One of boxing’s most exciting fighters takes to the ring again this Saturday, when Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26koes) defends his WBA world middleweight title against Daniel Geale (30-2, 16koes) at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.
Golovkin has the unusual problem of being one of today’s most popular boxers, with his fights having become ’must see’ events for most boxing fans, yet, he is still accused by some prospective opponents of not being a big enough name. Just recently, a short while after his fighter Miguel Cotto had beaten Sergio Martinez for the WBC (and lineal) world middleweight title, Freddie Roach dampened talk of a Cotto vs. Golovkin showdown with the claim that Golovkin is not a big enough draw to merit a fight with Cotto. Ironically, Golovkin is defending his title against Geale at Madison Square Garden in New York, a place that Cotto considers his home, but a venue that has also hosted three of Golovkin’s recent world title fights, and where he has proved to be very popular. In light of Golovkin’s popularity in New York, it is difficult to believe that a fight between Cotto and Golovkin at Madison Square Garden would be anything but a highly anticipated sell-out.
Like another outstanding world champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Kazakhstan born Golovkin has been finding it difficult to entice the other top names from his weight division into facing him. The accusations levelled at Rigondeaux, that he is a ‘boring’ boxer, are as outrageous and unjust, as suggestions that Golovkin is somehow not yet a big enough name to justify one of the other top middleweights fighting him. Many times Golovkin has voiced his wish to unify the various world titles at 160 pounds, by fighting the other ’world title’ holders, especially lineal champion Miguel Cotto, but so far, his polite challenges have either fallen on deaf ears, or provoked hollow excuses.
However, it’s not very hard for most people to figure out that the general avoidance of Golovkin by the other ’world champs’ has nothing to do with Golovkin’s credentials with the fans, and a lot to do with him simply being, like Rigondeaux; too good for his own good.
Golovkin faces what is likely to be his most formidable challenge on Saturday, when he defends his title against Geale. The Australian born Geale is a former ‘world’ champion himself, having held the IBF version of the world middleweight championship, before being dethroned in his last contest by England’s Darren Barker. Ironically, Geale also held a portion of the WBA title for a time (the WBA out does itself these days by having as many as 3 world champions in each division) after beating Felix Sturm in a unification fight. In light of Saturday’s fight, Geale then chose to vacate the WBA belt when he was asked to defend it against Gennady Golovkin. Now, having lost his IBF portion of the world title, Geale has opted to finally take up the challenge of facing Golovkin, with the knowledge that victory will send him right back to the top of the middleweight tree.
Geal is a tough and clever box-fighter who likes to come forwards and throw many punches, but can also box, and has a decent jab. Statistically, both men are very well matched, being around the same height, age, and are both technically sound boxers with a penchant for going toe-to-toe. The main difference between champion and challenger is that Golovkin is a much more dangerous puncher. Indeed, he has established himself over the past three years as one of the best punchers in the world pound-for-pound, and has been building up an ever more impressive highlight reel of stoppages with every fight. Golovkin’s major asset is that, unlike many big punchers, he does not rely on brute force alone, but uses technique and tactical awareness to pick his moments. While Golovkin’s fights often end suddenly and spectacularly (hence one of the reasons for Golovkin’s popularity with the fans) he has usually paved the way for these conclusions by his clinical breaking down of his opponent. Golovkin’s body attack, in particular, is a vital and often overlooked part of his repertoire. The champion also has good hand speed and places his punches with pinpoint accuracy.
Geale’s best chance of victory would seem to try to pressure Golovkin and attempt to take him out of his comfort zone. Geale is a volume puncher, rather than a knockout puncher like the champion, and while Golovkin has shown in the past that he can take a punch, he has yet been under the kind of pressure where he has taken a steady number of shots over a long period of time. Although Golovkin’s defence is often cited as being his one true weakness, the champion is adept at blocking and moving away from shots at just the right moment. While he is often in range seemingly to be hit, Golovkin has an underrated defence, and is not an easy fighter to hit cleanly more than once. Geale will have to try to force Golovkin onto the ropes, work the body, and attempt to take the fight away from the champion that way. Though, this will be no easy task for the challenger, as Golovkin is an expert at dominating the center of the ring. In order to force the champion back, Geale will have to walk through Golovkin’s own bombs, which are likely to test the Australian’s durability to its limit.
The challenger’s other option to win this match is to attempt to outbox the champion. This would seem to be an even tougher assignment for the Australian, as Golovkin is an expert at cutting down the ring, and tracking down an opponent on the back foot. Geale, despite his sound boxing skills, does not look to have either the speed or the defensive skills that would give him a chance of eluding Golovkin all night.
This is a big fight for both men, with Geale aiming to regain a place amongst the middleweight elite, while Golovkin is looking to continue his impressive run of world title defences, with this being his tenth defense. Since winning the WBA world title in 2012, Gennady Golovkin has convinced many in boxing, fans and media alike, that he is the world’s best middleweight, irrespective of who is the lineal champion, and if he becomes the first man to stop Daniel Geale this Saturday, then, his already formidable reputation will continue to grow.
Saturday’s fight also has an added poignancy for the champion, as it will be his first competitive outing since the sudden death of his father earlier this year. Yet, this is likely to increase Golovkin’s focus and determination to do a good job on Saturday. Look for Gennady Golovkin to provide further proof this weekend of why he is the best 160-pounder in the world, and one of the most wanted (by the fans) and unwanted (by prospective opponents), fighters pound-for-pound at the moment. Golovkin may have to travel a little further than normal this time, but the chances are that his precise attack will wear down and pick apart the game Australian challenger, and open the way for a stoppage defeat around about the 9th round.
Whether another impressive victory will open the door for Golovkin to the kind of big fights that he has been seeking for some time now is debatable. In the perverse world of boxing, Golovkin may actually find himself further away from a unification fight with the other ‘world champions’ the more impressive he looks. The near future may see Gennady forced to move up to super middleweight in a search for ‘bigger’ fights. Although having said that, there are signs that he would not exactly be welcomed with open arms by the top men at 168 either. There has been talk that Golovkin would be willing to move down to the light-middleweight limit of 154 pounds, if a suitable ‘big’ fight could be found there.
All the indications are that Golovkin is doing his best to entice the big names into the same ring with him, and that those big names are doing their very best to avoid him.
Gennady Golovkin is a throwback champion, a no nonsense, do-all-his-talking-in-the- ring-kind-of-fighter, who is troubled by the very modern boxing problem of being a champion whom many contenders would rather avoid. Unfortunately, there are many alternative ’champions’ for a prospective challenger to search out and have a better chance to beat. Modern boxing has reached a curious stage where champions are now chasing contenders for fights, rather than the other way round.
The only solution for Golovkin is to keep on winning, against the people who are brave enough to enter the ring with him, and hope that the feeble excuses used to avoid him at the present moment will run thinner and thinner, until eventually there will be no excuses left. Unfortunately, in the perverse world of modern boxing, it may be a long wait.