The Ring magazine rates him as the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. This is something I find much fault with, especially after his last two bouts, one that he barely won and the other declared a split draw, although in fairness it should’ve gone down as a win. But the fact remains, Gennady Golovkin 37-0-1 (33) didn’t look like the killer he was thought to be during his fight with Daniel Jacobs last March. And in his last bout against Canelo Alvarez he certainly didn’t look like a terror or the top pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, particularly during the last two rounds. The controversial decision led to a rematch for May 5th which was called off when Alvarez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Now instead of meeting Canelo on that date he’ll meet replacement Vanes Martirosyan who is 4-3-1 in his last eight fights after starting 32-0 and has never fought above 158 pounds. Golovkin, who has been a mainstay at 160, will be attempting to tie Bernard Hopkins’ division record of 20 consecutive title defenses.
What’s been lost since the close call with Jacobs is that prior to meeting him Golovkin had won 23 in a row by knockout.
To say Golovkin needs to beat Martirosyan by stoppage to reconstruct his image as the alpha fighter once again in the middleweight division is an understatement. And he just may get that opportunity due to Martirosyan’s fighting tendencies and style and the fact that although he’s never been stopped, he has been down three times. In the three biggest bouts of his career – against Demetrius Andrade, Jermell Charlo and his second bout with Erislandy Lara — Martirosyan fought as the aggressor, moving forward as he was attempting to initiate the action. Ironically they’re the only times he lost.
“I’m gonna be fighting,” Martirosyan said. “I feel like everybody that fights him fights him scared. They don’t go all out because they’re scared of the power. I’m gonna come to fight. I’m not afraid to get hit. If I do get hit by a truck, I’ll give him his credit. But he better give me my credit when I hit him back.”
If Martirosyan is true to his words, that plays directly into what GGG would relish. In boxing, fights often are determined at the onset when the fighters are finally in each other’s presence….that’s when the terms are set and one of them assumes he’s going to push the action and the other is going to react to it. Then there are fighters like GGG who push the action because that’s the only way they can be effective. If you can back GGG up, your chances of beating him are much better. Think of a fighter like Joe Frazier. The book on him, as everyone knew, was to back him up, but only George Foreman had the guns big enough to actually do it.
Martirosyan says he’s going to take the fight to Golovkin. And if he can force GGG to back up some, he’ll have a real chance to win. But saying it and doing it are worlds apart and Martirosyan hasn’t won by stoppage since June of 2013. And that was against journeyman Ryan Davis who had been stopped four times prior to meeting him.
Granted, Gennady having just turned 36 and looking at his last bout against Canelo, it’s evident he’s on the decline, however slight. He tired during the final two rounds against Canelo and took a lot of clean shots from him during the course of the fight…..but he still carries big power in both hands and his chin is still a great last line of defense. Conversely, Martirosyan isn’t much of a puncher unless his feet are planted which is an unlikely to happen against the physically stronger Golovkin. And if GGG isn’t bothered by anything in his arsenal, Martirosyan will be moving away and back, thus lessening his ability to get everything on his shots. Once the fight has evolved to that scenario, Martirosyan will be looking to rush his offense to buy time while searching for an answer, or clinching and holding, ultimately closing the window on any chance he has to score the upset.
The only thing Martirosyan has going for him is the chance Golovkin will be off. Fighting a replacement opponent, the juices may not flow inside him as they would if Canelo was in the opposite corner. That’s one possibility. Another is that GGG will look to take out his frustration, feeling cheated out of the Canelo bout last year and then being led to the altar for the rematch, only to have it fall out so close to the date of the fight. Couple that with whispers being heard that GGG didn’t shine against his last two opponents, scoring only one knockdown in the two fights combined, and you could then make the case that Gennady will be motivated to make a statement, a statement that would send a message to the fighters representing his future obstacles — Billy Joe Saunders, Jermall Charlo, Canelo and Danny Jacobs—that writing him off would be premature.
Vanes Martirosyan is a likable guy and if he’s true to his word he may provide fans a little excitement as long as the fight lasts. But having not fought in two years and this being his maiden voyage at 160, there’s nothing to build a case on, at least nothing that would stand, to indicate he has one discernible tool that Golovkin won’t be able to neutralize and then overcome. This isn’t to suggest GGG is a versatile technician, because he’s not. His strength is his abundance of physicality and power and being one of the few big punchers in boxing who is capable of delivering it every time out.
To beat GGG, you need a weapon or tool that remotely concerns him. If you’re not physical enough to give him the slightest bit of trepidation, or a great mover capable of fighting laterally while moving away looking for space to keep him at a distance, the ring will get smaller and smaller as the fight progresses. Soon after that, you’re punching from desperation and not even trying to hurt him, and once he senses that, he will throw harder as he walks you down. As he’s coming at you, he feeds off the fact that you’re handcuffed and proceeds to beat you down….and that’s what I see unfolding against Martirosyan.
Golovkin needs an impressive showing and a stoppage to get back the momentum that was lost when the decision was announced in his last fight. In Vanes Martirosyan, all things point to him facing the ideal opponent to make this happen.
Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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