A sensational offensive fighter with sound defense, Gennady Golovkin may be the best middleweight in the world. And what’s more, he may be even better than we think. It’s getting to the point now with Golovkin —as was once the case with a young Mike Tyson— where the question is not “did he win?”, but more “in what round did he win?” After taking fewer than three rounds to dismantle Matthew Macklin on Saturday night, “GGG” not only proved what a devastating puncher he is (he has now stopped 24 of his 27 opponents), but that he is also an astute ring mechanic who has the ability to force his opponents into making errors through intelligent pressure and craft.
In today’s analysis, we’re going to be taking a brief look at some of Golovkin’s stellar attributes which sometimes go unnoticed due to his chilling punching power.
Because Golovkin is primarily a pressure fighter who stalks his opponents, it is of great importance to him that he has a strong jab at his disposal. By a strong jab, I don’t necessarily mean a forceful jab that can snap the opponent’s head back every time he throws it (although that is quite often the case) but rather an intelligent jab that will maximize his offensive opportunities while minimizing his opponent’s. As he looks to enter, what “GGG” will often do with great effect is cover his opponent’s lead hand as he throws his jab. In other words, at the same time “GGG” is establishing his own jab, he is taking away his opponent’s.
Coming in behind his jab, Golovkin’s extended right arm met Macklin’s jab head on.
“GGG” jabs and simultaneously stops Macklin’s jab.
This is very similar to something Joe Louis regularly did to his opponents. As he jabbed, Louis would do so with an open right glove in the hope of catching or smothering his opponent’s jab.
Louis lands a jab while keeping his opponent’s lead hand in check.
Cutting off the ring
If a fighter in pursuit finds himself faced with an opponent who circles the perimeter of the ring in an attempt to maintain distance and keep the pursuer from getting “set” to hit, he must find a way of funneling his movement. By intercepting the opponent’s movement with one’s own movement, one can effectively “cut off the ring”.
As Macklin circled the ring and operated mainly on his back foot, GGG expertly cut the ring off and closed the doors on his escape routes. In fact, Golovkin’s ring-cutting footwork was so good that there were moments during the fight where I was reminded of a prime George Foreman.
Golovkin cuts the ring off on Macklin.
Once the ring has been cut off, the fighter in pursuit should manipulate the opponent’s movement with punches. The easiest way for a fighter to accomplish this is through right hands or left hooks depending on whichever way the opponent is moving —if the opponent is circling towards the pursuer’s right, they should be met with right hands. If the opponent is circling towards the pursuer’s left, they should be met with left hooks.
Every time Macklin would circle to either his left or right, Golovkin would be there to greet him with a straight right hand or a left hook and steer him back the other way.
Golovkin meets Macklin with a left hook as Macklin begins moving to his right.
Macklin moves to his left and onto a straight right hand from Golovkin.
Needless to say, Buddy McGirt’s advice from the corner for Macklin to keep moving to his right (Golovkin’s left) and away from Golovkin’s right hand wasn’t quite as straight forward as it seemed; the left hook threat of Golovkin was just as sinister.
GGG is certainly not the quickest of fighters, but he more than makes up for any shortcomings in the speed department with a superb appreciation of ring placement —a result of his exquisite ring-cutting skills and timing. GGG could very well be the best in the sport right now at maneuvering his opponents into areas of the ring where they are at their most vulnerable and where he is at his most dangerous. Unless your name is Floyd Mayweather, being pinned up against the ropes or in a corner is not a very good place to be inside the ring. If a fighter has his back up against the ropes, his feet will often be parallel with his shoulders, resulting in his movement becoming restricted. Consequently, the opponent (whose movement is completely unhindered) will be presented with a very wide and stationary target.
Evidently, because “GGG” was able to consistently maneuver Macklin into corners or up against the ropes, yet another area of Golovkin’s varied offense was unveiled.
Where speed merchants like Amir Khan and Yuriorkis Gamoba will often unleash three and four punch salvos all aimed at a single target, a thoughtful puncher like Golovkin —whose hand speed is anything but electrifying— enjoys so much more success with his combinations than they do because he’s not trying to simply overwhelm his opponents with activity and keep them at bay, but rather he’s trying to exploit openings that exist in an opponent’s guard so he can take them out.
Because he throws his punches with the intention of opening up a target for another one, “GGG” is the embodiment of what good combination punching is all about:
A left hook followed by a straight right hand occupies Macklin’s guard and “fixes” him in position for left hook to the body.
The knockout was a perfect representation of how one should base their combinations around an opponent’s reactions instead of simply flurrying in the hope that a punch may sneak through at some point. By occupying Macklin’s guard first with two uppercuts, “GGG” froze him long enough to land a left hook to an unprotected area.
Golovkin lands both a left and right uppercut before finishing Macklin off with a left hook to the body.
A second look at the knockout from an alternative angle shows just how much thought went into the fight-ending combination. Instead of remaining directly in front of Macklin as he was letting his hands go, GGG side-stepped (angling off) to his left slightly as he was throwing his right uppercut. In doing so, he took himself to a more advantageous position to deliver the left hook from.
The right uppercut places Golovkin at a more favorable angle to land his left hook.
All in all, it was a remarkable display by Golovkin. “GGG” not only showed that he has the ability to end a fight with a single punch, but that he can remain defensively responsible while he is searching for it. Not once did we see “GGG” off-balance or reckless any time he pressed the attack. Instead, “GGG” remained calm and calculated as he systematically broke his man down —a cerebral assassin if ever there was one.
Although I don’t think he harnesses the same kind of one-punch, sleep-inducing power that Wladimir Klitschko and Lucas Matthysse do, “GGG” is probably a more precise puncher than they are and is definitely more imaginative when it comes to creating and taking advantage of openings. Going one step further, “GGG” may be the finest offensive fighter in the sport right now; for my money, he certainly belongs in the argument with the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Manny Pacquiao.
Not too long ago, the always on point Frank Lotierzo wrote an interesting piece http://www.thesweetscience.com/news/articles-frontpage/16684-nobody-fights-as-the-effective-attacker-today in which he questioned why there were so few elite fighters around today who were capable of fighting as the effective attacker. Pointing the finger at gifted technicians like Floyd Mayweather, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Bernard Hopkins, whose main concern lies with nullifying instead of decapitating, it’s hard to disagree with Frank.
Maybe Gennady Golovkin—methodical in his approach and devastatingly surgical in his dissections— is the man that Mr. Lotierzo, and all of us for that matter, has been waiting for.