Violence is the byproduct of desperation, when necessity meets uncertainty and fear.
Fine-tuned rage is the currency of boxing; brutality puts asses in seats. These are two facts that even the highest of the high-minded can’t bury beneath reams of flowery boxing prose and college boy philosophy. While technical mastery and clinical dissertations in ring defense leave some fans cold, everybody has a visceral reaction to violence.
Saturday night, three fighters from three very different parts of the world showed why boxing’s science of violence is truly a universal game.
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Against Curtis Stevens at the Madison Square Garden Theater, WBA middleweight champ, Gennady Golovkin showed why many consider him to be boxing’s pound-for-pound best killing machine.
Cold, clinical, and fluid in movement, Golovkin is a walking weapon, showing his versatility against Stevens by choosing to fight on the outside most of the night, far away from Steven’s short-armed counters. He would pick apart his game, hard-punching challenger, leaving nothing by the eight round but the husk of a heaving warrior, devoid of ego, will, and desire.
The native of Kazakhstan was born to be a fighter and proved it by cruising to amateur accolades as a child. But the fire in his belly, the drive to take his opposition apart, was born from tragedy.
The loss of his two older brothers, both killed in action while serving in the Russian army, propelled Golovkin from prominent trophy winner to feared opponent. After all, it was his brothers who pushed him to become a fighter. It was his brothers who gave him the passion for a sport that, at the time, was not yet a commercially viable occupation in the post-Soviet era.
Now, post Stevens destruction, Golokins waits his turn to snatch the middleweight torch from Sergio Martinez. A warm smile and affable nature belie a beast within. Golovkin can hurt because he has been hurt.
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On the Golovkin-Stevens undercard, Ismaikel “Mike” Perez announced his arrival on the heavyweight scene with a relatively one-sided bludgeoning of the previously undefeated knockout artist, Magomed Abdusalamov.
Perez, a Cuban-born resident of Ireland, was a highly-regarded prospect hampered by inactivity for the last couple of years. But, on Saturday, he showed the solid skills and mental toughness that initially earned him his reputation as a “must-watch” prospect.
Developed as a boxer in the stellar Cuban amateur system and fueled by a desire to one day escape abject poverty, Perez became a fierce competitor, often considered too hot-headed to be a true amateur stand-out.
He would eventually find his way out of the smothering Communist system, smuggled out of Cuba and shipped off to Cancun, Mexico on a rickety fishing boat by a well-known ring of human traffickers, funded by his Irish soon-to-be manager.
Although it would’ve been easy to grow fat and complacent away from the constraints of his Cuban home, Perez showed on Saturday, in his first real test as a pro, that he is as hungry as ever.
Perez walked through shot after shot from his legitimately heavy-handed Russian opponent and kept coming forward. In a bout where he was supposed to be knocked out, Perez proved himself to be unstoppable in taking a unanimous decision victory.
(Abdusalamov would later be placed in a medically-induced coma in the ICU at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York due to a small blood clot on his brain. As of this writing, he is in stable condition.)
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Later that same evening, in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico two hard-hitting Mexican flyweights would meet in an old fashioned “must-win” crossroads bout.
“Aztec Warrior” Giovani Segura and Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, two former world champs with ugly, one-sided TKO losses to Brian Viloria in their recent past, would compete for one more crack at a world title. They would be fighting for the opportunity to face the man who finally knocked Viloria off his pedestal– WBO/WBA flyweight champ, Juan Francisco “Gallo” Estrada.
Evenly-fought and as competitive as everyone had imagined, Segura-Marquez was a back and forth war until Segura found that extra something that allowed him to pull ahead in the latter rounds. He would eventually stop his opponent with a picture-perfect left hook with just over a minute to go in the twelfth and final round.
One of seven children raised on the unforgiving hot and dusty streets of Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero, Mexico, Segura knew what it was like to be denied. Like many young, able-bodied Mexicans looking for a way out of the chaotic poverty, Segura would choose to make the dangerous trek into the United States via Mexicali, Baja California.
He would later win his first world title against Colombian, Cesar Canchila in the same city of Mexicali where, years earlier, he trudged through abandoned sewage tunnels en route to a better life in the United States.
Now, whether fighting in Mexicali, Las Vegas or in Sonora, the home state of Saturday’s opponent, Segura can summon up that strength to push forward because he knows all too well what it’s like to be left behind.
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Three men from three very different parts of the world, bound together– not just by occupation, but by human nature. In the world away from the fake civility of an overfed, cushy suburban lifestyle, the less fortunate are engaged in perpetual struggle. Fight or Die. This is the desperation that breeds warriors. This the reality of those who choose to fight for a living.
You can email Paul at email@example.com or just skip all the pleasantries and buy his book, Notes from the Boxing Underground! Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.