Wrestling & MMA

Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin might be new headliners

Coincidence or not, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin were featured in the two noteworthy bouts following the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao record-breaking fight May 2.

Could Alvarez’s and Golovkin’s appearances on consecutive Saturdays indicate that boxing is ready to unveil its new top-tier attractions and move past the Mayweather and Pacquiao eras?

Alvarez and Golovkin solidified their stock with impressive knockout victories. A week following Alvarez’s third-round stoppage of James Kirkland, Golovkin retained his middleweight title with a sixth-round technical knockout over Willie Monroe Jr. late Saturday in Inglewood, California.

Since the advent of the home pay-per-view medium in the early 1980s, the sport always has featured an elite group of fighters whose bouts exceeded the network or premium-cable TV designation.

Skeptics predicted the end of the pay-per-view headliner when Oscar De La Hoya retired in 2009. But Mayweather and Pacquiao took over, and the 4.4million pay-per-view buys of their bout validated how boxing fans always gravitate to new attractions.

Now, with Mayweather talking retirement after his next bout and Pacquiao expected to be sidelined for close to a year because of shoulder surgery, the sport could be looking at its new wave of must-see fighters.

Alvarez and Golovkin have qualities to fill the void. In fact, Alvarez already has crossed the pay-per-view threshold and earned marquee fight stripes. Popular in his native Mexico, Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) made his pay-per-view starring debut in a majority-decision loss against Mayweather in 2013 and later headlined similar events against Alfredo Angulo and Erislandy Lara.

Although Mayweather was the established performer, Alvarez’s appeal helped their fight generate more than 2 million pay-per-view purchases.

In the aftermath of the action-lacking bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez rewarded fight fans with a jolt of excitement against Kirkland. The furious pace of their three-round bout served as a huge contrast to the Mayweather-Pacquiao match a week earlier.

Like Alvarez, Golovkin provides punching intensity in his bouts. Monroe became his 20th consecutive knockout victim.

With every stoppage, Golovkin not only gains followers but also enhances his status in the pound-for-pound hierarchy. The native of Kazakhstan also enjoys the platform that his bouts now are showcased on HBO. The only remaining obstacle is the lack of a signature opponent to elevate Golovkin to pay-per-view bouts.

“Every fight is a step for us, and Willie was another step,” Golovkin said. “I want the big fights. I’m ready right now.”

The fight that could finally land Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) on the coveted pay-per-view territory is a middleweight unification title fight with Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto. A four-division world champion, Cotto became an established pay-per-view performer with his bouts against Mayweather, Pacquiao and Shane Mosley. Cotto will defend his middleweight belt against Daniel Geale on an HBO telecast June 6 in Brooklyn.

Then there is also the scenario suddenly envisioned by many fight fans — a match between Golovkin and Alvarez. But as appealing as it seems, Golovkin-Alvarez doesn’t appear likely for now.

“Sure, why not, he is a great champion and warrior,” Alvarez said of Golovkin after his win over Kirkland. “Those are the type of fighters I like to fight. In the future you can see that fight.”

Around the ring

▪ Deontay Wilder will make the first defense of the only heavyweight title not held by Wladimir Klitschko on June 13. Wilder, who won the World Boxing Council belt over Bermane Stiverne in January, will face Eric Molina on June 13 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Meanwhile, Lara will attempt to remain in the mix for important junior-middleweight bouts after his close decision loss against Alvarez last year. Lara will face Delvin Rodriguez on June 12 in Chicago.

▪ Davie resident Teofimo Lopez won the National Golden Gloves 132-pound championship late Saturday in Las Vegas. Lopez, representing Florida, defeated Jamaine Rodriguez, of the New England region, in the weight-division final.

Florida finished second behind Texas in the team standings.

Coming up

Friday (10 p.m., ESPN2): Andrey Fedosov vs. Donovan Dennis, 10, heavyweights.

Friday (10 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Eric Hunter vs. Antonio Escalante, 10, featherweights.

Saturday (4:30 p.m., NBC): James DeGale vs. Andre Dirrell, 12, for the vacant IBF super-middleweight title; Bryan Vasquez vs. Javier Fortuna, 12, for the vacant WBA super-featherweight title.

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