The Andrade-Williams Fight Shows Why the Middleweight Class Is So Irksome

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MIAMI – In more than a decade as a boxing promoter, Eddie Hearn has had his difficulties getting dangerous fighters significant fights. None, Hearn says, have proven as difficult as Demetrius Andrade.

“He is the most avoided fighter I have ever worked with,” Hearn said. “I can’t get anyone to fight him.”

On Saturday, Andrade (29–0) will defend his middleweight title against Liam Williams, the WBO mandatory challenger (DAZN, 3 p.m. ET). It’s not the fight Andrade wanted. In recent months, Andrade has called for a showdown with Billy Joe Saunders, a 168-pound titleholder. Saunders, understandably, signed on to defend his title against Saul Alvarez next month. In recent years Andrade has attempted to lure two other 160-pound champions, Gennadiy Golovkin and Jermall Charlo, into the ring. Neither has shown much interest.

“If he didn’t have a belt, I would understand,” says Hearn. “Why would you fight Demetrius Andrade? But he has a belt. Golovkin and Charlo should be trying to unify. Everyone is pricing themselves out apart from Demetrius Andrade.”

The middleweight division has long been one of boxing’s glamour divisions. Today, it’s one of its most maddening. Golovkin, who just turned 39, has no scheduled opponent. Neither does Ryota Murata, who owns another belt. In June, Charlo will defend his title against Juan Montiel. Montiel is coming off a first-round knockout win over a washed-up James Kirkland. Before that, he had a draw with journeyman Hugo Centeno and was pancaked by Jaime Munguia in two rounds.

If allowed to fight Charlo with a steel chair, Montiel would still be a double-digit underdog.

“I’ve never heard of this guy,” says Hearn. “And I study BoxRec for a living.”

The Charlo-Andrade situation is particularly infuriating. Make a list of the biggest potential fights in boxing. I’ll spot you Tyson Fury–Anthony Joshua. Errol Spence–Terence Crawford, too. Charlo-Andrade has a case to be next on the list. Two undefeated, trash- talking American middleweights? A power puncher with a stiff jab against a slick boxer with sneaky pop? The winner would earn a spot on any pound-for-pound list.

Instead, Charlo will face a no-hoper.

And Andrade will defend his title in an afternoon slot.

Charlo has argued Andrade doesn’t want the fight. Hearn disagrees. He says he made a lucrative offer to Charlo to fight Andrade on DAZN. Andrade says the offer was $7 million. Network affiliations aren’t any issue, Hearn insists. Andrade is free to face Charlo on Showtime or Fox, the two platforms Charlo, who is aligned with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, regularly fights on. Last September, Charlo outpointed Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

Derevyanchenko made $3 million for that fight, a source told Sports Illustrated. Hearn says Andrade would have fought for that, too.

“I’ve accepted that Charlo won’t do the fight on DAZN,” says Hearn. “That’s fine. Just pay us the same amount of money you paid the guy [Derevyanchenko] you just did a voluntary defense with. To fight a world champion. I don’t know what else we can do. It’s annoying that no one calls out Charlo. Like, what the f--- are you waiting for? It’s not about money, it’s not about networks. So what is it about? It’s about you can’t win.”

Andrade believes he has done what he can to entice Charlo. “I don’t know if Charlo wants to face anyone,” says Andrade. He points to Charlo’s bizarre interactions with David Benavidez, the former super middleweight champion who has pushed for a Charlo fight. Charlo said he wouldn’t fight anyone under 25. Benavidez is 24. Then, he said he wouldn’t fight anyone who didn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine. Boxers, like all athletes, are subject to strict COVID-19 testing.

“He’s funny,” says Andrade. “One minute, he’s talking out of one side of his mouth. He says, ‘Oh, nobody knows Andrade. Nobody knows Andrade.’ Then it’s, ‘Oh, no, I'm not fighting Benavidez. I'll fight Demetrius Andrade.’ I don't get that. If nobody knows me, and everybody knows me as they don't know me, I guess everybody knows me. It's just funny because it goes from one thing to another with him. He’s inconsistent with what comes out his mouth. I don't speak that way. That's just how he does his thing.”

“I'm not hungry for [his] attention or for him to get riled up. So I'm not going to go spit on him, go press them, go do the violent s---. I'm trying to keep it nonviolent until we sign a contract to make it violent.”

To keep his title, Andrade was ordered to face Williams. But Hearn is excited about the fight. One of the criticisms of Andrade is that he lacks aggression—that he passes on opportunities to end fights early. Hearn points to Andrade’s lopsided win over Maciej Sulecki in 2019. Andrade knocked down Sulecki in the first round. He had him hurt. Instead of pressing the action, Andrade was content to go the distance. “Not jumping on him was a mistake,” says Hearn. “That place would have gone wild.”

Williams, Hearn says, offers Andrade an opportunity to win—and look good doing it. Williams (23-2-1) has promised to go for the knockout. Hearn hopes he does. “I’m hoping [Andrade] looks brilliant and knocks this guy out,” says Hearn. “And then we scream and shout from the rooftops. He needs that kind of performance. If you give a safe performance, you always give those people an opportunity to say, ‘He’s boring; I’m going to fight someone else.’ He needs an impressive win.”

In boxing, big fights often exist in the hypothetical. But the middleweights are among the worst offenders. Four titleholders, circling, while the months slip away. Two Americans, sitting on a blank check, arguing over nickels and networks on social media and podcasts. The division once defined by Marvin Hagler is one the late great wouldn’t recognize. Or be proud of.

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