Winners and still champions, Gennady Golovkin and Cecilia Braekhus.
Indeed, the IBO’s reigning men’s middleweight and women’s welterweight titleholders were successful in their respective defenses last month, with Golovkin blitzing Vanes Martirosyan in two rounds while Braekhus scored a competitive, compelling 10-round decision over Kali Reis.
Still, if you think the two kingpins were merely successful in retaining their hardware and creating a windfall of ticket selling profit at the StubHub Center in Carson, California… think again. Not only did the native Kazakh and his Norway-based counterpart do those things, but they also managed to move HBO’s television needle to noteworthy extents while doing so.
The Golovkin-Martirosyan main event registered 1.249 million viewers and peaked at 1.361 million in spite of a postmidnight start time on the East Coast, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. Those figures made it the No. 1-rated cable fight for 2018 and the top-rated premium cable fight since 2016 – when Golovkin defended against Dominic Wade just 12 miles away at The Forum in Inglewood.
The Braekhus-Reis bout – HBO’s first-ever telecast of a women’s fight live on the service – averaged 904,000 viewers and peaked at 1.024 million making it the second-highest-rated fight on HBO this year. “Gennady Golovkin may be the champion of the middleweight division but he delivers knockout ratings with a heavyweight punch,” said Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s long-time promoter.
“Gennady continues to rack up the records. (He) also added two more StubHub Center milestones to his long list of accomplishments. In addition to owning the boxing attendance record at StubHub Center, which he set in 2014 against Marco Rubio, he also shattered the venue’s record for the highest-grossing boxing event and merchandise sales. That makes (him) a StubHub Center triple crown winner.”
It was IBO title defense No. 17 for the 36-year-old, who’s owned the belt since vaporizing Lajuan Simon in 2011. The prodigious run – which has included 15 wins by KO/TKO, one by decision and one widely disputed draw – has made Golovkin the longest-reigning champion in the sport and a consistent fixture near the top of most respected pound-for pound rankings compilations.
Ring Magazine has Golovkin atop its most recent top-10 list, while Boxrec.com places him at No. 3 and the Los Angeles Times wedges him in between at No. 2.
In fact, the Times’ lead boxing writer, Lance Pugmire, accompanied Golovkin’s placement with a brief passage that read, “Golovkin showed his devotion to the sport by accepting a $1 million purse to give fans a Cinco de Mayo fight date with his second-round knockout of Glendale’s Vanes Martirosyan, a top-rated 154-pounder who said Golovkin hits ‘like a freight train, harder than anyone I’ve ever fought.’”
The reviews were similarly rave in nature for Braekhus, who’s the only five-belt champion in the sport and has been theIBO’s top female welterweight since a decision win over Chris Namus in 2016. The defense against Reis was her fifth as IBO champion and lifted her record to 33-0 overall and 2-0 in a pair of appearances in the United States.
The bout moved from the non-TV portion of the card when Roman Gonzalez’s bantamweight fight with Pedro Guevara was canceled because Gonzalez, of Nicaragua, had issues obtaining a work visa due to political unrest at home.
“The women made the HBO decision-makers look good with their spirited scrap,” said ESPN’s Dan Rafael. Golovkin had been scheduled for a rematch with Canelo Alvarez, who opposed him in the aforementioned draw last September, but the Mexican pulled out in February after it was disclosed that he’d failed a pair of drug tests. He was subsequently suspended for six months and has been frequently mentioned as an imminent opponent, and Loeffler confirmed Golovkin would be back soon to do more big numbers – though he by no means specified an opponent.
“Besides StubHub Center, the ‘Big Drama Show’ has sold out many of the most iconic arenas, including The Forum, Madison Square Garden and the O2 Arena,” he said. “Make no mistake, this is just the beginning. Gennady is ready to return to the ring as soon as it can be scheduled.”
Check out the full updated IBO rankings from every division below