By Keith Idec
Don’t expect an apology from Demetrius Andrade for facing his upcoming opponent.
The unbeaten WBO middleweight champion gladly would’ve waited to return to the ring if he were guaranteed a higher-profile fight against Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs or Jermall Charlo next. Unfortunately for Andrade, as much as signing with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA and DAZN has helped him, he remains in a similar predicament to the one he occupied prior joining his new promoter and streaming service last summer.
Andrade wants to prove himself against elite middleweights, but he still finds it difficult to get one of them to fight him. The former junior middleweight champion therefore has little choice but to remain as active as possible and hope one of the aforementioned middleweights accepts his continual challenges.
Enter Artur Akavov.
Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs) will make the first defense of his WBO 160-pound championship against Akavov on January 18 in New York. Their 12-round title fight next Friday night will headline DAZN’s stream from The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Russia’s Akavov (19-2, 8 KOs) isn’t quite a top-10 middleweight. He is, however, a game challenger who gave former WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders some trouble in December 2016, when Saunders defeated Akavov by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder.
Akavov at least is willing to face a skilled, 6-feet-1 southpaw who can box and punch.
“This guy, Artur, is in front of me,” Andrade told BoxingScene.com. “He is a real guy. You know, I’m gonna take care of business. But at the end of the day, in boxing if you’re not in the Canelo position right now, you’ve gotta take whatever opportunities that are there. In that situation, they have more control of that. I have to take whatever I can take, and I’m trying to take the better or the best thing out there for myself and my career, and for the fans of the sport of boxing. That’s all I can do. I have to be realistic with the situation.”
Realistically, Andrade understands Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs) isn’t going to fight him at any point in the foreseeable future. The same probably is true of Golovkin, Jacobs and Charlo, for various reasons.
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) wants a third fight against Alvarez and likely would settle for a rematch with Jacobs. Brooklyn’s Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), the IBF middleweight champ, wants to fight Alvarez, the WBA and WBC champ, on May 4 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Neither Golovkin nor Jacobs has decided whether to sign with DAZN, ESPN/Top Rank or Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, which has content deals with FOX and Showtime. Houston’s Charlo (28-0, 21 KOs), the WBC’s interim middleweight champion, already is aligned with Haymon, and thus FOX and Showtime.
Alvarez at least is signed long-term to have his fights streamed by DAZN, just like Andrade. The difference, obviously, is that Alvarez’s gaudy deal with DAZN could earn the Mexican superstar $365 million for 11 fights over a five-year period.
That $365 million maximum isn’t guaranteed. That’s one of the reasons Andrade is convinced Alvarez will avoid him, even though they’re both middleweight champions.
The 2008 Olympian hopes he’s wrong. He wonders how long DAZN president John Skipper will allow Alvarez to fight opponents like Rocky Fielding for enormous sums of money.
“I think we’re still in the same age bracket,” Andrade said. “We’re fairly close [in age]. I’m gonna be around, he’s gonna be around, and for Canelo to make that money that supposedly he signed for, it can’t be against just bums. So, he has to fight somebody eventually. They’re not just gonna pay him that money, with no titles, no nothing, just to get in there with John, from down the street. He’s gonna have to fight somebody. And as long as I’m active and I’m taking everybody else out, well, I mean, I’m at the finish line now, waiting for your boy [Alvarez] to get here.”
Andrade plans to be as active as possible while waiting for those bigger opportunities.
He’ll square off against Akavov less than three months after beating Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa to win the then-vacant WBO middleweight crown October 20 at TD Garden in Boston.
Andrade anticipates that he’ll look sharper against Akavov than he did in defeating the heavy-handed Kautondokwa (17-1, 16 KOs). Andrade recorded four knockdowns on his way to overcoming Kautondokwa by huge margins on all three scorecards (120-104, 120-104, 119-105).
Before beating Kautondokwa, a late replacement for Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs), Andrade hadn’t fought in almost exactly one year. Boxing three or four times per year at least will provide some consolation if Andrade cannot land the fights he truly wants.
“What I have learned and what I’m taking from the situation is, you know what, I’m gonna have to have people come towards me,” Andrade said. “And the only way I can see myself doing that is being active, taking the fights where they have no choice, and boxers themselves and [fans] start realizing, ‘Why is nobody calling out Demetrius Andrade?’ So, I can’t be chasing anybody anymore. I’ve gotta be the one that they need to chase. This is, I believe, the way for me to do it, by taking every challenge there is – of course, the ones that make sense.
“Because if I wasn’t the big, bad wolf, I would’ve got beat up by Canelo already, I would’ve got beat up by Triple-G, I would’ve got beat up by the Charlo brothers, I would’ve got beat up by Danny Jacobs. I would’ve got beat up by all these guys already. ‘You’re a walk in the park. Goodbye, Demetrius. We don’t need you here no more.’ They realize this is not a walk in the park. If it was, I would’ve got the Triple-G fight, not Vanes Martirosyan, who’s been out the ring for two years and never fought at 160.”
Once Alvarez was suspended for failing a PED test and his May 5 rematch against Golovkin was canceled, Golovkin demolished Martirosyan in less than two rounds at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Andrade defeated Martirosyan by split decision in their 12-rounder five years ago to win the vacant WBO junior middleweight title.
The 30-year-old Andrade since has won two more world titles. He hasn’t secured the type of fights he feels he needs to win to become a Hall-of-Famer, but Andrade pointed out that, unlike Alvarez, his is an honest effort to make history.
Andrade took offense to Alvarez adding a world title in a third weight class by beating England’s Rocky Fielding last month. Alvarez won the WBA world super middleweight title by stopping Fielding (27-2, 18 KOs) in the third round December 15 at Madison Square Garden, but England’s Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) is the WBA’s legitimate champion at 168 pounds.
“I can be a three-division world champion, but who did I fight to get them three belts?,” Andrade asked. “Rocky Fielding, Liam Smith and I can sit here and say the only guy is Triple-G. That’s not really powerful. That’s not a powerful statement. Now, Danny Jacobs is a powerful statement. The Charlo brothers is a powerful statement. Canelo, Triple-G and whatever other prospects and unknown guys that are out there in this world that are trying to make names for themselves, those are powerful statements. That’s where the fights are.
“They’re trying to make Canelo out to be something that he’s not taking the proper steps to be. He’s not like Floyd Mayweather or Roy Jones. He’s not like ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, [Marvin] Hagler, Roberto Duran or Tommy Hearns – these guys fought each other. They made it happen. They was like, ‘I’m gonna fight the best.’ And that’s why their names are still relevant today. Oscar De La Hoya even fought guys – Ike Quartey, [Shane] Mosely, other guys. That’s the type of stuff I’m looking forward to doing.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.