I wait several days after the fight before calling Gennady Golovkin.
“This is Tom, Gennady, how you doin’?”
“Great, no problems.”
“I’m rich guy strolling along beautiful beach with my family.”
“That’s exactly why you should retire now.”
Silence envelops the phone.
“You’re crazy,” he says.
“You’ll never receive better advice.”
“I beat Canelo Alvarez easy in first fight, and I think I fought better second time, too.”
I pause and consider the history of boxers.
“You did beat Alvarez the first time and the judges robbed you calling it a draw, but a majority, and not just the judges, think he had the edge this time. You’re thirty-six and not quite as good as you used to be.”
“I’m still best middleweight in world.”
“You’re damn good but no longer dominant. For years you knocked out almost everyone. Now you’ve had two wars with a guy eight years younger and, trust me, he’s getting stronger and better as a middleweight, and you’re not.”
In an uncustomarily loud voice, Gennady says, “He used drugs and lied it was contaminated meat. I’m still better. Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions and Nevada Athletic Commission don’t want me to win. They love Canelo because he makes more money than anyone. Remember when he fought Floyd Mayweather? Canelo never hit him, but one judge said draw. In my first fight, one judge said Canelo won by eight rounds. That’s crazy. And this time I beat him in twelfth round but two judges said he won. If I win twelfth, I draw.”
“I agree, Gennady. There’s no way you’ll ever beat Canelo by decision in Las Vegas. Do everything possible to force Golden Boy Promotions to hold the third Canelo fight outside of Nevada. Any state founded on gambling’s bound to be corrupt. It’s time to hold some of these big fights in great places like Madison Square Garden.”
Gennady clears his throat. “No way Oscar and Golden Boy will let me fight Canelo anywhere but Vegas. If I say no, they’ll fight someone else. I defended my title twenty times and want it back.”
“Respectfully, this is what you’ve got to keep in mind,” I say. “You peaked about three years ago. You may only have one fight left when you’re anywhere near your peak. Remember, Canelo had you backing up a lot of the time. That didn’t happen the first time because he wasn’t strong enough and you were too physical then. But now you’re not. He turned you from a slugger into a jabber and a boxer. At age thirty-six, Gennady, these trends are going to continue.”
“No, no. I’ll beat him next time.”
“I know you won’t quit now. Aging boxers always think they can win the next big fight. They usually can’t. And, win or lose, they’re always taking punishment, especially to the head. You don’t want to end up like Sugar Ray Robinson, do you?”
“What happened to him?”
“He kept fighting and taking beatings long after he should’ve quit and ended up a punch-drunk invalid. We’re talking about the Harlem Prince, the greatest middleweight of all time.”
“I’m greatest,” Gennady says.
“You were great but not as great as Robinson, Carlos Monzon, and Marvin Hagler.”
“I’d like to fight them.”
“It would’ve been exciting and probably pretty close. Regarding tough competition, Gennady, keep in mind there are guys out there who may be better than you or Canelo.”
“Jermell Charlo, for example.”
“After I beat Canelo, I’ll knock out Charlo.”
“Gennady, as a friend, I’m telling you you aren’t going to beat Canelo. And even if you do, you shouldn’t fight anyone else. You’re healthy. Get out and enjoy the good life with your family.”
“In few years. Gotta go.”