One of my favourite TV programmes is Game of Thrones. A fictional, fantasy series in which the fractured political nature of the realm means that numerous characters stake their claim as the rightful ruler of The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. During one scene, a cunningly ambitious character named Margaery Tyrell is asked “Do you want to be a queen” to which she replies “No, I want to be THE Queen.” It was this scene that resonated with me after Gennady Golovkin defeated Daniel Jacobs and immediately challenged WBO World Champion Billy Joe Saunders by declaring “I want all the belts.” The burning desire to be the ‘Undisputed King of the Middleweights’ is his greatest motivation although one that is not respected by all.
The Golovkin detractors have criticised his ambition to remain and attempt to annex the middleweight division, insisting that in order for him to deserve legendary status, he must step up in weight and succeed against larger men. He has been accused of ducking the likes of Andre Ward in favour of supposedly easier options. They say his victims were of a poor calibre and the destruction of them was an inaccurate representation of his actual ability.
But destroy them he did; a line of top contenders, challengers and former champions, all disposed of with relative ease and only in his latest outing did he look mortal in victory against a larger, skilled and motivated Daniel Jacobs. His defeated foe is deserving of a rematch one day but at the age of 34, Golovkin is worthy of having an opportunity to challenge for the accolades that would confirm without question what many already believe; that he is the number one middleweight in the world.
The proliferation of sanctioning bodies and world titles has led to four recognised world titles for each weight category and though this gives the finest fighters of the division an opportunity to set themselves apart from the rest it has also created confusion as to who is truly the best. Due in part to boxing politics such as differences in promotional rights and TV networks, making fights that would fully unify the division and crown an undisputed champion has become difficult to achieve. The last undisputed middleweight champion was Jermain Taylor back in 2005 which shows how rare this feat is and what forces Golovkin must overcome in his quest for middleweight supremacy. This is not him ducking challenges, but actually seeking them out by hunting his fellow titlists and throwing down the gauntlet to them in order to convert speculation of his superiority into fact. Some may argue that he is wasting time chasing the likes of Billy Joe Saunders, claiming that Saunders is not a worthy opponent but the truth is that he has legitimately earned the right to call himself WBO champion by unseating its’ previous champion and although some fans view him as inferior to Golovkin, he is at least deserving of a chance to prove them wrong. After all, boxing may be called a sweet science but it is also a subjective one and every so often the unexpected occurs where the underdog prevails. This is why the pugilists fight the fights; to confirm that the outcomes of bouts are only determined in the ring and not by speculative boxing nerds like myself.
The argument that he must go up in weight to be regarded as a great does not necessarily merit credibility as there are fine examples of fighters dominating at one weight and in doing so, solidifying their reputations as greats of the sport. Fellow middleweights Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler demonstrated this as well as anyone and if it was good enough for their legacies, then why not for Golovkin’s? Scepticism can sometimes be justified towards fighters who have actually taken the easy route up by targeting the perceived weakest champion in order to declare themselves a multi-weight world champion. Adrien Broner and Ricky Burns are two names that come to mind, but nobody would attest to them being greater than Marvin Hagler. Unifying a division may mean that you might be lucky to face and defeat one “weak” champion for a belt but to be able to vanquish up to four champions can only enhances one’s legacy.
Golovkin’s dream of being the undisputed middleweight champion is a noble one. It brings back some dignity to a traditionally glamorous division that in recent years has been treated perversely, with past champions fighting at catch-weights and avoiding their mandatory challengers. If there is an undisputed champion during this era, it would be a truly exceptional achievement as the last man standing would not just be regarded as ‘a champion,’ but he would forever be recognised as ‘THE Champion.’