sebastian Sylvester.
Still, I concede that Golovkin's resume remains fairly light, at least for Western fans. From a business point of view, it is reasonable for Martinez to want Golovkin to build some more buzz before he takes what would be his most significant risk in years.
In the meanwhile, Geale should probably be regarded as next in line for Martinez's crown. However, as WBA "super" middleweight champion, he did face a mandated unification bout coming off from his victory over Sturm.
At the post-fight press conference after Golovkin's September 1 fight, his promoter, Tom Loeffler of K2 promotions, stated that the WBA had set a mandatory 20-day negotiations period for the winners of Geale-Sturm and Golovkin-Proska to set up a unification bout.
Who Should Martinez fight next?
That 20 days has long since come and gone and I have seen or heard nothing about a possible Geale-Golovkin fight. I assume that the Australian is biding his time and hoping for a shot at Martinez.
Personally, I don't think Geale lasts the distance against Golovkin, but if he wants to get beat by Martinez for a bigger payday, I can hardly begrudge him the business opportunity that represents. He has earned his shot.
Golovkin would in the meantime benefit tremendously from a fight against somebody like Matthew Macklin. The tough Brit will give him an exciting showcase war, and his performance will be available for comparison alongside Martinez's earlier win.
And the month of October will end with Peter Quillin taking his own prominent step forward inside of the middleweight top 10.
Quillin and his opponent N'Dam both brought perfect 27-0 records to the ring for their showdown in Brooklyn. It was clear from the effort that both men put forth that each realized a win would give him a serious step forward in his career.
In my notes, after the first round I wrote, "This one isn't going the distance."
It did go the distance, of course, but credit N'Dam for that. Very few fighters on the planet could have absorbed what he did and made it to the bell, let alone look competitive in the process.
Quillin dropped N'Dam twice each in Rounds 4, 6 and 12. But what is perhaps even more remarkable is that N'Dam managed to recover enough to win rounds throughout the fight, attacking Quillin aggressively, even as he was periodically absorbing a beating from him.
On my own card, N'Dam would have pulled into an entirely improbable draw had he won the 12th round, which I had him doing up until the final 30 seconds, when Quillin once more caught up with him and knocked him down two final times.
From an American market, Qullin might now be the biggest potential payday for Martinez, now that Chavez is taken care of. Frankly, as impressed as I was with Kid Chocolate, I'd rather see him against one or two more top ranked guys.
In fact, the fight I'd really like to see Quillin in next is against Julio Cesar Chavez. With each man moving in his own respective direction this month, I believe they now meet pretty nicely in the middle.
Truthfully, they are at similar points in their careers, the extra media buzz that follows Chavez set aside. By dropping Martinez in the 12th last month, Chavez saved himself a potential rematch against the champ.
Stopping a hungry and promising young champion like Quillin would send his stock skyrocketing back up.
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