His physicality really puts a lot of mental and physical pressure on his opponents. That, more than anything else, describes the uphill task that the top middleweights in the world are confronted with when they touch gloves with the “alpha” fighter in the division, WBA/IBO title holder Gennady Golovkin 31-0 (28).
This Saturday night, Golovkin will defend his title straps against Martin Murray 29-1-1 (12). Murray has never been down or stopped in 31 professional bouts. Murray has no discernible style, though he’s very tough minded, physically strong..but he’s not much of a puncher. He also tends to push his punches, and those are the type of shots that Golovkin usually walks through. Actually, Murray couldn’t be more wrong for Gennady stylistically.
Murray has reiterated during the past few weeks that he’s been studying Golovkin and he and his brain-trust have devised a plan which will lead to him being successful and ultimately beating Golovkin. The plan probably calls for him staying off the ropes and using the ring, while trying to clinch when Golovkin gets inside or close. All fighters need to believe in themselves if they are to have a chance to beat the best of the best. The problem is, they need the physical tools necessary to execute their strategy, and if they don’t possess them, the odds are overwhelmingly against them winning.
Everyone knows by now that Golovkin is going to carry the fight, regardless of who the opponent is in front of him. Gennady’s steady aggression and pressure force his opponents to address his strength and punching power above all else. He wants to crash them with big shots to the head and body with both hands, assuming that they’ll be hurt and a sitting duck for him to finish off with clean shots because they’re already too hurt to evade or escape.
So what are the choices if you’re facing him? Well, with him bearing down on you, which is very draining psychologically, one’s first instinct is to cut loose and let your hands go, looking to impede and disrupt him just enough so you can get to another spot where it’s a little safer – before he gets there. The problem with that is, if you’re rushing your shots just to stymie him, then you can’t really nail him that hard.
Once he senses that there really isn’t that much danger in him pushing the fight and not much of a price to pay for coming in, he’ll begin to come in harder. It’s easy when you’re an attacker like Golovkin to feed off of your opponents’ unwillingness to engage with you and grow even more confident with each passing round.
Once Golovkin has his opponent on the run and looking to survive more so than to fight him and/or hurt him, they’ve lost 90% of the battle. The goal for them switches to surviving the round, which in turn kills their chances to win any of the remaining rounds on the judges’ scorecards. Then they’ll be told in the corner, “you’ve gotta make a stand because he’s winning all the rounds.” And that’s when most fighters figure okay, I have to take some chances, maybe I can catch him with something he doesn’t see and isn’t ready for. Only Golovkin is not just a good puncher, he’s also physically strong. In 350 amateur fights and 31 pro fights, he’s never been down. So engaging with him is what he’s wanted you to do the entire fight. And the fact that he forces his opponents to do it out of desperation is huge, because he knows they’re really doing it to save face and are expecting to get knocked out or stopped.
To beat Golovkin it’ll take a fighter who either has an overload of physical strength and toughness, who can stand their ground with him and make him pay for coming after them, because he’s not afraid to get hit, and perhaps back him up. Or, it’ll take a fighter who is supremely athletic/fast and tough who is physically strong and owns a great pair of legs and a dependable chin.
Physicality is everything with Golovkin and that’s really the only thing he’s vulnerable against, but it can’t be manufactured physicality. To out-box him it’ll take a fighter who may not be a knockout artist himself, but is very strong, like a James Toney, and can put good combinations together, yet has a chin that won’t betray them during the fire because he’s going to get hit even when he picks his spots.
Golovkin usually jabs his way in while cutting off the ring. He doesn’t attack in spurts like Mike Tyson did; rather he applies steady pressure that intensifies as the fight progresses a la Joe Frazier. And when he has you on the run like Frazier used to force his opponents to do, the ending is inevitable. Golovkin has yet to face a fighter who has a weapon in their arsenal that he must address, such as great speed (Roy Jones) or off the chart physical strength with applicable power (Carlos Monzon). If his opponent cannot make him pay for trying to get inside, or out-score him and then get out of harm’s way before he can get going, how do they win?
There’s no active middleweights who can force him back and sidetrack what he wants to do, nor is there one in the top-10 who can successfully fight him on the move without running. So he either wins every round after the first, along with the decision, or he knocks you cold for standing your ground. And that’s the problem Martin Murray is going to be confronted with this coming Saturday night.
Murray is a very solid fighter. He is durable and strong, but he’s not a big enough puncher to make Golovkin think for one second on the way in, “I better be careful so I don’t walk into anything that could put me in peril.” And without having the capacity to plant that seed of slight doubt in Golovkin’s mind, he’ll really be fighting an uphill battle.
I see Murray coming out and trying to send a message that I don’t fear you and I also have two hands that I’m not afraid to let go. Only he’ll find that Gennady is pretty effective from mid-range and not so easy to hit. Before he’s awed by Golovkin’s power, he’ll first sense that Gennady is no walk-in slugger who will take three or four to give one. And he’ll find throwing big stuff at him and missing, comes with a price to pay and it’ll hurt. Then he’ll become more judicious with his punch out-put. In other words with less incoming fire, it’ll be easier and safer for Gennady to step up the pressure and start releasing his power Murray’s way. Which in turn will provide Murray two choices, stand your ground and fight, or try to buy time and find a safer place in the ring to figure something out.
My suspicion, because Murray is tough and willing, is that he’ll attempt to stand his ground first. He’ll have some success in catching Golovkin, but he’ll also find that punching to occupy him isn’t doing the trick nor slowing him down. And by trying to fight Golovkin, he’s making it too easy for Gennady, and there are no dividends being paid back for the damage it’s doing in return. Once this happens he’ll try to use his legs and box/pot-shot him, with the intent of hoping to catch Golovkin with something big on the way in and hurting him. But that won’t work. The physical and mental pressure will build and eventually overwhelm Murray and he’ll start getting hit too hard and clean. Which will result in the fight being stopped, and Golovkin will move on to who’s next sporting a 32-0 (29) record.
The bottom line is, there isn’t a middleweight, junior middleweight or welterweight in the world that has the physicality needed to execute the fight plan they believe they have to in order to beat Golovkin. And there may only be one super-middleweight who has the strength, skill-set, boxing IQ, character and toughness to fight his fight against him and be successful, and that’s Andre Ward. He was blessed at birth with the needed tools to perhaps be Golovkin’s stumbling block.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com