On February 21st of this year WBA/IBO middleweight title holder Gennady Golovkin 32-0 (29) stopped former title holder Martin Murray 29-2-1 (12) in the 11th round. Prior to fighting Golovkin, Murray had never been off his feet or stopped. Over the course of the 11 rounds they fought, Golovkin managed to accomplish both against Murray. Twenty one days later WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight title holder Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) stopped former title holder Jean Pascal 29-3-1 (17) in the eighth round. And like Murray before fighting Golovkin, Pascal was never knocked down or stopped before touching gloves with Kovalev. After tangling with Sergey for almost eight full rounds, Pascal can no longer say he’s never been down or stopped as a professional fighter.
It’s been a reoccurring theme in the media that after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight this coming May 2nd, boxing will again go back to being in the doldrums unless they fight a rematch. And to that I say: have the media been paying attention?
Actually, the faux super fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao has been overshadowing boxing and some of its emerging stars that have recently arrived or are on their way to arriving. MayPac has sucked so much air out of boxing’s atmosphere that some outstanding on their way to possibly be great fighters have gone virtually unnoticed or mentioned.
Yes, super middleweight Andre Ward 27-0 (14) and super bantamweight title holder Guillermo Rigondeaux 15-0 (10) are outstanding and two of the top p4p fighters in boxing today. But Ward hasn’t fought since November of 2013 and Rigondeaux is 34 and perhaps older. Ward is maybe in the cat-bird seat and could end up fighting both Golovkin and Kovalev down the road. However, Andre has been a pro for over a decade and isn’t new on the national/world scene.
When it comes to the fighters representing boxing’s future, is there a more complete destroyer than 27 year old WBC flyweight title holder Roman Gonzalez (42-0 (36))? Want to see a fighter who can blend both boxing and punching, then check him out when he next fights this coming May 16th.
How about 29 year old WBA featherweight title holder Nicholas Walters 25-0 (21)? He looked utterly dominant and powerful in stopping Philippine terror Nonito Donaire in his last fight.
WBO super featherweight title holder Mikey Garcia 34-0 (28) is a deliberate in his attack, a boxer-puncher who at age 28 is improving every time he fights.
And 27 year old WBO lightweight title holder Terence Crawford 25-0 (17) is probably the best natural boxer in the sport. And he’ll be tested a bit in his upcoming bout against Thomas Dulorme 22-1 (14) next month.
Yes, there are plenty of fighters under 30 years old who are on my radar whenever they fight. And the fighters mentioned above are tremendously skilled and seem ready and willing to fight the best their division has to offer. Which is all that hardcore boxing fans can ask of them. However, the outstanding fighters above have not captured the public’s interest or imagination to the degree that Golovkin and Kovalev have, and the interest in watching them fight is escalating with every bout.
I’m not sure most fans and writers fully grasp how lucky they are to be experiencing the Golovkin/Kovalev wave… In the last quarter century there have only been two great middleweight champs, Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. And the same applies to the light heavyweight division. You have to go back to Michael Spinks and Roy Jones to have last seen true greatness at 175. Yet, we’ve seen a plethora of outstanding/great featherweights and lightweights since 1980. More than this space allows to name.
It is way too premature to proclaim either Golovkin or Kovalev as being great fighters. Special, yes, but not great, at least not yet.
Regardless of how much fans say they appreciate watching technicians/boxers like Floyd Mayweather, the fact is fans only count down the days to see legitimate punchers. Muhammad Ali to this day is probably the only natural superstar in boxing history that wasn’t perceived as a catch n’ kill style fighter. Yes, Mayweather is a draw today, but he was barely a blip on the radar for the first 11 years of his career. It wasn’t until Floyd fought Oscar De La Hoya and became a heel in the WWE style that quasi boxing fans even knew who he was. By the time Ali was in his 11th year as a pro (1971) he was the most recognized face on the planet.
Gennady Golovkin is rampaging through the glamor division in boxing, middleweight. Through 32 pro bouts he’s shown that he has a first rate chin and two handed power. Neither of those two assets can be learned or manufactured in the gym, through a needle or in a weight room. Golovkin is a swarmer and is adept at cutting the ring off and he appears to be physically strong. Add to that his confidence and willingness to test himself against the best fighters available, how can he not be must see? Fans know that when they watch Golovkin, they’re going to see a fight regardless of how long it lasts. And that’s because he’s a nightmare to try and hold off and box, and if you stand your ground and fight him, he’s more than happy to oblige. In summation, it’s his style and power that virtually guarantee that his fights will be exciting and end in a dramatic fashion. The only down-side to his dominance is the fact that the middleweight division is very pedestrian and devoid of challengers, including lineal champ Miguel Cotto, who are capable of testing him.
Sergey Kovalev owns three of the four relevant light heavyweight title belts. In his last two bouts he took apart two (Bernard Hopkins & Jean Pascal) of the three best and well-known fighters in the division. Hopkins is a master technician and is about as unbreakable mentally as any fighter in boxing. Yet, Sergey ran away with the fight, winning no less than 10/11 of the 12 rounds it went. By the sixth round Hopkins was reduced to looking for a lottery punch to save the fight. As for Pascal, who is an unorthodox herky-jerky puncher, Kovalev beat him at every turn. In fact Pascal forced Kovalev, because of his changing styles during the fight, to adapt and switch styles as well. Kovalev showed against Pascal that he is dangerous fighting at long range or in close. And if you try to rattle him with movement and unconventional combinations, he’ll just jab you to the stomach or chest and knock you out of range and render you out of position to attack him.
Golovkin and Kovalev are physically big and fight like big guys. Their power and eagerness to land it makes them fan friendly. Fans love to watch power punchers and prefer watching boxers who can end fights with one or two punches. Their style of fighting as the predator and forcing their opponents to have to fight as the prey has fans anticipating their next fight in a big way. Their last bouts on HBO drew tremendous numbers. The combination of them both being legitimate tough guys, who don’t brag about their abilities like an Adrien Broner, has fans rooting for them to win when they fight instead of the reverse. And it’s much more fun watching fighters who you’re rooting for than against.
Because of how formidable and dangerous he is, it looks as if Golovkin will own the pedestrian middleweight division for the foreseeable future. And you can count on fans tuning in to watch him every time he fights hoping to see another stoppage win over an opponent who entered the ring with a plan but was unable to execute it. Kovalev is fighting on a tougher block. There are more future opponents living on it who can test him. The biggest threat is WBC title holder Adonis Stevenson (25-1 (21)). The problem is, for reasons only known to Stevenson, Sergey can’t get him into the ring. But eventually they’ll fight. But until then, Kovalev will be an overwhelming favorite every time he fights.
Boxing may be on the upswing with fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Nichols Walters, Mikey Garcia and Terence Crawford emerging as must see. But it is Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev who really have fans on the edge of their seats anticipating their next fight. And that’s mainly because they can punch and always come to fight, and they’re willing to meet the baddest and most dangerous fighters in their division.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com