by Cliff Rold
Sergio Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KO) remains the true Middleweight Champion of the World.
He may not be the best Middleweight in the world anymore.
In the span of eight days, we will see the two strongest ‘heirs apparent’ to his throne and either might be favored to beat the 38-year old Argentine right now. The louder hype, for the moment, centers on Kazakhstan’s 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Gennady Golovkin (27-0, 24 KO). The 31-year old has been a professional since 2006 and will attempt his ninth defense of a WBA belt, and sixth defense of the IBO belt, against Curtis Stevens (25-3, 18 KO) in New York next Saturday.
This Saturday, the spotlight falls on the less hyped, but in many ways equally impressive, WBO titlist at 160 lbs. 30-year old Peter Quillin (29-0, 21 KO), fighting out of Brooklyn, turned professional in 2005 and has slowly developed into a dangerous fighter. Borrowing a nickname from one of the greats of the 1930s, this “Kid Chocolate” has shown sweet potential in his last four fights.
He will attempt to defend his belt for the second time against Gabriel Rosado (21-6, 13 KO). Quillin is expected to win.
The biggest question: if he does as expected, what will it look like?
When all else fails, boxing is a sport happy to promote based on comparison-shopping of the eyes. Rosado challenged Golovkin in January of this year and, while defeated, gave a spirited account and lasted into the seventh round. Reports of Golovkin battling the flu notwithstanding, if Quillin can dispose of Rosado earlier, easier, he will have a feather in his cap of what should be seen as the division’s real developing rivalry.
Quillin doesn’t have Golovkin in front of him this weekend. Instead, he engages in what can best be called a proxy war.
It’s one he’d be well served to win. The accomplishment gap between Golovkin and Quillin, in terms of quality wins, isn’t that wide. The perception gap is.
Given the curt circumstances of the relationships between HBO and Showtime, perception matters for Quillin. He’s in a tough spot. Both Golovkin and Martinez are tied, for the moment, to HBO. Most of the best action in the division this year has taken place on that network. The action from 140-154 lbs. is well spread between the two networks.
In those divisions, Showtime is drawing from the deeper pool and has the premiere draw in the sport, Floyd Mayweather, on their side. It’s not so from 160-68, where HBO also has the legitimate World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward on their side and has aired some of his better challengers as well.
Quillin could become one of the bigger victims of this whole mess. To be the man, one eventually has to beat him and Quillin is a fighter who needs flexibility in networks that may not be available to him right away.
In lieu of that, the proxy wars he can win are of immeasurable value. They are pathways to create public demand for him to be more than the Showtime side of the Middleweight bracket. It’s not like he runs out of foes after Rosado, should he win this weekend. Daniel Jacobs (26-1, 23 KO), a cancer survivor, is a great story. Resurgent since returning to action in 2004 and a fellow New Yorker, he could make a fine challenger next year.
Up one class, Showtime will air the 168 lb. title fight between WBC titlist Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KO) and Anthony Dirrell (26-0, 22 KO) in December. A move up the scale isn’t out of the question.
Opponents can emerge. They aren’t Martinez, Golovkin, and Ward.
Short of Mayweather moving up to Quillin to attempt a title in a sixth weight class, Quillin may want to root for Al Haymon stablemate Edwin Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KO) to upset Ward (26-0, 14 KO). That could shift some scales.
For the time being, all he can do is win. He’s done that against a fair set of recent foes. A breakthrough stoppage of fringe contender Craig McEwan in 2011 announced him as a serious comer. Subsequent wins that halted the comeback of “Winky” Wright, sent the capable Hasan N’Dam N’Jikam to the canvas five times for a title, and a dominant knockout of Fernando Guerrero elevated Quillin.
Compare those wins to the best Golovkin has posted. Is there really that big a gap in quality between N’Jikam and Matthew Macklin? Is beating a faded Wright less an accomplishment than beating a faded Kasim Ouma? McEwan…Grzegorz Proksa…six of one, half dozen of another.
Where Golovkin has an edge is in the spectacular nature of some of his victories. Quillin has a chance to try to be more spectacular this weekend.
Sergio Martinez might still be history’s Middleweight king, but in the ring there is every reason to believe the fight for best Middleweight in the world right now is Golovkin-Quillin. Politics are in the way.
Quillin has to make his case bigger than the politics.