Gennady Golovkin may be human after all. The Kazakh knockout merchant saw his brutal streak of 26 straight finishes brought to an end by Daniel Jacobs on Saturday, but the 34-year-old crucially retained his status as the world’s best middleweight with a measured and mindful performance.
‘Triple G’ and his trio of 160lbs belts remain in his possession as he earned a unanimous decision victory in New York after being taken the full quota of 12 rounds for the first time in his career.
Ultimately, he was indebted to a fourth-round knockdown as Jacobs’ fluid footwork and rapid combinations nullified his near-mythical power.
But Golovkin’s display should be regarded as part of an evolutionary process rather than an indication age is degenerating a man who turns 35 next month.
Indeed, it seems the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champ has fallen victim to his own savage success. In the ruthless court of opinion, many labelled his performance as lacklustre and laboured but in reality he delivered against an opponent more athletically gifted, with a boxing brain and bigger physically – much bigger than anticipated after Jacobs missed the IBF-required Saturday morning weigh-in which would have restricted him to be no more than 10lbs heavier than his official weight.
Yes, Golovkin appeared mortal but Jacobs’ size advantage, with estimates he weighed north of the light-heavyweight limit of 170lbs on the night, played a significant role in holstering his devastating weapons. After being out-boxed for portions of the Kell Brook battering and now being taken the distance by
Jacobs, Golovkin’s critics are asking the inevitable question of whether the signs of aging are beginning to emerge. But the fact is it’s an ascension of quality opponents rather than his own personal decline.
Jacobs is the No2 middleweight on the planet. He proved as much with his crafty but dangerous switch to Southpaw which neutralised Golovkin’s jab and opened counters for his right hand.
His hand speed, lateral movement and perpetual upper body motions were all hallmarks of an elite fighter. The expectation of such a one-sided clash was in hindsight, well, farcical and it seems only Golovkin rightly respected the power of a fighter who had flattened his last 12 opponents and owned the height, weight and reach advantage.
The fact Jacobs performed so much better than some anticipated meant some viewed the decision objectively and thought he won. But make no mistake Golovkin more than matched a fighter of his calibre, flooring Jacobs with a pair stinging rights in the fourth session and having the edge overall in punches landed and accuracy, according to Compubox figures.
Still, the apparent evaporation of his veil of invincibility will offer encouragement for the likes of WBO title holder Billy Joe Saunders and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. And both are fights on Golovkin’s radar.
“Of course I am ready to fight Canelo. Of course I want that fight. I am like an animal for that fight,” Golovkin said post-fight before adding: “My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division. Of course, Billy Joe Saunders is the last step for my dream.”
Golovkin also refused to rule out a rematch with Jacobs, although the American potentially stimulated the prospect of Saunders and Canelo stepping up to take on the Kazakh.
“[The power] wasn’t what everybody made it out to be,” Jacobs said. “He’s not this boogeyman, this knockout artist. Even when I got dropped… I didn’t get hurt like I thought, like if he landed one of those shots, it would be over. It wasn’t like that.”
The fight wasn’t like many expected either but Golovkin is still a monster and his rivals should be fearful of what comes next because he’s finding different ways to win and now it’s against some of the best in the world.
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It’s a fight no one asked for but one we’re likely going to get anyway. The prospect of Conor McGregor meeting Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring is gathering momentum and perhaps now is the time to address the reality of the situation.
It’s becoming unavoidable at this point. Mayweather seems eager to sign, the UFC has shown a willingness to step aside and McGregor appears ready to accept terms as well.
On Friday, the social media maelstrom surrounding ‘May/Mac’ picked up revolutions as the Irishman stepped inside a boxing ring to accompany countryman Michael Conlan into the squared circle for his pro debut before proclaiming: “We’re getting close.”
The smoke and mirrors which accompany any big fight means separating the fact from fiction is a difficult task. But the stumbling blocks are starting to erode and what’s left now is the build-up to what is an absurd match-up.
The debate surrounding the potential showdown has lurched from whether it will happen, to how it could happen to what will happen.
But the result is already predetermined because of the rule set.
It’s a mismatch. McGregor can boast about being longer, stronger and taller than Mayweather but in boxing against one of its greatest proponents, size just does not matter. The fight itself is a circus because ultimately it means nothing, contextually or otherwise. It’s just a moneymaker to satisfy our deeply curious nature.
But what does it say about the positioning of the fight game in general that it demands something like this should take place?
We all know it shouldn’t but in the fight game, especially in boxing which has experienced diminishing interest in recent years, anything which captures the public’s imagination becomes the central selling point. Ultimately, combat sports deal in entertainment and by constructing this fight the idea of sport is completely supplanted.
When big money is involved – and the talk is that it could potentially be the first fight to generate $1billion – and the interest is there, fights will be made.
The exponential gate receipts and incomprehensible pay-per view revenue are the only reasons Mayweather Promotions, McGregor Promotions and the UFC are at the table. Sadly, competition matters little. The Irishman has a nonexistent record in professional boxing and you can’t shake the feeling that it is a mistake which will only be realised in hindsight.
The striking fundamentals between the cage and the ring are vastly different. Precision and power has been the foundation of McGregor’s march to two-weight UFC history but the skill of a professional boxer is unparalleled.
Mayweather’s footwork, timing, speed and ring IQ has been peerless within that. McGregor has dominated because of his knockout potential but the gloves are twice as big in boxing and while Mayweather wasn’t hallmarked by his power, he will be able to land clean and often.
The attraction for Mayweather is obvious. He’s a businessman and the combination of an enormous pay day which will allow him to reach 50-0 with minimal risk is hard to ignore. But that’s not the case for the UFC and McGregor.
A horror show will further mark a reputation damaged by the loss to Nate Diaz and the knock on effect for the promotion is far more severe given their desperation for mainstream appeal.
May/Mac may soon be a reality but perhaps it should stay in the world of fantasy.
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.