The one black mark you can place against the resumé of outstanding world middleweight champion Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin is that, through no fault of his own, he is yet to taste a truly career-defining victory.
Many rank him as boxing’s leading pound-for-pound fighter but that is down to the imperious manner of his 35 victories rather than the quality of the scalps he has collected.
The Kazakh, 34, will tonight look to add another to his unblemished body of work when IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook jumps up two divisions to challenge him at the 02 Arena in London. Brook is the most talented man Triple G has faced so far but the weight issue means few are giving him a prayer. A 23rd consecutive knockout victory for Golovkin will again reinforce the message that he is a special talent at the peak of his powers, but may also just be another baby step towards the kind of lasting legacy he is so desperate to forge.
Triple G’s best win so far was his one-sided eight-round deconstruction of David Lemieux in a unification bout last year, a man who will be a mere footnote in modern middleweight history. Beating Saul Alvarez remains his obvious route to the pinnacle of boxing but the Mexican’s team has no intention of taking that sort of risk any time soon. The 26-year-old surrendered his WBC belt rather than face Golovkin and few believe his promise that the fight will happen next year.
The opposition running scared is nothing new, however, and with fellow middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr both unwilling to sign on the dotted line, it was left to Brook to step up.
Like Triple G, he has found it impossible to secure the big fights he craves. The 30-year-old might just be the best welterweight in the world but he has been unable to prove it. Eye-watering offers have failed to tempt the stellar names, notably his bitter rival Amir Khan, who instead trousered a huge purse to be ruthlessly knocked out by Alvarez in a grim 155-pound mismatch back in May.
For Brook this is a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, as he too takes drastic measures to secure the biggest payday of his career. The physical disparity might not be quite as profound, but the home fighter’s disadvantages against a true middleweight with freakish punching power are glaringly obvious. Brook watched Khan pick up an estimated £7 million (Dh34.2m) jackpot for the Canelo fight, and you couldn’t blame him for feeling a tinge of envy these past two years as his Matchroom stablemate Anthony Joshua’s popularity has skyrocketed, or even as other British world champions like Carl Frampton and Anthony Crolla secured big unification bouts.
A frustrated Brook has deemed it time to cash in. He’s had enough of watching the blockbuster pay-per-views from his sofa. He wants a piece of the action, no matter what it takes, and that attitude has landed him across the ring from the most avoided boxer in the world.
Victory is not impossible, of course, but it will take a performance perhaps not even Brook is aware he is capable of. Logic points clearly to Golovkin walking him down and stopping him in the middle to late rounds.
The Kazakh won 390 of 395 amateur fights prior to his flawless professional run. He has never been down once in all that time. He doesn’t have off nights and the opportunity to wow a booming UK boxing market isn’t lost on him or his management. Triple G may not get the fights he wants, so he knows it is all on him to entertain. He has to bring what he calls his “Mexican style” and his “big drama show.” So far he has never failed to deliver.
For both men it is a marriage of convenience but Brook may find out, as many have before, that if you walk down the aisle for the wrong reasons, it invariably ends in tears.
A meeting of two unbeaten champions in their physical prime and boasting pound-for-pound top-10 credentials should set pulses racing throughout the boxing world.
The problem with Saturday’s London showdown between Kell Brook and Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin, however, is that until now they have operated a full two weight divisions apart.
Brook is the reigning IBF welterweight champion and steps bravely into the unknown against Golovkin, the WBA, IBF and WBC middleweight title holder, with the cynics anticipating a mismatch and another crushing stoppage to add to the Kazakh’s highlight reel of punch-perfect brutality.
That said, Brook’s obvious pedigree has convinced the odds fixers to price him shorter than any of Triple G’s previous 35 opponents – albeit way out at 5-1 to pull off an almighty upset.
The strength of the 30-year-old Brit is that he does everything well. He is a rounded and complete fighter, an extremely accurate puncher with a potent jab, solid power in both hands, deft balance, speed, nimble footwork and a reliable engine.
The issue is that we simply don’t know how effective these fulsome attributes will prove against a beast like Golovkin.
The formidable Gennady Golovkin has arrived in London. This is what Kell Brook is up against. Footage may disturb https://t.co/XsYhwJ2Hn6— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) September 4, 2016
Of course, it’s not unheard of for welterweights to achieve success when moving up, but even modern greats like Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Felix Trinidad took their time, stepping into the light-middleweight realm for at least a fight or two before going in with a full 160-pounder.
What Brook is doing is extremely rare, and he’s not just tackling an average middleweight, he’s facing the very best and a man who has knocked out his previous 22 opponents. Can he live with that sort of firepower?
It’s a massive ask. And given that Triple G has never even been discernibly wobbled by a shot, Brook’s best chance would appear to be in winning a decision. That means 12 rounds of unadulterated perfection.
To be fastidious: four centimetres in both height and reach, while due to rehydration rules they’ll weigh pretty much the same when the first bell rings. Those may seem nominal advantages but the small numbers mask the reality.
Golovkin is naturally that big as opposed to Brook who has added muscle to augment his size, and while the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures present an impressive transformation, the one thing that looks the same is his chin.
Brook’s own power may be hard to gauge given he is debuting at the weight but it’s difficult to fathom him getting near the Kazakh in that department or in sheer physical strength. He mustn’t be deluded by his new bulk and remember he is the smaller, slicker man in there.
Golovkin’s style is a formidable blend of technical brilliance and vicious execution. He will boss the centre of the ring, stalk Brook, look to control the range, everything working off his skull-rattling jab.
As he pushes his foe back he cuts off the ring, rips mercilessly to the body and unleashes destructive hooks and uppercuts with an innate sense of timing.
The absolute key for Brook is to establish his own jab and consistently beat his man to the punch. If he can’t make that a successful punch then he won’t have a platform for any of his other weapons.
His lateral movement will have to be flawless, scoring with his lead before slinking away from trouble, thus keeping Golovkin off balance and preventing him from closing the door and pinning him down.
Brook must be awkward, slippery and elusive. He cannot afford to stand in front of Triple G or take breathers on the ropes where the 34-year-old is at his most predatory. He must box to the gameplan for a full 36 minutes, build points with accurate potshots and avoid sustained exchanges.
He must earn Golovkin’s respect and hold his own in the middle to late rounds when most expect him to unravel.
With his middleweight adversaries running scared, facing Brook is a no-brainer.
Triple G is being guided superbly by his excellent manager, Tom Loeffler, and is seemingly on a mission to put the world back in world champion.
He has boxed in his homeland of Kazakhstan, Germany, Ukraine, Denmark, Monaco, Panama and on both coasts of the United States.
Taking what he calls his “big drama show” to the top of a pay-per-view card in front of the febrile UK boxing audience is another opportunity to significantly enhance his brand.
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