It's something that I've said repeatedly for years and some have even been insulted by it… but I couldn't care less.
My belief is this: I don't care if it's boxing, grappling, kick boxing or any style martial art; one-on-one combat fighting is the hardest sport in the world to master and become a world champion!
Team sports aren't close and individual sports like golf and tennis, as tough as they are, don't measure up in degree of difficulty compared to fighting. No two people are built alike and all bring different skill sets and strengths; that, and they don't use clubs or rackets in order to execute during competition, they only have their physical body and its limitations.
In addition to different body builds and styles, physicality is monumental in all combat sports. This we saw in abundance during this past weekend’s middleweight unification bout between Gennady Golovkin 34-0 (31) and former IBF title holder David Lemieux 34-3 (31). What transpired during the bout was total domination by Golovkin, who dropped Lemieux in the fifth round with a body shot and worked him over to the head and body during the subsequent rounds leading the referee to stop the bout in the eighth round.
The talk in most boxing circles this week is centered on what a great boxer Golovkin is and how he is better defensively than first thought. Yes, those suggestions are plausible but it all starts with his punching power, strength and durability. Some fighters are too strong to box and at some point, in order to have a chance to beat them, you have to actually fight them straight up. And also live to tell about it.
It was said during the broadcast that it appeared as if David Lemieux had no fight plan or strategy, to which I say is impossible. Lemieux had a strategy and plan, the problem turned out to be once he felt Golovkin's presence in front of him, he found that GGG was too strong for him to make him do anything that he needed him to do. This made Lemieux tentative and somewhat glove-shy as he was trying to find and answer to thwart Golovkin's heavy left jab and follow up hooks, uppercuts and crosses. Further complicating the problem was due to his trepidation in getting off, he was reaching with his jab and that made it easier for Golovkin to walk him down with his jab. And the fact that Lemieux isn't used to and doesn't really know how to fight in retreat, it compromised his defense and he became more open and reachable for GGG.
It also was obvious that in spite of nailing Golovkin with a few big hooks and right hands, Lemieux couldn't get his attention enough to slow him down a bit other than momentarily….and fighters like Gennady feed off of that and grow stronger.
Today many are focusing on Golovkin's jab and defense. Yes, his jab is very heavy and fairly accurate. However, I believe Lemieux's porous defense and being forced to fight while moving back or coming in open aided in why GGG looked so sharp. David, once he felt the bout was slipping away, became sloppy in his aggression and really wide open, something Gennady took full advantage of. And pertaining to Golovkin's defense, I think he had the perfect foe in front of him who winged a lot of punches and almost telegraphed them.
At the end of the day both guys were used to their physicality and strength carrying the night for them. Only in this instance the fighter with the bigger guns also owned the better delivery system and radar. But don't lose sight of the fact that Golovkin's overwhelming physicality dictated everything that happened in the ring which drove the result. Golovkin's beautiful boxing came out because he was facing an opponent who was driven by nothing else but his power and determination, but who was ultimately forced to try and box. Once GGG's power and presence trumped Lemieux's, David had nothing else to fall back on and we saw the result when he was met by a more powerful opponent who was a better technician.
The next time Golovkin fights, it'll probably be against Saul Alvarez or Miguel Cotto. When the fight is finalized ask yourself this…..can either Alvarez or Cotto hold Gennady off by out-boxing him? Furthermore, can they even out-box him for pieces of selected rounds let alone 12 consecutive ones? If your answer to that is no, what's left for them to do? The obvious answer is, if they lack the strength and physicality to out-box him, you better believe that don't have nearly enough strength or physicality to step up and out-fight him. And that's why they won't win.
To beat Golovkin, it'll take an opponent who is sharp and physically tough, strong and durable, perhaps prime versions of Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkins or James Toney. Those would be three interesting fights to see because of Golovkin's abundance of strength. Unfortunately, there are no Haglers, Hopkins or Toneys fighting at 160 around, so the dynamo named Golovkin will most likely be feasting on the elite middleweights in the world for the near future.
Oh, Golovkin does have one vulnerability…and that would be apparent if someone could drain him down to 154 and diminish the overwhelming physicality out of his body that he enjoys at middleweight.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo : Will Hart