THE late, great boxing pundit Bert Randolph Sugar would have said of Dominic Wade – who challenges unified middleweight champion, Gennady Golovkin this weekend at the Forum in Inglewood, California – that he wouldn’t even be a household name in his own household.
Because to say that he’s relatively anonymous to most fans would be a vast understatement.
But such is life for Golovkin, who holds the WBA, IBO and IBF versions of the middleweight title. As another attempt to secure a marquee fight failed (this time against WBC titlist, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez) Golovkin had to fulfill his mandatory obligation with the IBF, meaning he had to face Wade. Wade earned his number one position with the sanctioning body by outpointing veteran Sam Soliman last year.
I’ve said this before, but the great thing about the IBF is that they follow their rules. The bad part about them is … well, they follow their rules. And say whatever you want about them, they are sticklers for enforcing their mandatory challengers.
Wade, who hails from the Washington D.C. has a record of 18-0 (12 KOs) and is tall, right-handed puncher. He’s faced some semi-recognizable names that dot the resume of many up-and-coming middleweights and super-middleweights such as Marcus Upshaw, Nick Brinson and Dashon Johnson, along with his victory over Soliman. But there are legitimate questions about just how battle tested Wade truly is as he faces this daunting task.
Some will say that a boxer of Golovkin’s stature should have relinquished the IBF strap but the reality is that just having won that belt this past October by stopping David Lemieux in eight rounds at the Madison Square Garden, Golovkin wasn’t going to vacate the title at this juncture. He and his team have made it clear that their immediate goal is to unify all the middleweight titles the way Bernard Hopkins and Marvin Hagler did in the past. There are some who say the belts are ‘meaningless’, but the reality is that to boxers like Golovkin they are absolutely important and he collects them as if they are currency as he continues to build his market value.
According to the oddsmakers, Golovkin is listed as a 60-1 favorite. Yeah, should Wade come out victorious, this would be considered a much bigger upset than Buster Douglas tripping up Mike Tyson in Tokyo in February of 1990.
So the bottom line is that if Golovkin fails to score another early knockout victory (and he comes into this contest with 21 consecutive stoppage victories) he will have merely done what was expected above him. If this fight is remotely competitive and goes into the middle and late rounds, then Golovkin will be questioned for his effort.
This is the ultimate no-win situation.
But really this is no different than what the above-mentioned Hagler and Hopkins faced during their long and storied runs as middleweight rulers. Before they faced the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya in what were star-making events, “the Marvelous One” had to take on opposition like “Caveman” Lee, Wilford Scypion and Fulgencio Obelmejias. While “the Executioner” faced Beau James, Joe Lipsey, Andrew Council and Robert Allen (three times!!) as he built his case for bigger, high profile fights.
For Golovkin, who has faced some solid middleweight contenders such as Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray, Daniel Geale (who had actually held versions of the 160-pound title in the past) and Lemieux, this weekend is another step towards his ultimate goal – even though to many it feels like two steps backwards.
No matter what, this is a must-win situation for Golovkin if he is to achieve his ultimate goal.
Even if it does feel like a formality.