Gennady Golovkin made sure it was a short night, which was not surprising because he was fighting for short money.
What was supposed to be a big night in Las Vegas ended up as little more than an exhibition in Carson, California. The $20 million or so Golovkin was going to make to fight Canelo Alvarez turned into $1 million against a last-minute replacement in Vanes Martirosyan.
It wasn’t Triple G’s fault, far from it. Alvarez was the one who tested positive for steroids in Mexico, upending the lucrative middleweight title rematch Golovkin already was training hard for.
More importantly, it won’t be Golovkin’s fault if he and Alvarez don’t meet in September.
Fans, of course, want the fight. And there’s a good chance it will happen, no matter the posturing going on in the Triple G camp after Saturday night’s second-round knockout of an ill-prepared Martirosyan.
But excuse Golovkin and his handlers if they play a little hardball getting it done. They’ve earned the right.
Contracts will have to be renegotiated, and you can bet promoter Tom Loeffler will be asking more this time for his fighter. And Alvarez will have to somehow try to prove that his protests are real and that he’s not the doper he seems to be.
The first part is doable. Alvarez had gotten more favorable terms before because he’s got a proven record of selling pay-per-view, but now he’s going to have to accept parity, or even less. It’s on him that the fight didn’t take place Saturday night in Las Vegas, no matter how much he and his camp claim tainted meat was responsible for his positive test to the steroid Clenbuterol.
The second part is more problematic.
The six-month drug suspension by Nevada boxing regulators won’t get in the way. It expires in August, leaving Alvarez free to fight Golovkin in a rematch of their controversial draw from last September.
But what Golovkin and his handlers want most is assurances that Alvarez is clean. And, at least so far, those haven’t come.
Forget the claims by Golden Boy Promotions that Alvarez tested negative in a hair follicle test that isn’t accepted in doping circles. Focus, instead, on Oscar De La Hoya’s claim to TMZ on April 25 that Alvarez would be tested “every day from now until the fight” to make everyone’s suspicions go away.
So far, that testing has not happened. And every day that goes by without Alvarez signing up for a drug testing program is another day no one knows whether everything he is taking — or eating — is above board.
Martirosyan himself made the point after the fight at the StubHub Center ended with him being counted out after a flurry of blows from Golovkin early in the second round.
“Canelo has a lot to prove,” Martirosyan said. “I can see why he’s eating that kind of meat. He needs that extra edge.”
Golovkin certainly seems to believe that. He was irate in the days before the fight, saying there was probably only a 10 percent chance he and Alvarez would meet on Sept. 16 as nearly everyone else in boxing assumes they will.
There’s too much money at stake, for sure. But there’s also Golovkin’s legacy, one that at the age of 36 he doesn’t have much time left to craft.
He believes he was cheated by the judges out of a win in the first fight, one Golovkin seemed to dominate until the late rounds. It ended up a draw, which is the lone blemish on a record that now includes a record-tying 20 consecutive title defenses.
He wants to return to the ring quickly, and he wants to knock out Alvarez. But he’s suspicious that Alvarez may have been doing something to bulk up to middleweight for their first fight, and angry that he was caught doping for the second.
Some of that anger seemed to melt away after he rediscovered his knockout power against Martisoyan. And he seemed to indicate that he would be good with fighting Alvarez in September should the conditions be right.
“Absolutely,” Golovkin said. “I want everyone. I have lots of belts. I challenge anyone to come and take my belts. I don’t care who it is. Let’s clean the division out.”
In the end, the rematch with Alvarez is probably too big of a fight — and too big of an opportunity — for Triple G to refuse. Alvarez and his handlers know that, which might be why he hasn’t rushed back into voluntary drug testing just yet.
The guess is that Golovkin-Alvarez II will take place on the Las Vegas Strip in September.
But if it doesn’t, there will be only one fighter to blame.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg