Boxing’s marquee double act returns to the ring in New York tonight with both Gennady Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez closing in on history.
‘A Kazakh and a Nicaraguan’ sounds like the start of a bizarre joke – but it’s the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champion Golovkin and his diminutive sidekick, the WBC super flyweight title holder Gonzalez, who are expected to have the last laugh at a sold out Madison Square Garden.
It will be the fifth time in a row the unlikely duo has been melded to co-feature atop a card. Both remain undefeated in that stretch, as well as in their illustrious careers to date.
Should Golovkin (36-0), whose 23 straight knockouts is already a divisional record, overcome Danny Jacobs then he will move to 17 defences of a version of the middleweight title – just three behind Bernard Hopkins’ all-time benchmark of 20.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, Nicaragua’s first ever four-weight world champion, can go 47-0 by beating Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and edge closer to eclipsing Floyd Mayweather’s flawless 49 fight resume.
Pairing the two men has proven a masterstroke for promoter Tom Loeffler, who may have borrowed a move from the playbook of Don King, who enjoyed huge success combining another odd couple – Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez – on cards in the late 1980s.
As Tyson fights were anticipated as pre-determined knockouts, Golovkin is once again tipped for the luxury of an early night in what could prove the gateway to a long-awaited sequence of career-defining bouts.
If rumours are to be believed then a victory tonight could be followed by confirmation he will face WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in Astana on June 10, a blockbuster event to coincide with Kazakhstan’s hosting of the World Expo.
Should that come to fruition, then Triple G will have the chance to fulfil his aim of capturing all four major middleweight titles, while also providing the perfect antidote to Mayweather’s vulgar circus act with Connor McGregor, which has been tentatively slated for the same date.
Beyond that, a dream bout against Saul Alvarez could still occur in September, should the Mexican see off compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Junior in May, and his promoters Golden Boy finally decide to roll the dice.
First, however, Golovkin must take care of Jacobs, a triumph which would not necessarily provide that elusive signature victory, but would certainly enrich his overall body of work.
Rated the world’s second best middleweight, Jacobs (32-1) is on a KO streak of his own, racking up 10 straight crowd-pleasers since returning from a well-documented battle with cancer in 2012.
Factor in the 30-year-old’s glittering amateur pedigree, his speed and size plus a notable one-round demolition of Peter Quillin 18 months ago, then it’s understandable why he’s being billed as Triple G’s toughest opponent to date.
That said, questions remain about Jacobs’ punch resistance. Most, including the Golovkin camp, dismiss the American’s infamous 2010 KO loss to Dmitry Pirog, largely because it was seven years ago and also that a conflicted Jacobs went into the bout mourning the loss of his grandmother just days before stepping through the ropes.
But what is undoubtedly concerning is the knockdown he suffered against Sergio Mora in 2015, given that the light-punching ‘Latin Snake’ possesses far less venom than his ring sobriquet would suggest.
Vulnerable or not, Triple G is taking Jacobs extremely seriously, and that could spell trouble for the New Yorker.
Golovkin has shown in the past how his approach varies based on the perceived level of threat. Against Curtis Stevens, and more recently Kell Brook, he openly engaged in shootouts, unconcerned about taking shots as he sought the inevitable crushing stoppage.
Yet against Martin Murray, and particularly David Lemieux, he was the epitome of clinical – tenderising his foe with that skull-rattling jab before devouring the leftovers with hooks to head and body. It’s entirely logical to expect this version of Triple G on Saturday.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, is also heavily favoured against Rungvisai. The Thai has never fought in North America before and would have been reminded just how far he is from home by the snowstorm which ravaged the Big Apple this week.
Rated as the No1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by the respected Ring Magazine, Gonzalez knows tougher tests lie ahead should he successfully defend his WBC strap.
In edging out Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras on the cards last September, he showed his first signs of weakness since his struggles with Juan Francisco Estrada almost five years ago.
The 29-year-old, known as ‘Chocolatito’, emerged victorious but his battered and bruised face told its own story. Cuadras takes on David Carmona on tonight’s undercard and a rematch with Gonzalez is next should both men triumph at the Garden.
The growing consensus is that the Nicaraguan is feeling the strain following his ascent through the weight classes and that the four wins he requires to surpass Mayweather’s mark will be anything but easy work. Cuadras has already proven his worth, Estrada is desperate for another crack and all the while Japanese sensation Naoye Inoue hovers menacingly on the horizon.
The stakes are getting higher for both Golovkin and Gonzalez. Before long we’ll know definitively whether they’ll go down as greats of this era, or as greats of all eras.