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Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook will face off for Golovkin’s middleweight titles on Saturday night in London at the O2 Arena in one of the year’s biggest boxing matches.

Many were hoping for a massive Golovkin pay-per-view event this fall, but no one thought it would be against the undefeated welterweight from England. The hope was that after Canelo Alvarez dispatched of Amir Khan by way of a devastating knockout that Alvarez would put his WBC middleweight title on the line against Golovkin before the end of 2016.

Instead, Alvarez dumped the belt and took a fight with 154-pound titleholder Liam Smith on Sept. 17. That left Golovkin in need of an opponent. Golovkin had laid waste to the majority of challengers remaining in the middleweight division, and with the likes of Billie Joe Saunders not willing to take on Golovkin, he turned his attention to fighters outside the division.

Golovkin took the fight with Brook, willing to travel outside his comfort zone of the Southern California-Las Vegas area to go to Brook’s home turf in London. The 30-year-old Brook is a perfect 36-0 with 25 KOs in his career and now jumps up 13 pounds to middleweight to prove that he’s one of the world’s best fighters against one of the most dangerous pound-for-pound punchers on earth.

Golovkin’s decision to fight Brook should be praised, especially in the current boxing landscape. He was denied the chance for a major, big money fight with Canelo — who insists that he’ll eventually welcome the Golovkin challenge — and rather than continue to dominate lesser opponents, he went in search of a high-level fighter willing to come to 160 pounds for the fight.

Some will ask why Golovkin accepting a fight with a welterweight is something to be applauded while Canelo taking on Amir Khan is scoffed at. On the surface, it’s a reasonable question, but the situations are different. Alvarez refused to take on the mandatory challenger for his belt to face a safer opponent at a catchweight five pounds below the limit for the belt he held — and never fought for at the limit.

Khan did not pose a threat to knock Alvarez out and had a history of struggling with power punchers. The fight lived up to the billing, as Khan took the early rounds with speed and precision but eventually Alvarez’s power won out. The reason Alvarez receives criticism is that, while he was the lineal champion, he held the middleweight title for two fights and neither time did anyone think he’d fought the best middleweight in the world to earn the title of lineal champ.

Gennady Golovkin gets a big challenge on Saturday. USATSI

Golovkin is now the lineal champ by way of Alvarez relinquishing the belt. It’s not the way anyone wants to see the belt passed on between active fighters, and now Golovkin is seeking out any top challengers willing to come to 160 to try their hand. There isn’t currently anyone at the top level in the division willing to take on the challenge, so Golovkin has turned to the welterweight champ, who is a big 147-pounder that walks around above the middleweight limit.

It’s expected to end for Brook the same way it did for Khan, but the biggest difference is that this was the best fight Golovkin could make. There wasn’t another more worthy challenger for the belt willing to step into the ring, and that’s what makes him a different kind of champion.

Golovkin is the 160 pound champion and, so long as he’s willing to take on all challengers at that weight, he’ll be doing his job and should be appreciated by boxing fans. Even if the most talented challengers come in with an apparent disadvantage as Brook does (he’s currently a +500 underdog in Las Vegas), Golovkin is still taking big fights. Brook is as talented a 147-pound fighter there is, and we’ll find out very quickly if he can handle the power of Golovkin — something no challenger has done in his last 22 fights.

Golovkin isn’t taking this fight because he thinks he has a significant advantage. He’s taking it because it’s the best opportunity to prove he’s a worthy champion, which is all he’s ever wanted. Miguel Cotto would not fight him when he was the champion. Canelo ditched his belt to avoid him and Saunders has avoided the opportunity for title unification.

Brook is a champion. He’s a 147-pound champion, but a champion nonetheless, which is a welcome sight. Golovkin can sell out arenas and get people to tune in for a fight against a weak opponent because they know the show will end with a spectacular finish, but he knows that eventually the fans will grow weary of third-round knockouts of guys they’ve never heard of.

Brook at least brings name recognition and an undefeated record into this bout. We won’t know if he can handle the jump in weight or the power of Golovkin until Saturday night, but for the first time since he burst on the scene, there’s at least some intrigue about how this fight will finish, rather than simply wondering when the knockout comes — I mean, we still wonder that, but there’s an actual chance for an upset this time.

At some point, Alvarez may come calling for Golovkin to make a massive pay-per-view event happen. It will be on Alvarez’s terms and at his weight. He is — for all his flaws in choosing opponents — the star and the A-side in any promotion he fights on, but it will be the biggest payday Golovkin will ever receive. He’ll take it with the opportunity to prove that he is indeed the better of the two.

Until then, the middleweight titles will be up for grabs for anyone willing to risk serious bodily harm at the hands of one of the hardest hitters on this planet. That starts on Saturday when Kell Brook steps up to the challenge and won’t stop until someone ends his reign.


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Gennady Golovkin walks the walk by facing Kell Brook in London on Saturday