This weekend Gennady Golovkin 29-0 (26) defends his WBO middleweight title against former IBF title holder Daniel Geale 30-2 (16) at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Golovkin is thought of and hyped as being one of the few genuine life-takers fighting today, regarding his punching power. His KO percentage of 26 knockouts in 29 fights resembles the KO percentage of former all-time great Thomas Hearns, who sported a record of 30 knockouts in 32 fights going into his welterweight unification bout with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1981
In boxing there are two types of fighters that are the most rare: legitimate great punchers and great swarmers. During the modern era there have only been four all-time great heavyweights who fought as swarmers/attackers. Today, there are slightly more than a handful of authentically great punchers: Wladimir Klitschko, Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Lucas Matthysse, Nonito Donaire and maybe one or two others. Fans love to watch great punchers fight because they usually make for exciting bouts, win or lose.
Golovkin and Kovalev are starting to carve out reputations as being real life-takers who are capable of ending a fight at any time with one clean shot. Exactly how good they are is still unknown for sure, because in all honesty, they haven't really faced a murderer’s row pertaining to their opposition on their run up to the title in today's very pedestrian middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Who knows, maybe they'll both go on to retire as all-time greats. However, if that turns out to be the case, they'll be the exceptions because history has shown that truly great punchers usually aren't great fighters. In reality, there aren't many Thomas Hearns' and Alexis Arguellos around.
Randall Bailey can punch his rear-end off, if you stand around and wait for him to hit you. David Tua and Bert Cooper were two of the scariest heavyweight bangers to come along since George Foreman's heyday, circa 1973-76. They were really good second-tier fighters and contenders but nowhere near great.
Golovkin will cave your ribs in round after round, and can also bring late round power into the fight, too. But nobody knocks everybody out, then what? Golovkin, who does know how to deliver and set up his power, is nearly an 8 to 1 favorite over Geale this Saturday night. And that's based on one thing only. It's not because he's such a terrifically skilled and versatile fighter, it's because the book on him is he can really punch with both hands to the head and body, and those type fighters are born, and not created or manufactured in the gym or laboratory.
The experts who set the odds are pretty sure that Golovkin's power is going to either hurt or deter Geale enough to the point to where he's fighting to survive and will therefore lose every round. Or, at some point during the fight he'll be concussed or can't continue due to him getting battered to the point where either the referee or his corner will halt the fight. Think about it. If Golovkin didn't have dynamite in both hands, would he be such a heavy favorite over Geale? I don't think so.
Yes, all professional fighters can hit hard, but the ones who steadily knock out top five opposition like Golovkin are few and far between. Punching power is really important in professional boxing and then again it's overrated. Power is important but as history has shown, it doesn't equal fighting ability. What we know about Golovkin is – he can hit with either hand and he seems to be a very confident and determined guy. That combination makes him a dangerous fighter to his opponents. Also, more than most pure punchers, Golovkin seems to be a thinking fighter, who is capable of analyzing what his opponent is doing.
What we don't know is, how well does he take a great shot, how does he handle adversity, how good is his stamina and how will he react when he is confronted by an opponent who can stand up to his punch? Believe me that will happen at some point.. and is he capable of fighting back? Also, no one has been able to do it to this point – what'll happen if and when Golovkin is forced to back up? Then what?
Not all punchers can fight because when their power doesn't carry the day they usually don't have many other weapons or skills to fall back on. Right now the boxing world is watching and trying to figure out exactly what the book is on Golovkin because none of us really know. If he knocks Daniel Geale out in an impressive fashion his notoriety will explode among even quasi boxing fans and we'll be a little closer to knowing just how good, special or great he may one day be.
The fact that Golovkin is a legitimate puncher makes him unique and must see. Hopefully down the road in the not too distant future we'll find out if he really is a special fighter and not just a special puncher. Until then we'll enjoy the journey in finding out, because like great swarmers, legitimately great punchers who can really fight don't come along very often.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com