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Gennady Golovkin: Will GGG abandon the middleweight division?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Boxing history is replete with scenarios where champions or star fighters moved up in weight seeking bigger challenges and greater spoils.

And the great ones are often successful in that endeavor: Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones, Jr, James Toney, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, Thomas Hearns, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sergio Martinez, Manny Pacquiao ... and the list goes on.

A classic example is Sugar Ray Leonard.

A former 140 lb Olympic Champion, Leonard would become a welterweight champion prizefighter and the sport's top fighter, pound for pound. 

A sports legend by his late 20s, Leonard, a natural welterweight, had no problem making the 147 lb limit. However, he was forced to move up several divisions during the course of his career.

Why? The big challenges had shifted north of the division.

Marvin Hagler was the dominant middleweight and foes Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran would move up in weight.

The big money was in higher weight classes.

Today, middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33KOs) is in a somewhat similar situation. Sans Canelo Alvarez, who may or may not fight him, the fighter dubbed GGG has no high-profile, big money options at middleweight.

And while there are no superstar super middleweights, should Gennady move up to collect another division title, the fight would likely be bigger than all but one or two of his previous bouts. How much bigger remains to be seen.

Sugar Ray Leonard captured a title in his second weight class by defeating a relative unknown named Ayub Kalule, making the cover of Sports Illustrated in the process.

And Sugar Ray, still a natural welterweight, tipped the scales at 162 lbs when he defeated then-concurrent super middleweight / light heavyweight belt-holder Donny LaLonde, another relative unknown, in a high-profile PPV event.

Of course, Ray was already an international mainstream star by then.

When will Gennady Golovkin move up? Will he ever?

A career-defining win over a big name would likely give Golovkin the publicity and spoils he deserves, but until another star steps in the ring with Gennady, he might remain a hidden gem to the masses.

So what does fight legend Floyd Mayweather think?

Money May recently told Boxingscene.com, "What we want to see is this. We've seen Sugar Ray Leonard go up in weight, Robert Duran go up in weight."

"We've [seen] so many legendary fighters go up in weight, but my nephew's favorite fighter, GGG, has yet to go up in weight," Mayweather added.

At some point, Team Golovkin will have to seriously consider moving up in weight. Triple G is already 34 and may not have too many more prime years left.

Super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez has been discussed as a possible opponent but no one outside of the boxing fraternity knows who Ramirez is. That stated, the curiosity generated by Golovkin moving up would probably result in a higher-than-usual payday for GGG.

In order to hit real pay dirt today, GGG must be able to a) lure Canelo Alvarez or b) jaunt to the light heavyweight division, home of several of the sport's powerbrokers.

Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson would be suitable dance partners for Golovkin. And keep in mind, Gennady walks in the ring carrying about 171 lbs anyway so he wouldn't have to add unnecessary bulk to his frame to fight at light heavyweight.

That stated, at 5'10", Gennady would still be small for a light heavyweight because his opponents would likely be 6'0" to 6'2" and walk in the ring 15 to 20 lbs heavier.

But given his dominance at middleweight, it wouldn't be surprising if Golovkin opened a slight favorite against Kovalev, Ward and Stevenson if any of those bouts were confirmed today. 

After all, he's been known to knockout cruiserweights in sparring and has yet to be tested in the pro ranks.

At 5'11," Roy Jones wasn't the 'monster' at light heavyweight that he was at middleweight and super middleweight. However, Roy was still the best in the division and enjoyed a long, successful reign at 175 lbs.

Gennady Golovkin, like many stars before him, may have to take that step.


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