Gennady Golovkin vacates two belts, leaves new title shots open in the middleweight division
Unified middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin has recently vacated both his IBF and WBA middleweight titles. Both sanctioning bodies were looking for him to face their mandatory challengers and apparently GGG wasn’t interested in either of those match ups.
The IBF had called for him to face unbeaten but largely unknown Esquiva Falcao, and the WBA had asked the Kazakh to meet Erislandy Lara. It is not known whether Golovkin (43-2-1, 37 knockouts) is looking at other options or if the 40-year-old is looking towards retirement.
The vacant IBF title is likely to be contested by No. 1 Falcao (30-0, 20 KOs) and No. 2 Michael Zerafa (31-4, 19 KOs).
Meanwhile, the WBA has upgraded “regular” titlist Lara (29-3-3, 17 KOs) to full champion. The rumor is that he may face former two-division titleholder Danny Garcia (37-3, 21 KOs) at a catch-weight of 155-pounds.
Falcao was a top amateur, collecting bronze at the 2011 World Championships and silver at the 2012 Olympics, losing on each occasion to Ryota Murata. Since turning professional in February 2014, the Brazilian’s career has been a slow build. The 33-year-old southpaw’s best wins have come against Jesus Gutierrez (TKO 8), former world title challenger Artur Akakov (RTD 4) and previously unbeaten Patrice Volny (TD 6)
Zerafa turned professional in 2011. He won his first 15 bouts in Australia before going to Russia where he lost to one-time prospect Arif Magomedov in October 2014. Two victories set him up for a fight with Peter Quillin, who stopped him in five rounds.
The now 30-year-old responded with eight straight wins before putting up a spirited effort against Brook (L UD 12). “Pretty Boy” has split two fights with Jeff Horn (TKO 9/ L MD 10) and beat the final remnants of Anthony Mundine (TKO 1). He has won three fights, including stopping countryman Isaac Hardman (TKO 2).
Neither is considered top 10 by The Ring in a division that isn’t considered very strong once you get past the first few fighters. This is an excellent opportunity for both men to win a world title that looked unlikely if they had to get past Golovkin first. It will be interesting to see which team is able to secure home advantage, that may be key. If the fight happens in Brazil, Falcao would be favored, similarly Zerafa in Australia.
Lara, The Ring No. 7 rated middleweight, was a standout amateur who would have been a favorite to win Olympic gold in 2008 but defected from his native Cuba. He went on to be a cornerstone of the junior middleweight division, defeating Austin Trout (UD 12), Vanes Martirosyan (UD 12) and Terrell Gausha (UD 12).
He has never been beaten convincingly. Lara gave Paul Williams (L MD 12), Canelo Alvarez (L SD 12) and Jarrett Hurd (L SD 12) all they could handle in narrow points defeats. The 39-year-old southpaw moved up to 160-pounds and has won two fights.
Garcia had major success at 140 pounds; annexing Ring Magazine, WBC and WBA titles, and posting wins over Erik Morales (UD 12 and KO 4), Amir Khan (TKO 4), Zab Judah (UD 12) and Lucas Matthysse (UD 12).
The Philadelphia-born fighter then moved up to welterweight and claimed the vacant WBC title at the expense of Robert Guerrero (UD 12). He lost to Thurman (SD 12) in a unification bid and was unable to regain the same title, dropping the close decision to Shawn Porter (UD 12). Rebounded with two wins before losing to IBF/ WBC titlist Errol Spence (UD 12). The 34-year-old returned with a win against Jose Benavidez Jr. (SD 12) last summer.
Both men are in the twilight of their respective careers looking to add an extra by-line. Lara would be the favorite since he’s naturally the bigger man and stylistically likely to pose Garcia problems.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].