There is a sense of foreboding in the air this month. Chances are you probably feel it as a fight fan being that two of the most critical bouts to be had this year are separated by mere weeks and could level the boxing landscape in a huge way.
Danny Garcia and Gennady Golovkin are two fighters on opposing fields of popularity in the sport, and the two are going forward with the toughest bouts they’ve had in some time.
The much beloved Golovkin is finally in the ring with an opponent who can (presumably) fight back in Daniel Jacobs as he hopes to keep his undefeated record and titles intact long enough to age to the point where Oscar De La Hoya is willing to sic Canelo Alvarez on him.
On the other end, we have a Welterweight unification match between WBC champion Danny Garcia and WBA champion Keith Thurman. Garcia, through no fault of his own, has been victimized by the boxing media and public for his careful matchmaking since a blistering run at Junior Welterweight along with the increasingly disturbing actions of his mentally unhinged father and trainer, Angel Garcia.
Any outcome of either fight will make an impact so severe that it will likely shake the state of the sport as it is today to its core.
Sticking with Golovkin/Jacobs, Triple G is nearing Bernard Hopkins’ record of title defenses at Middleweight while—like Hopkins—still waiting for a career defining superfight. I don’t know if Golovkin beating Jacobs is going to get him any closer to a fight with Alvarez, but if you believe that Jacobs is going to get rolled by Golovkin in a few rounds, then you might be surprised.
Up to this point, Golovkin has not had to deal with an opponent with the physical advantages Jacobs possesses as well as his athleticism and reach. Last Fall, Golovkin had his hands full with Kell Brook who had to jump two weight classes for the opportunity to get his face broken and Jacobs is not going to go in there with such a great disadvantage hoping to survive.
Jacobs hits arguably as hard as Golovkin and doesn’t have the mileage many of Golovkin’s previous victims had accumulated up to this point. It isn’t a stretch to suggest Jacobs is the best fighter Golovkin has fought up to this point, but it is certainly going to be the first time he’s been so well matched on paper. Brook relied on movement and skill rather than grit and strength, and while it only kept him in the ring with Golovkin for five rounds, he did enough to make the Kazakh look human in spots and leave plenty intrigue for this big Middleweight clash
Golovkin does have a tendency to fight a bit more cautiously against bigger punchers before turning up the pressure. He fought behind his jab against both Curtis Stevens and David Lemieux until he slowly started wearing them down when they offered no palpable resistance, though Golovkin isn’t exactly known for an iron clad defense. Could Golovkin’s propensity for taking shots and passing it off as carrying the fight get him into trouble with a fighter who is a bit more technically versed?
It is a fascinating fight, but alas, Jacobs isn’t going to have enough gas to keep Golovkin off of him and will be in serious trouble late if he cannot set the pace early. If Jacobs does win though, boxing loses what would be the premier event of the year in Alvarez/Golovkin and Alvarez’s team will definitely boondoggle that fight from happening lest De La Hoya wants to sacrifice his company against an Al Haymon fighter.
Perhaps no fighter should be feeling the pressure than Garcia ahead of his fight with Thurman. Many want to see Garcia get some kind of comeuppance for getting decisions he maybe shouldn’t have against Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson and representing everything that is wrong with the sport. Maybe they’re right, but Garcia paid his dues and fought everybody that was put in front of him with no issue, including Thurman.
Thurman is the new deal at Welterweight, a fighting machine that came up as a harbinger of carnage and destined to be the man to beat. He did that by narrowly outpointing Shawn Porter last year, but Thurman showed a lot of vulnerability and lapses in his game that are being overlooked because so many people just want to see Garcia lose.
When I see Thurman, I just see a bigger and stronger version of Lucas Matthysse with faster hands. His offense is pretty robotic and defense is leaky, and Garcia is a much heavier hitter than Porter was or anybody else Thurman has fought for that matter.
Thurman being the favorite in this fight may be a mistake, but if he’s the golden child as everybody says he is, then it is his destiny to take Garcia out and move on to an inevitable showdown with the winner of Errol Spence vs. Kell Brook. Should Garcia win, it will infuriate even more people than he did before, but that is because he will have shown as he did against Matthysse five years ago that he is the man, like it or not.
All in all, a fascinating month is ahead. Get your popcorn ready and don’t blink.