Nobody brings out enthusiastic fans in professional boxing like a certified puncher, such as the likes of IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight title holder Gennady Golovkin 34-0 (31).
There's something about a puncher looking unbeatable on certain nights that it's impossible to fathom them ever losing, at least in the eyes of some.
We saw it with Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Thomas Hearns on the way up to their title-winning efforts. Then a particular fighter came along, named Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali, Buster Douglas or Sugar Ray Leonard and suddenly they didn't look so scary and unbeatable.
Of course the three fighters who gave them their first professional loss had something in common — that being they could all fight and didn't fold physically or mentally the first time the boogey man touched them. If you go back and review boxing history, it's replete with catch ‘n' kill KO artists who have massacred every fighter in their path…..until that one day they touched hands with a fighter who stood up to their power and even punched 'em back pretty good.
As of this writing Gennady Golovkin is the new unbeatable wrecking machine in boxing, despite having not faced one truly elite fighter in 34 bouts. Many fans and writers have already begun to compare him favorably to some of the all-time middleweight greats such as Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. This of course doesn't sit well with me, even though I believe Golovkin has the potential, yes, potential to become a once in a generation fighter. However, it's way too early for such accolades in light of the fact that he hasn't shared the ring with one fighter who I'd consider outstanding, let alone being a near great.
On the way up many observers and fans were proclaiming Mike Tyson would surpass Muhammad Ali as the greatest heavyweight in history, which didn’t turn out to be the case. Remember when it was often stated how Tyson combined hand speed, accuracy and power better than any other heavyweight in history? His defense and being hard to hit was always a staple and after some bouts his jab was highlighted as being a superior weapon too. In hindsight that praise was heaped upon Mike way too soon. Looking back, some of us tried to warn that Mike looked extra great because he hadn't really fought many outstanding fighters and a lot of his opponents were fighters Larry Holmes beat four or five years earlier.
Well, the same has begun to happen with Gennady Golovkin. Recently, a few colleagues and friends of mine whose boxing acumen I have the utmost respect for sent the below e-mails to me. Here’s a sample:
Dear Frank: “In your opinion, is GGG the best middleweight puncher of all time? I checked his record. 22 KOs in a row, and in almost all cases he stopped his opponent faster than the field did. What else can you say?
Do you think he would likely defeat Hearns, Hagler, Leonard, and Duran of the 1980's?
I'm thinking he will end up a top 5 ATG at middleweight and I don't care if he doesn't feast on Hall of Fame blown up welters.
Lotierzo reply: I'm all in on Golovkin. But it's too early to rank him for me. I think he is probably too big for Leonard, Hearns and Duran. I couldn't pick him over Hagler or Hopkins right now….but I'm open to revisiting that down the road.
Actually, I'm more impressed with Kovalev than Golovkin, but Gennady is getting all the hype, in spite of the fact that Sergey has defeated two fighters, Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, impressively, both of whom are three times better than anyone GGG has faced.
Another e-mailed I received:
Dear Frank: “Golovkin reminds me of a middleweight Tyson. Only I think he's tougher and more durable. I've seen enough….on their best night I think he beats Hagler and Hopkins.”
Lotierzo reply: It's too early to step out and proclaim he could've beat Hagler or Hopkins. Based on what? What do you think Hagler/Hopkins would've done to David Lemieux the night he fought GGG?
As stated above, punchers are the ones who bring out the most passionate fans and observers. However, punchers are always overrated before they lose for the first time. Like Tyson did to many of his opponents before he lost, a lot of Golovkin's challengers are intimidated and already defeated before the first round. Mike fed off of that and became even more confident, and I believe the same applies to Gennady. Fighting is so much more mental than most who have never done it can fathom. The fighters who are told how great they are become more unbeatable mentally and those who face them during that period enter the bout with diminished confidence, and once they get hit they succumb easier because they imagine the impact, in some cases, to an even greater degree than it actually was.
In a way it was easier seeing Tyson breezing through the heavyweight division than it is envisioning Golovkin escaping the middleweight division unscathed. There are many more big hitters fighting at heavyweight than there are at middleweight. So that bodes well for Golovkin down the road. On the downside, the overall grade of fighter in the middleweight division is exponentially better than it is in the heavyweight division, so in that regard, Gennady may face more outstanding fighters than Tyson did.
In addition to that, there are a multitude of differences between Tyson and Golovkin when it comes to their amateur background and mental makeup. GGG, I think, has the discipline that Tyson could only dream off. If I were to bet, I get the strong sense that Golovkin's mental makeup and constitution is centered on a better foundation than Mike's was. In addition, I think GGG has a better chin in a pound for pound sense in comparison to Tyson, and that's not insinuating that Tyson couldn't take a big time shot because he could.
Then again I don't know that and cannot say for sure regarding GGG because I've never seen him under duress or cracked real good by an authentically great puncher. Tyson also had marketing connections that GGG could only dream of. Mike was a bully type of front-runner with some self-destructive tendencies out of the ring and some lack of focus in it. The few who could stand up and test Tyson's intangibles found him lacking in this department. On the other hand, maybe Gennady will prove to be so great and physically dominant that he'll never be tested in that vein…but that's not realistic, I don’t think.
The bottom line is – can we please see a little more of Golovkin against some elite fighters before the comparisons to past middleweight greats start?
I will leave you with this: During the years 1983-85, I thought undisputed welterweight champion Donald Curry was one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters I ever saw. After he knocked out Milton McCrory in the second round in December of 1985, I questioned whether or not a prime Sugar Ray Leonard could've beat Curry if both were in their prime. Then he fought Lloyd Honeyghan in September of 1986 and I never questioned that again.
Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com