Who's the Real Middleweight Champion: Sergio Martinez or Gennady Golovkin?

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2013

Gennady Golovkin made a convincing Saturday statement with a third-round KO of Matthew Macklin.
Gennady Golovkin made a convincing Saturday statement with a third-round KO of Matthew Macklin.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The handwriting was on the wall. Or, more accurately, it was on Matthew Macklin’s face.

The Englishman’s left eye was topped by a jagged cut, and his right eye featured the sort of long blackened bruise underneath that’s usually indicative of a night filled with intense punishment.

But rather than 12 rounds of hard combat, Macklin’s injuries were sustained over just 7 minutes and 22 seconds in the ring with a guy whose profile he unwillingly helped raise—Gennady Golovkin.

A Kazakhstan native who was defending his IBO and WBA shares of the middleweight empire, Golovkin battered Macklin across the ring for the first two rounds before stopping him with a precisely devastating left hook to the body from which the challenger did not rise at 1:22 of the third.

Considering Macklin fought WBC champ Sergio Martinez just 15 months ago and put the Argentinean on the deck in the seventh before losing on a TKO four rounds later, his assessment of the two fighters is as valid as anyone’s. And he pulled no punches when asked by the Sky Sports broadcast team.

“He's the best kid that I’ve fought. He's way better than Sergio Martinez,” Macklin said after the fight. “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.”

And while the 38-year-old Martinez is the rightful darling of the lineal championship crowd based on a 2010 dethroning of consensus top man Kelly Pavlik and six straight subsequent wins, it’d be hard to argue that Golovkin, now 31, hasn’t at least reached undisputed No. 2 status in the division, if not more.

The destruction of Macklin was his 24th stoppage in 27 pro fights and 14th in a row dating back to June 2008, when Algerian journeyman Amar Amari lasted the eight-round distance in Denmark. Golovkin won the WBA’s dubious interim title six fights hence, was named its “regular” champion one fight after that and became the No. 1 man in its rankings when Felix Sturm lost his “super” belt last September.

He’s held the IBO title since a one-round blitz of Lajuan Simon in 2011, which was about the time his manager, Tom Loeffler, began beating the drum for him as the next big thing at 160, with little response.

“We feel that Gennady is truly that best fighter at either 154 or 160,” Loeffler said. “Sergio Martinez is recognized as the best middleweight right now and we all have a lot of respect for him. I think the winners of the upcoming middleweight fights should fight each other to truly determine who the best middleweight in the world is.”

These days a lot more people are listening, including Sky Sports analyst Jim Watt, himself a former WBC lightweight champion who defended four times between 1979 and 1981.

“He is, without a doubt in my mind, the best middleweight in the world today,” Watt said on the broadcast. “What do you do with him? Maybe you start challenging super middleweights, because I don’t think anyone at middleweight can take what this guy’s got.”

Martinez has done little as of late to stem the momentum. He followed the Pavlik win with impressive stops of Paul Williams (KO 2), Sergiy Dzinziruk (TKO 8) and Darren Barker (KO 11), but he has looked closer to ordinary in three subsequent fights while getting off the deck to beat Macklin (TKO 11), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD 12) and Martin Murray (UD 12).

And in the aftermath of his short night’s work Saturday, Golovkin made no secret that it’s a match he’d like made as soon as possible. Both Macklin and Martinez are promoted by Lou DiBella, who dismissed the idea of a Martinez fight last fall as economically unfeasible and went into the Macklin bout insisting Golovkin was overrated.

Neither assertion seems quite as weighty now. And given the paucity of other lucrative options in the WBC rankings—where Martinez is followed by challengers Marco Antonio Rubio, Domenico Spada, Gilberto Ramirez and the aforementioned Chavez Jr. and Murray—it’s hard to fathom a guy as smart as DiBella continuing to play the same cards as an excuse to match his man elsewhere.

“I know I’m ready for this fight,” Golovkin said to HBO’s Max Kellerman Saturday. “It’s great business for the sport, fans and for TV, too.”

Your move, Lou.