Gennady Golovkin is the best pound-for-pound puncher in boxing and he's officially too strong for his own good. From a power and precision standpoint, he layers body blows underneath head shots and disguises both with feints and shifty footwork like a well-engineered cyborg. When he finishes guys off, he grins to his corner and shrugs, as if to say, “I guess that’s all.”
Is this guy for real?
Distilled from a Mike Tyson or Wilfredo Gomez vintage, he's now 30-0 with 17 straight stoppage victories, but we're still waiting for the answer.
After another sensational knockout signed, sealed and delivered to the doorstep of Daniel Geale in three rounds, we're no closer than we were before, though we may be better off for having witnessing him dismantle an otherwise sturdy and courageous man. The most recent knockout came when GGG set a trap on his chin and got off a lethal right cross as his face absorbed the impact of what was Geale's best punch of the fight. If it wasn't for the freakish athletic phenomenon that ended the fight, we're at the point with Golovkin where we admire the guts of the cannon fodder set before his oversized hands almost more than we admire the work of the master: the master of the mediocre middleweights.
It's not the Kazakh's fault no A-level fighter wants a piece of him. Although the thousands of flag-bearing supporters among the 8,500 or so in attendance last Saturday in Madison Square Garden might squawk, he lacks the kind of natural fan base that would keep promoters and networks seeing green. Simply put, the man has offered too much risk and too little reward for his possible suitors to come calling. They've all prudently decided to fight for bigger money and not risk having their brand battered by the 32-year-old Gennady-come-lately.
Of Golovkin's possible opponents, the 168 pound champion Andre Ward poses the greatest threat. He's naturally bigger, just as athletic and extremely skilled in the arts of the ring. Eighteen months ago, this is what Ward had to say about fighting GGG:
As for me and Golovkin, look at my body of work. I'll fight anyone out there. But look at his body of work and look at mine. There is no comparison. I fought the last three years with no break. I've been in grind mode. Let him build up his resume, get a body of work first, then we can talk.
It might not be fan-friendly, but it's a perfectly reasonable stance to assume. Ward is saying he would think about giving Golovkin the biggest fight of his career if the money was there. Since the quote, GGG has gone hammer and tongs on six fighters and has seen his stature slowly rise. It's time for Ward, and other top fighters, to realize that being the first guy to truly test Golovkin's defense and chin would also result in the biggest fight of their own careers. Smart money's on another B-level middleweight meekly raising their hand for a pay day. But given the guy's meteoric late-career rise and his willingness to fight anyone between 154 and 168 pounds, it feels inevitable that someone named Cotto, Froch,Ward, or Alvarez will answer the call of ¿Quien es mas macho?
As perfect as Golovkin has looked against over-matched opposition, he of has flaws. He's never been knocked down and he's never been tested by a punch his own hand's equal. Boxing writer Jay Caspian Kang indulged in a brief phrenological study, examining the size of Golovkin's head. It's tiny. Maybe having a small target has helped, but eventually he’ll be in against a bigger man who can thump. I doubt a guy like Andre Ward would be worried about GGG's head size long enough to keep him from testing the fight game's leading philosophy on small heads and narrow necks. The Kazakh's head and torso don't slip or weave the way better defensive boxers' bodies do, he’ll get caught eventually.
And when he does, we’ll finally see beyond Golovkin’s speed, power, and footwork and into the heart of a champion. Moments like those make superstars out of boxers.
Interest in the sport's two biggest draws is waning commensurate to the fading careers of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The Fancy could really use a gifted champion of Golovkin's ilk to pick up the slack. Sure he's 32, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of wear on his tires and his years may lend him a certain maturity that could protect him from the pitfalls of a younger fighter. Who knows?
Way back when, Golovkin chose Abel Sanchez’s camp at Big Bear over the Freddie Roach’s celebrity-laden gym in LA because it was quieter and offered fewer distractions. Yet he doesn’t seem shy of the lights as much as focused on destroying whoever is set before him. Eventually, we’ll see him end a fight with an exhausted embrace of a man closer his equal instead of innocent shrug, and then we’ll have a better idea of what kind of fighter he is.