We're still learning whether Golovkin can fly
June, 27, 2013
By Brian Campbell | ESPN.com
Despite what you hear and read, there's a very good chance middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin might actually be human.
You wouldn't necessarily know that, however, by listening to boxing experts -- this one included -- who unleash a gluttony of adjectives to describe his otherworldly power and exciting style.
Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs), the 31-year-old unbeaten destroyer from Kazakhstan who holds the highest knockout percentage among active titleholders, has reached a cartoon-cult status within the sport. There is such a mythology that follows him from fight to fight (and subsequently knockout to knockout) that he might as well change his nickname from the delightfully cheesy "GGG" to boxing's "God of Thunder."
The main reason for the surrounding cloud of hype is Golovkin's calamitous power in both hands -- a sort of Tyson-esque equalizer that all fighters dream of being born with. It's the kind of power that keeps you in every fight and, in Golovkin's case, causes opponents and ringside writers to marvel at just how much different it sounds and feels when his punches land.
And Golovkin is far from a one-trick pony when it comes to his five-star talent. He says he has never been knocked down, or even hurt, in his entire career. And with a decorated amateur background that features a 2004 Olympic silver medal, multiple world championships and a record of 345-5, he's just as likely to outbox the rare fighter who proves able to withstand his best punch.
But therein lies the problem: Not only are fighters unable to typically get past the early rounds against him -- Golovkin has seen the ninth round just once in his career and hasn't had a fight go to the scorecards since the George W. Bush administration -- he also continues to have trouble getting big-name opponents into the ring with him.
The big concern surrounding the myth of Golovkin is that, despite holding a middleweight title since 2010 and having made seven title defenses -- with all seven ending by knockout -- he is still untested at the highest level. In fact, it's fair to ask what we really know about Golovkin until we see him in with a myriad of high-end punchers and slick boxers.
The good news is, we should have a better handle on his stock by the end of Saturday night's fight against two-time middleweight title challenger Matthew Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs), by far the most experienced opponent Golovkin will have faced. And Macklin, who has taken both former titlist Felix Sturm and current middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez into deep waters in back-to-back fights, also happens to be the perfect opponent at this point in GGG's rise.
Golovkin said he likes the fight so much because he believes both fighters "have [the] same size, same power and same speed. [Macklin] is very serious and I think he's a great fighter." More important, Macklin will serve as a litmus test to gauge whether Golovkin is simply a power puncher with a lot of buzz or a true future pound-for-pound threat. Macklin clearly has the chin, power and inclination to brawl to make him an attractive opponent, but he also proved in his two title fights -- particularly against Martinez -- an ability to adapt his style by utilizing a level of defense and counterpunching we hadn't previously seen from him.
Macklin also has the disposition not to be intimidated by anything Golovkin brings to the table and a willingness to go out on his shield if that's what it takes to give him the best chance to win. He describes himself as a throwback fighter from a different era, and expects to expose Golovkin for being "the middleweight champion of the world fighting B- and C-level junior middleweights."
Young fighters on the rise such as Canelo Alvarez and Adrien Broner have been routinely called out for their soft résumés, a criticism Golovkin has somehow mostly escaped. Maybe it's due to his willingness to fight anyone across three weight classes or how active he has remained -- Saturday will mark his fifth appearance in 13 months -- despite being unable to land the opponents of his choice. Heck, it could be chalked up to his endearing, almost boyish demeanor.
Years from now, we may look back at Golovkin's fight with the straight-ahead Macklin as another stop on a long road of highlight-reel knockouts that ultimately carried him to the top of the sport. Or maybe this one goes down as the key moment when at least a little air was taken out of Golovkin's balloon.
Either way, it will be exciting to watch thanks to enough intrigue, and even doubt, to mark this as something of an early defining fight for Golovkin.
Just don't start sizing the superhero Kazakh KO King for a cape and pair of blue tights until we can confirm that either Golovkin is from another planet or that he's just like one of us.
Believe me, I know, it's not easy.