Reigning middleweight champ Gennady “GGG” Golovkin hadn’t won a title defense inside the distance since September of 2016, a mere 18 months ago. And that was against IBF welterweight champ Kell Brook who was undefeated at the time and was jumping up two weight classes to take him on. Brook lasted five rounds before he was rescued by his corner. Although he never went down, he suffered a broken eye socket and was no longer able to defend himself from the rampaging Golovkin.
GGG’s stoppage of Brook marked the 23rd consecutive fight he’d won by TKO/KO. And then in his next two fights against the two best opponents he’d ever faced, Daniel Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez, Golovkin was forced to go the distance, beating Jacobs by unanimous decision and being held to a split draw versus Canelo. In those 24 rounds, Golovkin scored only one knockdown, coming in the fourth round against Jacobs (the third time he’d been down in his career) who wasn’t terribly hurt nor ever close to being stopped at any point during the bout. The controversy over the decision in the Alvarez bout led to a rematch, but then Canelo tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and GGG was in need of a new opponent. Enter former junior middleweight title challenger Vanes Martirosyan 36-4-2 (21).
At stake would be Golovkin’s WBA and WBC belts and the opportunity to extend his consecutive title defense streak to 20, equaling the record of Bernard Hopkins. Martirosyan hadn’t fought in two years, a unanimous decision loss to Erislandy Lara, and was 3-3 in his last six bouts. He’d also been down three times prior to fighting Golovkin, but had never been stopped. Facing GGG 38-0-1 (34) would be the first time he would fight as a full-fledged middleweight and the odds against him were 30-1 or minus $3000. Most observers didn’t give Martirosyan much of a chance to be around to hear the bell to start the seventh round, and they were right.
Golovkin, fully aware some were debating his power outage, put an end to that speculation quickly. As is his wont, he came out measured. After surveying his opponent for a round in which he was clipped pretty good once, GGG decided to go to work. In the second round, sensing Martirosyan couldn’t hurt him, Golovkin pressed from behind his jab and ended the fight with a brutal combination with his opponent against the ropes, dropping him for the count. In less than five full minutes of combat, GGG began a new KO streak, winning his 18th title bout by stoppage.
Since the ending of the fight, the over-analysis has bordered on paralysis, with things being asked and suggested of GGG that cannot be ascertained based on roughly five minutes of fighting against a game but limited opponent. For some reason, some analysts feel the need to go over every title fight as if it were a Congressional Budget overview. And sometimes it’s completely uncalled for with Golovkin-Martirosyan being exhibit A. Golovkin was a monumental favorite and winning the fight by stoppage was assumed, only it happened a few rounds earlier than expected. Golovkin did what he was supposed to do. Had he been extended rounds, most would be saying he’s not the same fighter who fought Kell Brook and they’d be right.
Now with the quick ending, Martirosyan is being scoffed at as an opponent and some are proclaiming that GGG didn’t prove anything. Well, yes and no. He beat a fighter he should have and in a convincing fashion. Moreover, Martirosyan had never been stopped and that means something. Others think he was poor defensively and that’s another sign he’s declining. Wrong. Golovkin was hit clean because Martirosyan engaged him and GGG didn’t have any fear of his power.
Isn’t it something how much quicker GGG’s hands looked this weekend than they did last September against Canelo? That isn’t a sign he’s turning the clock back; it’s what happens when an attacker like GGG has no worry over what his opponent is sending back his way, which wasn’t the case against Alvarez.
The bottom line is that Martirosyan isn’t close to an elite fighter and GGG is. When a big puncher with the capacity to deliver his power meets a second tier opponent, it usually doesn’t go many rounds. There’s nothing more to be gleaned from the fight. What he showed against Martirosyan sheds no light on what he’ll do against the other upper-tier fighters at 160. Jermall Charlo, Billy Joe Saunders, Daniel Jacobs, Demetrious Andrade and Canelo are nothing like Martirosyan in skill or style.
This past weekend Gennady Golovkin did what he should have against a 30-1 underdog, and that’s get rid of him quickly and conclusively. Other than that, there’s not much else to pick at….other than to accept that until further notice GGG is the fighter to beat at 160. Maybe one of the names mentioned above will be the fighter who will ultimately be his Waterloo, but until it happens he gets the benefit of the doubt.
He’s earned that through 20 title defenses.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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