It took some prodding from HBO announcer Max Kellerman, but Gennady Golovkin (28-0, 25 KO's) eventually revealed to a worldwide audience the next name on his hit list—Ring Magazine and WBC champion Sergio Martinez.
For Golovkin, who stopped Curtis Stevens in eight rounds with a constant barrage of power punches, Martinez represents the lone obstacle preventing him from ascending to the top of the middleweight division. The undefeated Kazakh, a former Olympic silver medalist, may be the unofficial people's champion thanks to his explosive style, heavy hands and several high-profile television knockouts. But Martinez, the lineal champion, remains the man.
It's an honor that boxing demands you take by force. No one is simply declared champion. Golovkin has to earn it in the ring. Before he can do that, however, Martinez has to meet him there, something his promoter Lou DiBella is loathe to make happen.
"[Martinez] is not going to come off a 14-month layoff and fight this animal," DiBella told Yahoo's Kevin Iole. While Martinez later indicated a willingness to fight all comers, including Golovkin, in boxing it's often the promoter's way or the highway.
Golovkin may be a particularly bad matchup for Martinez. The athletic champion, a Roy Jones clone who likes to drop his hands and mug for the camera, relies on his speed to win fights. Against a technical fighter with tremendous power that can be disastrous.
Martinez has paid the price for his reckless style several times, getting up off the mat to win bouts. Against Golovkin, he may not get a second chance. According to common opponent Matthew Macklin, it may be best for Martinez to stay far away from the rising star.
“He's the best kid that I’ve fought. He's way better than Sergio Martinez,” Macklin said after his fight with Golovkin. “Sergio is a great fighter, but Golovkin is the real deal. Without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the best I’ve ever fought.”
Of course, it's a moot point until the 38-year-old Martinez is able to return to the ring against anybody. He's not expected back in action until next year after limping his way out of his last title defense against Martin Murray with a right knee injury and a broken left hand.
It was deja vu for Martinez, who suffered identical injuries in his previous bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2012. It's unclear whether Martinez will return to form. Aging and injured is a bad combination for a fighter who likes to drop his hands and rely on his reflexes to avoid blows.
In boxing, the old feed young, passing the torch and connecting the present to the past the way no other sport quite manages. This is no different. Golovkin is the future. Martinez is the present. If he returns, he owes the sport a fight with Golovkin. It's the right thing to do—for boxing and for his legacy.