FINDING A REPLACEMENT

Boxing: The 5 most likely guys to stand in for Canelo against GGG

Gennady Golovkin will not be fighting Canelo on Cinco de Mayo. So who will it be? Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin is officially off. With two weeks to go until his hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Canelo officially withdrew from the megafight yesterday, ending whatever slim hope remained of getting the two in the ring on Cinco de Mayo. But the show must go on for GGG and his team. Just hours after the fight cancellation, Golovkin announced via twitter that he would still fight on May 5 in Las Vegas. GGG promoter Tom Loeffler has told reporters that the bout will probably move to the smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena across the street from the T-Mobile Center, scheduled site of Canelo/Golovkin 2. But who will Golovkin fight with just a month’s worth of notice? Let’s take a look at some of the likely candidates.

JERMALL CHARLO

26-0, 20 KO

Why it should happen: Though not the big name Alvarez brings, most boxing purists believe Charlo brings the toughest test at middleweight to Golovkin outside of Canelo. This brash Houston native is a big talker in person and online. Jermall, along with his twin brother Jermell, have developed a wrestling heel like personna that would be easy to promote, even on short notice. Charlo made a name for himself at junior middleweight, where he won the IBF championship in 2016. He’s looked even better after moving up to middleweight, knocking out both challengers he’s faced. Charlo is WBC interim middleweight champion, so this fight would fill a mandatory defense necessary for Golovkin. Charlo is scheduled to fight a mandatory defense of his interim belt on April 21, so he should be in shape and ready to go; all he would need to do is withdraw from that fight.

Why it may not happen: Charlo is represented by boxing advisor Al Haymon, who does most of his work with Showtime. Golovkin fights exclusively on HBO and this fight has been promoted by HBO, having been scheduled for HBO pay per view. Haymon has occasionally done business with HBO fighters, but the negotiations usually take longer to come together than the shortened timeframe the two sides will have to get this fight ready.

DANNY JACOBS

33-2, 29 KO

Why it should happen: Jacobs has only lost one fight since 2010, and it was to Golovkin. The two had a spirited bout March of last year in which Golovkin won by scores of 115-112 (twice) and 114-113. After surviving an early knockdown Jacobs took Golovkin into what were the deepest waters of his career. Jacobs has been clamoring for a rematch ever since. Jacobs is signed with HBO, so the framework for a deal would be easy to make.

Why it may not happen: Despite being close, the first Jacobs fight wasn’t particularly interesting. The two fought too many close rounds, but the style matchup wasn’t particularly fan-friendly and running this one back just doesn’t seem necessary.

BILLY JOE SAUNDERS

26-0, 12 KO

Why it should happen: The slick, 28 year old southpaw holds the WBO middleweight championship belt; the only major middleweight belt not in Golovkin’s possession.GGG has repeatedly says he wants “all the belts” and that seemed to be his main goal until the payday of the Canelo fights came calling. True unified champions are rare, and this would be a nice storyline to sell. Saunders looked dazzling in an absolute washing of David Lemieux in December, so he’s earned the bout. Saunders is also a big talker, so he may be able to sell a few pay-per-views on short notice.

Why it may not happen: Saunders was supposed to fight next weekend in England, but a hand injury postponed the fight til mid-June. It seems unlikely to me that Saunders would want to push up is fight date by six weeks when returning from a hand injury. Golovkin would also probably rather avoid a slick southpaw fighter after spending his entire training camp preparing for a right handed puncher. These two seem destined to fight eventually, but the timing just doesn’t seem right for May.

DEMETRIUS ANDRADE

25-0, 16 KO

Why it should happen: Andrade is one of the most gifted boxers in the division. He has a history of knockouts, and his long, rangy style is difficult for opponents to crack. No one is more excited than Andrade about the process of replacing Canelo on the card; he’s discussed it extensively on twitter and with multiple boxing writers.

Why it may not happen: Though Andrade has big-time talent, no one outside of boxing diehards know who he is. His career has been horribly mismanaged by his promoters, and bouts of inactivity have killed all the momentum his big wins have had. Like Saunders he’s also a southpaw, which Golovkin would be best-served to avoid on short notice.

SPIKE O’SULLIVAN

27-2 19 KO

Why it should happen: It shouldn’t. A fighter like O’Sullivan has no business being in the ring with Golovkin. But as soon as Canelo withdrew, Spike became the favorite leaked by boxing writers online. He’s a relative unknown and would gladly take the fight on short notice. He also is a brawler, which would create a fan-friendly style on television.

Why it may not happen: Selling a pay-per-view matchup in which the challenger has no quality wins in his career would be a marketing disaster. O’Sullivan has faced two notable fighters in his career in Chris Eubank and Billy Joe Saunders. He lost to Eubank by knockout and was nearly shutout by Saunders. No one in the United States knows O’Sullivan. Though Spike is moderately entertaining to watch, he’s essentially a homeless man’s version of Golovkin. GGG would end the fight in a hurry, leaving fans wondering why they spent $75 on such a one-sided matchup.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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