BRUTAL punching WBA/IBF middleweight champion, Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31ko) hardly has the rest of the 160lbs division rushing to the front of the queue to fight him, with both Mexico’s WBC titlist, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and WBO champion, Billy Joe Saunders, ostensibly less than keen to put their new belts on the line for a unification clash with the man who, at present, is arguably boxing’s most avoided star.
The Abel Sanchez trained technician is on a quest to become the first undisputed middleweight champion since Jermain Taylor in 2006 and as he quietly goes about that task with a cold, destructive and ruthless efficiency, one feared former rival has announced on social media that he is to return to the ring in a move that could seriously shake up not just “GGG but the entire 160 lb division.
“2016… I return” is the brief message of intent from Russia’s undefeated former WBO middleweight champion, Dmitry Pirog (20-0, 15ko), who was forced to retire from the sport through a debilitating back injury in 2012 whilst in training for a fight with Golovkin. Now 35, the dangerous Pirog burst onto the international scene in 2010 with his highlight-reel, fifth round knockout of current WBA (reg) champion, Danny Jacobs, which captured him the [vacant] WBO title, a belt he made three defences of before being stripped due to his choosing to fight then-WBA (reg) champion, Golovkin, rather than face the WBO-ordered option of Frenchman, Hassan N’Dam.
Starting life in the impoverished Temryuk district of Russia, Pirog was a more than solid amateur, competing in over 200 contests and capturing national titles along the way, capturing the essence of the methodical and almost one-paced Eastern European style fighters like Golovkin and light-heavyweight kingpin Sergey Kovalev perfect with brutal results today. Yet Pirog, apparently lacking the tools to make the upper echelons of the Russian amateur program, missed out on both the Olympics and the European championships, instead adding more to his game through watching the likes of American legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather, honing a unique mix of orthodox, systematic pressure fighting, with an unorthodox and awkward defensive movement, that had boxing purists closely rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the fight with Golovkin, whose own technical subtleties are a joy to behold.
Yet whether Pirog is indeed fully fit to return as he claims will depend on the appropriate medical clearance and, as he moves into the wrong half of his thirties, it’s no secret that time isn’t on his side in terms of getting back to elite championship level, especially after more than three years of inactivity. Though with Golovkin turning 34 himself in April, and many in the middleweight division secretly hoping he grows old overnight, there exists a realistic chance that one former world champion will return to the ring to truly challenge his dominance in 2016. Watch this space.