LAS VEGAS -- Hours before Floyd Mayweather was scheduled to face Marcos Maidana in one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, another prospective pay-per-view was falling apart. Tom Loeffler, promoter for middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, told SI.com that Golovkin could no longer wait for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to iron out his differences with Top Rank and would begin searching for new opponents.
“We can’t wait anymore,” Loeffler said. “We can’t jeopardize Gennady fighting in July. We’re going to get together with HBO and begin looking for a new opponent.”
Here’s the problem: There aren’t many opponents. Top talent is scarce in the middleweight division. Sergio Martinez is fighting Miguel Cotto in June. Titleholder Felix Sturm -- a relative unknown in the United States anyway -- is locked into a fight with Sam Soliman in May. Daniel Geale, Martin Murray and Marco Antonio Rubio do little to move the needle.
Then there is Peter Quillin, the WBO champion who has no fight scheduled. On Saturday, I tracked down Quillin at the press center in the MGM Grand and asked him about a Golovkin fight.
“I’m right here,” Quillin said. “Let’s stop talking about. Let’s f---ing do it.”
Said Quillin’s promoter, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, “If Golovkin wants a fight with Peter, what they should do is make an offer. That will be a start.”
The biggest obstacle for Golovkin-Quillin is obvious: HBO. The network does not do business with Golden Boy -- Quillin’s promoter -- and has a multi-fight deal with Golovkin. Those decisions have prevented a Golovkin-Quillin showdown from ever being seriously discussed.
For Quillin, the HBO-Golden Boy break has been especially damaging. At 30, Quillin is in the prime of his career. He is a charismatic, American world champion with a crowd-pleasing style. Yet while Golovkin and Martinez are headlining major shows, Quillin has been relegated to undercards. His last title defense -- a lopsided decision win over Lukas Konecny in April -- was the opener of a Showtime tripleheader.
Quillin has been pocketing decent purses, but he has yet to come close to a career-defining fight.
“I always said I was open to fighting Gennady Golovkin or Sergio Martinez,” Quillin said. “All these different guys, the top guys. The politics going on are not my fault. Golovkin is supposed to be this big bad wolf. But the opponents that they get for him are not too much better than the guys that I am fighting. I’ll fight him. He’s a monster? I’ve never been scared of any monsters.”
HBO’s policy towards Golden Boy is understandable. After watching Golden Boy take more and more of its fighters across the street to Showtime, the network needed to take a stand. But if there were ever an exception to be made, this would be it. Golovkin-Quillin would be a huge HBO fight. It would attract well over a million viewers and establish the winner as arguably the best middleweight in the sport. And if Martinez beats Cotto, the winner of Golovkin-Quillin could springboard into a showdown with Martinez later in the year.
Negotiations for a Golovkin-Quillin fight could be messy. They would involve Al Haymon, the shadowy advisor who HBO prefers not to do business with either. It would likely require seven-figure purses for both fighters. It would be a risk for Golden Boy, which is lining up prospect Danny Jacobs for a shot at Quillin’s title and would like to keep a 160-pound belt in the company in case Saul Alvarez elects to move up in weight next year. It would be a risk for HBO because if Quillin wins he could take the title back to Showtime.
But no good fight is without risk. Boxing continues to nip at the mainstream, with uninspired matchmaking and a steady diet of pay-per-views stunting any growth. Golovkin-Quillin is a superior premium network fight that could draw fans back to one the sports most glamorous divisions. With Martinez-Cotto scheduled for HBO Pay-Per-View next month, HBO has a chance to be involved with two consecutive huge middleweight fights. Let’s hope HBO takes it. -- Chris Mannix