The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 28
Gennady Golovkin did it again on Saturday night, obliterating former world champion Daniel Geale in three rounds at Madison Square Garden. The win should go a long way to silencing the dwindling chorus of fans and media who question whether the Kazakh destroyer is deserving of all the hype he's received.
It also should position GGG to make a serious and legitimate claim to the throne of the middleweight division now that Sergio Martinez—who expressed no desire to face him during his reign—has been toppled.
And it leaves the question: Can anyone stop Golovkin?
GGG called out reigning WBC and lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto in his post-fight interview, but does that fight have any chance of happening?
Plus, does light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev finally have a big fight on the horizon?
And can Brandon Rios avoid an upset in his first fight back after a suspension-induced layoff?
All that and more in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.
Can Anyone Stop Gennady Golovkin?
Golovkin stepped through the ropes at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, and he annihilated Geale with a single devastating right hand near the end of Round 3. It was the type of punch that could stop a truck, landing with such concussive force that it seemed to shake the rafters at MSG.
Geale quickly rose to his feet, but the Aussie knew he'd had enough, staggering across the ring and prompting referee Mike Ortega to halt the contest. Immediately before the stoppage, Geale—a former unified middleweight champion in his own right—had caught GGG flush with a right hand of his own.
But Golovkin absorbed the shot and launched one of his own back, ending the night in sudden and spectacular fashion for his 17th knockout in a row.
None of this is to say that Geale wasn’t game. He confounded GGG in spurts with his movement and ability to get in and get out without taking serious damage. The former champion landed his share of punches, but the power gap was simply too wide for him to overcome.
Golovkin, as is his style, was patient, cutting off the ring and looking for opportunities to land his precision punches right on the target. That’s one of his most underrated characteristics.
Most observers will point to GGG’s punching power as his biggest strength—his knockout rate sits at exactly 90 percent after Saturday’s win—but the precision with which he lands his shots makes his power truly explosive. He doesn’t miss the target, and every punch goes exactly where intended.
Having now beaten a legitimate top-five middleweight in blowout fashion, the list of reasons to not buy into Golovkin with every dime continue to dwindle.
He might already be the best middleweight in the world, and it doesn’t seem like anyone can stop him.
Will Miguel Cotto Take the Bait?
Golovkin pulled no punches in his post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, telling him that he wanted middleweight title unification in his next fight.
He mentioned the other 160-pound champions—Cotto, Peter Quillin and Sam Soliman—by name and when pressed, declared that he wanted Cotto next.
It was only seven weeks ago that Cotto defeated Martinez in the very same ring to become the WBC and lineal middleweight champion, making history as the first Puerto Rican fighter to capture titles in four weight classes.
It is yet undecided whether or not Cotto will remain in the realm of the middleweights—it seems unlikely, and a bout with Timothy Bradley has been discussed—but if he does, would he go near Golovkin?
After Saturday night that seems highly unlikely.
Cotto has been mentioned most prominently as a foe for Golden Boy Promotions’ golden goose Canelo Alvarez—who himself has been mentioned as a possible GGG foe—and that fight would generate more money and substantially less risk.
Is that what boxing fans want to hear? No, probably not, but it accurately reflects the business and other calculations that go into making a professional prize fight.
So how about Canelo?
You have to admire the Mexican’s brave warrior spirit and his unwillingness to avoid anyone. He told Bleacher Report before his fight with Erislandy Lara that he refused to duck anyone and wanted the best fights, but can you realistically see Golden Boy risking him against GGG?
Pretty hard to see how or why they’d do that right now.
No, it seems that the bigger name fighters will probably elude Golovkin again, but fight fans will be hoping that won't last for long.
Is Sergey Kovalev on the Cusp of a Big Fight?
Kovalev returns to the ring on Saturday night in Atlantic City, facing Blake Caparello in a fight that will be televised by HBO as part of a split-site telecast. It’s the latest in a series of disappointing bouts for the Russian champion, but a light could be appearing at the end of the tunnel.
Should he get by Caparello, which is widely anticipated, Kovalev could find himself in the light heavyweight unification showdown he so desired later this year but not against the opponent you’d expect.
Bernard Hopkins, the ageless wonder and unified 175-pound champion, made news earlier this month when he told The Ring Magazine that he’d be pursuing a unification clash with Kovalev rather than an expected bout with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
The 49-year-old, who holds the IBF/WBA Light Heavyweight Championships, is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, and they’ve already entered into negotiations with Main Events (Kovalev’s promoters) for a possible match on November 8 at the Barclays Center.
That marks a stunning turnaround for all the major players in the light heavyweight division.
Hopkins was expected to meet Stevenson—it seemed to be one of the primary reasons why Adonis jumped ship to Showtime in the first place—but has apparently had a change of heart, leaving him at the altar.
Kovalev would prove to be the latest, and quite possibly most dangerous, challenge of Hopkins’—who will turn 50 in January—career. It’s truly remarkable that he’d even consider this fight at this point, but pushing himself beyond normal limits is what Hopkins is all about.
And because of that, it seems like Kovalev, who was himself left at the altar by Stevenson, could wind up getting the last laugh.
Should Brandon Rios Be on Upset Alert?
Rios hasn’t been seen in the ring since last November, and he’ll be looking to erase the memory of that performance in the eyes of fight fans.
Facing international superstar Manny Pacquiao in Macau, Rios was peppered with power shots from beginning to end in a contest that was as one-sided as many expected when it was announced.
A tough and exciting but limited brawler, Rios just couldn’t match Pacquiao’s precision, speed or aggression, and he lost pretty much every minute of every round.
The 28-year-old Texan subsequently tested positive for dimethylamylamine—a banned stimulant that’s found in certain over-the-counter supplements and known to promote weight loss and muscle gain.
Rios and Pacquiao both participated in Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) testing, and the failed result prompted a suspension by the Chinese Professional Boxing Association until the end of April.
Having served his time away from the sport, Rios will return to the ring on Saturday night in the headline bout of an HBO card from the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, taking on the highly dangerous Diego Chaves.
Chaves is not your prototypical comeback opponent.
He’s physically strong, has great punching power—19 knockouts among 23 wins—and was competitive against Keith Thurman before succumbing in his first loss last year.
Chaves can punch and has the ability to give Rios trouble, especially if the latter is rusty after a long, involuntary layoff. This fight has a high potential to produce an upset, and Rios deserves some credit for not taking it easy in his first fight back.
Regardless of how it turns out, this has all-action and excitement written all over it.
Can Jessie Vargas Become a Star?
Jessie Vargas won his first world championship in April, defeating former champion Khabib Allakhverdiev by unanimous decision on the Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 undercard.
The 25-year-old from Los Angeles isn’t much in the way of a puncher—he’s only stopped two of his last 10 foes, and the last eight have gone the distance—but he’s more exciting than those numbers would seem to indicate.
Vargas can box effectively from the outside, but he likes to mix it up on the inside as well, doing the utmost to please the crowd and send them home happy. Against the bigger punchers in the 140-pound division, that might not be the best tactic, but it gives him a certain appeal.
He will look to use that appeal to make a bigger impression on fight fans this Saturday night when he takes on undefeated challenger Anton Novikov in Las Vegas.
Novikov, like Vargas, doesn’t have much in the way of punching power—10 KO’s in 29 wins—and he’s thoroughly untested. He’s probably best known for a 2012 victory over Karlo Tabaghua that was later changed to a no contest when Novikov tested positive for a banned substance.
Vargas has every opportunity to become a major player in the sport. He has an exciting style, fights in and around weight divisions with boatloads of talent and has a major promoter—Top Rank—behind him.
But first things first, and that means getting past Novikov.