This past Saturday night middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin 36-0 (33) stopped welterweight title holder Kell Brook 36-1 (25) in the fifth round when Brook’s corner threw in the towel. At the time of the stoppage Brook, though not on the verge of being knocked out – was starting to be overwhelmed by Golovkin. Gennady had him where he wanted and was unloading without the worriment of anything Brook was attempting to send back his way. And in the hours that have passed since the fight, I’ve heard some say that Golovkin showed some weaknesses and vulnerabilities that should make Canelo Alvarez more willing to fight him. And to that I say “are you nuts?” If anything Alvarez has more reason to delay the fight than he did this time last week.
Everybody wants to knock Brook for fighting the wrong fight, but what they fail to grasp is that when a wrecking machine is coming at you, it’s not possible to be deliberate and measured. Brook, who showed up to fight and win, had no choice by the time the bout ended because he was being swallowed and engulfed by Golovkin’s aggression and power.
It’s a lot different stopping and planting your shots and then getting out compared to the situation Brook was in. Kell was under duress and was forced to rush his shots because he was trying to occupy Golovkin in order to stabilize the fight. And when you’re forced to rush your punches, there isn’t a single fighter alive who can get much on them because it’s physically impossible. The intent is to give the fighter under assault enough time to try and figure something out that may work. Granted, like a majority of attackers, Golovkin is ineffective if you can make him go back. The problem is making him back up and at what cost? He’s reachable with uppercuts, but throwing them leaves you vulnerable to his big left hook.
Early on Brook did land some good counters but he couldn’t disrupt Gennady’s rhythm. And the reason for that, as we found out during the bout, is that Gennady Golovkin is a thinking fighter who completely understands his limitations. Golovkin is a terrific blend of physicality and processes strengths, weaknesses and a counter tactical attack quick and accurately. And the fact that Brook was really there to win aided GGG and hastened the tactical decisions he made.
If you doubt that, consider the following: Instead of lying to himself and thinking Brook was getting lucky, GGG almost instantly figured out that Brook’s hands were much faster than his and he wasn’t making him miss with many leads or follow ups. The translation….Brook can easily out-box him if he has the time, space and leisure to do so and that must be eliminated. During the process of getting peppered more than he had in any other fight of his pro career, Golovkin realized after a round or two that Brook was too small and didn’t hit hard enough to hurt him and that it made more sense to allow himself to get hit and turn the fight into what he called “a bar fight.”
This was somewhat reminiscent of the decision that Marvin Hagler made when he fought Thomas Hearns, with the difference being that Hagler had a better understanding going in that if he afforded Hearns the luxury of stopping and planting, Thomas may have shut out the lights and therefore it was better to force Hearns to rush his shots so he couldn’t get everything on them. In some ways that’s not a conventional boxing IQ, but the adjustment and acceptance to get hit was a tactic that had to be adopted by GGG so that he could impose himself physically on Brook.
Many inferred that Golovkin’s defense is porous because he got hit so much, but that’s a fallacy. Gennady wasn’t thinking about looking good; he was most concerned with doing what it would take to end the fight. Yes, as Bernard Hopkins said during the broadcast, Golovkin was arm punching during some exchanges. That’s true, and as the fight progressed, like Brook, GGG also rushed some of his shots and didn’t get everything on them, yet he still broke Brook’s eye socket. And that’s because he is a natural two handed puncher and as I suggested before the bout – he’s capable of breaking almost anything he hits.
The thing that’s scary for you if you’re a future challenger of Gennady Golovkin at 160 pounds or less is that he has shown that he can decipher the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent and knows his own. He’s already starting out ahead of everybody else because of his physicality, and he implicitly believes that he can hurt you and that you can’t really do a lot to him to get him off his game. Sure, he lacks some head movement and a sharp shooter will no doubt have success finding his chin and nailing him. However, as we saw against Brook, he quickly assesses the situation and adjusts and forces the fighter in front of him to fight almost minute to minute while looking for an answer, and the strain of boxing/fighting like that takes so much out of a fighter in that predicament.
Kell Brook was clearly the most skilled and well-rounded opponent Golovkin has faced to date. As is often the case, the lighter fighter moving up is the better boxer and technician. As we’ve seen in many bouts where the smaller fighter challenges the bigger fighter at the higher weight – it’s been the bigger fighter who never quite figures out how to apply his greater strength and power, and ends up befuddled by the fighter moving up via their abundance of quickness and aptitude.
This wasn’t the case in Golovkin-Brook. It was the bigger man who knew there was only one path to victory and that his greater strength and power would be worthless if he didn’t apply it. I say Gennady earned props for that and I don’t demote him because he took more shots than normal and even seemed stymied for a moment midway through the fight. The bottom line is that GGG adjusted. He accepted the trade-off, realizing that in getting his hands on Brook he’d have to get hit a little more than he had in other bouts. That’s what it took for him to win and winning was his intent, not looking pretty and efficient.
Golovkin is a very dangerous middleweight with what looks to be once in a generation power and he has a higher boxing IQ than I initially gave him credit for. He may not be the hardest puncher out there but he’s certainly the most damaging. The cookbook strategists will be espousing strategies and game plans on how to beat him over the next few weeks, and some of them may even make a cogent case. That said, it’ll take more than a fight plan and supreme boxing skills to carry it out. It will require a fighter with physical skill, a great thinking mind who has the strength to impede Golovkin’s aggression and who at the same time isn’t worn to a frazzle trying to hold him off. Yeah, it’ll take the opponent fighting the right fight, but he better be mentally and physically equipped to follow it through. Among fighters currently campaigning between 154 and 160, no such fighter exists – at least not that I’ve seen.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Golovkin Shows More Than Supreme Power / Check out more boxingnews andvideos a The Boxing Channel.