Boxing: Curtis Stevens

Pondering a Ward-Golovkin fight

November, 17, 2013
Andre Ward returned from a 14-month layoff Saturday night in Ontario, Calif., showing that he remains a masterful pugilist, one who has a stranglehold on the intricacies of the sweet science.

Ward's jab was a most potent weapon against the overmatched but willing and sturdy-chinned Edwin Rodriguez. And Ward's left hook, although not a concussion inducer, sent note to Rodriguez that he would pay mightily whenever he let his left hand drop away from his cheek.

Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), the super middleweight champ, confirmed what hard-core fight fans already knew -- that there is nobody in his division who has more than a minute's chance to defeat him. So, we wonder, who could challenge Ward?

Some names that have popped up include KO cravers and titlists Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, both of whom are slated to fight on Nov. 30, against separate foes. One could surmise they would most likely meet each other in a light heavyweight showdown if both have their hands raised in two weeks.

Bernard Hopkins, the soon-to-be-49-year-old craftsman, could challenge Ward in the boxing knowledge department. But because he's aligned with promoter Golden Boy, which doesn't do work with HBO (the network has aired Ward's bouts), that matchup doesn't seem to be a viable coupling.

On social media, there seems to be a consistent call for middleweight star Gennady Golovkin, someone who can truly lay claim to the over-used nickname "Baby-Faced Assassin," if he chose to employ it, to jump from 160 to 168 to face Ward. With that in mind, I asked Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, what he thought of Ward's outing against Rodriguez.

"I would give Ward a 9.5 out of 10," said the trainer, who enjoyed Golovkin's last scrap, a TKO win over Curtis Stevens at the MSG Theater on Nov. 2. "He is who he is; he is not going to get any better. He didn't let Rodriguez bully him, and Edwin is limited, so he had no other tactics to try and get Ward. I was happy to see that Ward made more of a fight in some rounds, but he did so because he had a limited opponent in front of him."

So how would Golovkin deal with Ward if they tussled? "Gennady is a fighter with superior power, skills, strength," Sanchez said, adding with a chuckle, "and grappling ability." That crack was a reference to a knock on Ward -- that most of his bouts feature excessive wrestling, better suited to the octagon.

And, I wondered, could fans be treated to a Ward-Golovkin matchup in the near future?

"I hope so," Sanchez said. "Time will tell. Right now, they are both on top, and Andre must believe he is in a superior bargaining position, but not for long. The masses are catching on to GGG!"

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Abdusalamov injury stuns fans, followers

November, 3, 2013
Heavyweight prospect Magomed Abdusalmov is in a New York City hospital, in stable condition after being placed into an induced coma following a unanimous decision loss to Mike Perez at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Saturday night.

The 32-year-old Russian-born boxer, who lives in Florida, absorbed heavy fire from his Cuban-born foe on the undercard of Saturday's card headlined by the Gennady Golovkin-Curtis Stevens middleweight title bout.

The news leaves fight game followers a bit stunned and more than a bit saddened, coming so close on the heels of the death of Mexican boxer Frankie Leal. Leal, 26, died from a brain injury three days after his Oct. 19 bout against Raul Hirales in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

About 30 minutes after Saturday's main event concluded, Abdusalmov informed manager Boris Grinberg that he had a headache, according to Nathan Lewkowicz, who is the son of the downed fighters' promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz.

Abdusalamov, who entered the bout with an 18-0 record, with 18 KOs, said that he hurt his left hand in the second round of the fight and wasn't able to make a proper fist after that. His nose was also broken during the encounter, he believed. So, Lewkowicz told, Abdusalamov was going to be taken to a hospital for an assessment even before he told Grinberg that his head ached.

Grinberg said in a phone call that he didn't want to discuss the situation extensively, indicating that a press release would go out on Monday to shed more light on the matter. He was optimistic, he said, that the boxer will recover. reached out to the New York State Athletic Commission and left a message for Abdusalamov's trainer, John David Jackson, requesting comment. We received a statement from the NYSAC on Monday: "NYSAC’s primary concern is the health and safety of its licensed athletes. As we do in all such cases, NYSAC is reviewing the circumstances surrounding Mr. Abdusalamov’s injuries. We are hopeful he makes a complete and speedy recovery."

The 28-year-old Perez (20-0, 12 KOs), who lives in Ireland, fought with strength and stamina, and had Abdusalamov backing up for much of the 10-round scrap. The two lefties exchanged heavy blows, with the Cuban's power shots causing swelling around Abdusalamov's left cheek from early on.

From my ringside seat, nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the bout. Yes, Perez was getting the better of exchanges, and Abdusalamov appeared to be behind and in need of a KO, perhaps, to win. But one judge, John Stewart, had Perez a winner by the slimmest of margins, 95-94, while the other two, Julie Lederman and Don Trella, had it wider, 97-92. To my eyes, the bout didn't look one-sided in the least, and even in hindsight, I can't say that it struck me that Abdusalamov was in any clear and apparent danger.

To a man, and woman, every fighter I speak to about the subject tells me they understand the risks associated with taking part in a prizefight, and although they don't generally like to dwell on the potential catastrophe that could occur, all comprehend that the price they pay for entry could be immense. It's fair to say that all involved in the sport have Abdusalamov on their minds on this evening, and are pulling for the man to pull through and bounce back.

With a win, Golovkin will head overseas

November, 1, 2013
If the majority of predictors are correct, and WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs) gets the better of Curtis Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs) Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, especially in conclusive and violent fashion, the demand to know when fight fans can see him in action next will be immediate.

So, to get a head start, I asked K2 director Tom Loeffler the near future plans for his guy Golovkin, the 31-year-old Kazhkstan native, should he down the Brooklyner Stevens. "We're focused on this fight, but we do want to stay active," he told me. "We're projected, if he wins, to fight next in February." That bout wouldn't take place in the NY area, or even in the US, he said, but would unfold overseas. Loeffler wants to keep on currying his fanbase outside the States, he said.

We could surmise that after that February bout, some sort of consolidation bout might be sought. Sergio Martinez holds the WBC 160 belt, but his crew seems intent on making a faceoff with Miguel Cotto. Darren Barker, a Brit, owns the IBF strap. We don't see an impediment to making a Golovkin-Barker bout from a political standpoint, as the HBO-affiliated Golovkin will be looking outside the Golden Boy-associated sphere of combatants for dance partners, and Barker isn't signed to Golden Boy.

But Barker first has to retain his belt, up for grabs against ex champ Felix Sturm on Dec. 7, so that situation is too fluid to get a handle on. A move to 168 pounds, and a tangle with the holder of the IBF and WBA super middle crowns, Carl Froch of England, has been rumored for Golovkin. Froch first needs to put down George Groves' challenge on Nov. 23, which seems a good bet from my vantage point. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is the money honey in this region, whether he fights at 160 or higher. I'm pretty sure Golovkin wouldn't turn down a fight with that Top Rank boxer, who gets featured on HBO.

Readers, let's not get ahead of ourselves ... Oh hell, let's. If Golovkin beats Stevens, what would you like to see him do in the first quarter or half of 2014? Weigh in!

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Sergio vs. Cotto in April at MSG?

October, 30, 2013
Could we see Sergio Martinez, the Argentina-born hitter who holds the WBC middleweight crown, fight his next scrap in Madison Square Garden against Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto?

We will if the suits at MSG get their way.

On Wednesday, during a media presser to hype the Saturday card at MSG -- which is topped by a Gennady Golovkin WBA middleweight title defense against Curtis Stevens -- MSG executive Joel Fisher checked in and said hello to Martinez’s adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz. Lewkowicz handles a heavyweight, Magomed Abdusalamov (18-0 with 18 KOs), who tussles on the Saturday undercard, against Mike Perez (19-0 with 12 KOs).

It would be great to have the 51-2-2 Sergio fighting Cotto, 33, in a sold out Madison Square Garden, Fisher told Lewkowiz. Sampson nodded, yes, it would, but noted that Sergio is a wanted man. He drew 50,000 fans at a stadium in Argentina in his last outing, a 12-round unanimous decision win over Martin Murray on April 27. That’s great, Fischer answered, but there’s nothing like the vibe that is summoned when about 20,000 fight fans roar in MSG. Lewkowicz nodded in agreement.

Martinez, who turns 39 years old in February, beat Matthew Macklin in The Theater in March 2012. And Cotto (38-4), of course, sees MSG as a home base. He is 9-1 in MSG.

Lewkowicz told me in the best-case scenario, he’d like Martinez, getting back to full strength after suffering some injuries in the Murray bout, fighting in April, against Cotto. But Cotto has other suitors; promoter Golden Boy would like to snag him and pair him with Mexican heartthrob Canelo Alvarez, and that would mean Martinez would settle on a Plan B. Plan B would take place on June 7, when HBO has a date.

“There are two or three possibilities,” said Lewkowicz, who will be huddling and burning up the phone with Martinez' promoter, Lou DiBella, to nail down particulars, fairly soon.

Duva: Stevens is live dog vs. Golovkin

October, 30, 2013
He didn't gamble much, but before he became a big-shot promoter, Dan Duva used to hazard a prediction every now and again. Usually, it was around Christmas time, and usually, his bride Kathy Duva told me, he'd win, and that meant a bigger bounty under the tree.

Duva passed away in 1996, but Kathy now runs Main Events, which is co-promoting a card at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening. I spoke to Duva, as she watched her guy, middleweight Curtis Stevens, during a workout held for media and fans at MSG on Wednesday at lunchtime.

Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs; has been stopped once), a 28-year-old from Brownsville, Brooklyn, is the underdog, at 11-to-1 on some boards, against the Bieber-faced banger from Kazakhstan, WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (27-0 with 27 KOs; age 31). HBO will show the scrap.

"This was around 1979 or so," Kathy recollected. "To get Christmas money, he'd bet on a fight." Dan would "pick his spots," she said. He had a formula that he'd apply when his criteria was met; by and large, that criteria would kick in when he decided the odds weren't what they should be, that the underdog had a much better chance to get the W than most assumed. "He'd always bet the underdog," she said.

"I see that here," she continued. "Curtis Stevens, I don't see him an 11-to-1 underdog."

Duva says she laid down a bet, just one time. Evander Holyfield had just jumped from Main Events, but she wasn't bitter. She knew "Real Deal" was no 24-to-1 underdog against Mike Tyson. That had dropped to 16-to-1 right before the bout, when she bet on Holyfield to down Iron Mike, in 1996. She scooped her winnings after Evander won, via TKO11, in their first tangle, on Nov. 9.

Duva wouldn't bet now, it's not proper, but she told me she sees the headline clash as a 50-50 deal. "Anything can happen," she said. "I could tell you I'm one hundred percent sure my guy will win, but that's not honest."

She said that upsets happen, quite often, when someone is expected to have a cakewalk, and the underdog isn't getting so much as a pat on the head from the masses. "I'd say Curtis is a 2-3-4 to 1 underdog, tops," she continued.

Duva said she likes how Stevens has been acting in the last week or so. He's been testy at times, his gameface affixed, semi-surly, ready to get the rumble underway. "Just like he should be," she said. I asked when the last time one of her guys wasn't acting right, was perhaps too chill before a bout. She didn't hesitate. "Zab Judah," she said, before his July 2011 fight against Amir Khan. "He was too happy. He was walking around Las Vegas happy, being too nice. After camp, being with all guys, you've got to be ready to burst, like a coiled spring."

Duva told me a fascinating tidbit. Stevens lobbied hard to get this fight right after Golovkin did a demolition job on Matthew Macklin, in his last fight (KO3 win), on June 29, at the Theater. "Curtis told [Main Events matchmaker] Jolene Mizzone, right then and there, 'Get me Golovkin next,' " Duva told me. "He saw something."

What, pray tell, did he see? We all saw Golovkin dropping and stopping Macklin with a body shot, and Macklin looking like he'd been Tased. "He saw something," she repeated, insisting she doesn't know what, and adding that she wouldn't tell me if she did. "This is going to come down to who lands first, and who takes the better punch. Gennady has been built up to be a killing machine, but it's not who punches harder, it's who takes a better shot."

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Ring-card girl rumble (the winners)

October, 23, 2013
The lady who might be the biggest boxing fan of the bunch, alas, missed the cut Tuesday at Mendez Boxing Gym in NYC. Model Jasmina Dzurlic tells me that she's a tremendous Canelo Alvarez fan, and has worked out at a boxing gym in the Bronx for six years. Like any credible competitor, the loss doesn't dampen her fire. "I'm a little bit disappointed, but there's always another chance," she says after learning that three other gals will be informing fans at the MSG Theater on Nov. 2 what round is forthcoming.

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Angela Cranford/ MSG PhotosThere really were no losers at the Mendez Boxing Gym on East 26th Street.
Top three-er Alexis Lilly tells me that she digs boxing, and in fact, her mom boxed as an amateur in Kentucky. The fave fighter for the Kentucky transplant who lives in NYC? "Mike Tyson," she tells me. "My dad replays his fights."

Winner Vanessa Ratnavich also describes herself as a fight fan. Her main man is Manny Pacquiao, the Congressman from the Philippines who next gloves up on Nov. 23, in Macau, against Brandon Rios. "I'm half Filipino and half Thai," she informs me. Her experience -- she's been a ring card girl at MSG twice -- seemed to have paid off. I queried her on the presence of card girls during fights. Why did she think they have a role at events? "The majority of the fans have been men, and sex sells," she said. Give her an extra point for candor.

My favorite of the three prizewinners, if I may be candid, was Tarale Wulff. Not for her aesthetics, but for her world view. For one thing, she proudly parted with her age, 37, though she's in an industry which doesn't typically prize the presence of a longer CV. Wulf has done this before, she tells me; her first card gig came about 15 years ago, at Cipriani's. The Long Island native, who resides in Bed-Stuy, said it "would be cool if guys held up the cards too" but noted that usually two men are doing the fighting. She said she's proud that she and the other two won't be strutting in bikinis on Nov. 2, but will be clad in "tasteful, sexy dresses."

The experience allowed me the setting to answer a question that has long nagged me. Do the fighters ever get distracted during a fight by a sultry strutter? I asked fellow judge John Duddy. Did he ever get distracted during his in-the-ring career? "No, never," he answered, with the sort of certainty only an Irish accent can muster. "I never took boxing for granted. I only reacted to things, like the audience, after the fight."

Word is this might be an annual event. I liked Duddy's suggestion for a possible added judging component for next time. "The ladies can put a glove on, and punch me, and we can see who punches the hardest," Duddy said.

Better he than me!

Ring-card girl rumble (the competition)

October, 23, 2013
The ladies vying for the three slots as ring card girls at the Nov. 2 Madison Square Garden Theater promotion topped by a Gennady Golovkin middleweight title defense against Curtis Stevens seem to be amped up, but contain any hints of nerves well. Nobody is trash-talking a rival. These ladies, all working under the Wilhelmina umbrella, seem to be on decent terms as they audition at the Mendez Boxing gym in Chelsea on Tuesday afternoon.

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Angela Cranford/ MSG PhotosSo, do fighters ever get distracted by the ring-card girls?
I shoot the breeze with former middleweight contender John Duddy, a fellow judge along with Nicole Young of PIX 11, while preparations for the contest are underway. The MSG publicity aces are putting out ballots and explaining to the 10 models what the audition will entail.

John's wife of four years, Grainne Duddy, has tagged along to check out the proceedings. I ask her why she's here, seeking to delve, maybe, into an issue that sometimes pops up in my head: is the presence of these card "girls" during a boxing match necessary, or merely an anachronistic exercise in overt objectification? "I've never been to an event like this," she tells me. "I'm a big fan of "America's Top Model." Basically, I'm just curious."

Grainne points out her favorite to take top honors, based on a quick assessment. I hold off making mental picks, waiting to see the ladies on the stage, in the ring, and see how they handle wildcards like walking on high heels on a cushy surface.

Each gal gets a turn with a card, and she struts about the ring as a dozen photogs snap away. Some appear to have a better handle on the gig than others, though nobody drops the ball with a mistake like holding the round card upside down.

My heart is pounding a bit, with the pressure on, with the knowledge that my tallies, along with those of Duddy and Young, will result in three joyous reactions, and seven doses of disappointment.

The scores are tallied, and all breaths are bated as we await the announcement of the winners. Who are the lucky and talented three? Alexis Lilly, Taralee Wulf and Vanessa Ratnavich get the gig, and all the contestants whoop and holler for their good fortune.

Check back for reactions from the winners, please.

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Ring-card girl rumble (the setup)

October, 22, 2013
Ring GirlsAngela Cranford/ MSG PhotosTen contestants were vying for three spots as ring card girls for a Nov. 2 event at the MSG Theater.
The 10 hopefuls milled about in the gym, eyeing each other, with different contestants acting in different ways as they awaited the competition. The thump-thump-thump of people pounding the heavy bags at the Mendez Boxing Gym on East 26th Street became white noise after a short spell, with the hopefuls ignoring the periodic rise in decibel levels as they pondered the prize that could soon be theirs.

One after another, they checked themselves in the mirrors, checked out limbs, assessed their game faces.

One of them peered into the mirror, lips pursed, brow furrowed. A tweak was needed and out came a tube ... of lipstick. Contestant No. 5 applied a coat, checked herself in the mirror, decided she was ready to rumble, and gave herself over to the process.

The prize being sought at the gym on Tuesday afternoon wasn't the typical sort yearned for by typical attendees at the facility. No gaudy belts or Golden Gloves berths were the bounty for the taking. No, on this Tuesday 10 women, all models at the famed Wilhelmina Models agency, were vying for three spots as ring card girls for a Nov. 2 event at the Madison Square Garden Theater. That promotion, put forth by K2, and Main Events, portions of which will run on HBO, will be topped by the Kazakh slugger with the baby face and the severely destructive fists, Gennady Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs). Power, loads of it, is what the 31-year-old WBO middleweight champ brings to the table, and to foes' faces. Curtis Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs), of Brownsville, Brooklyn believes that his own power, not to be scoffed at, will carry the day at MSG. Other attributes, though, were what was to set three ladies apart from the seven also-rans in the contest.

Former middleweight contender John Duddy, a fan favorite at MSG, who took a 9-0 record at the fabled building with him into ring retirement in 2010, and PIX 11 fashion forecaster Nicole Young were the other eagle eyes, along with yours truly, taking pen to ballot and narrowing down the pack to the lucky three.

Duddy's advice -- "We should look for the 'whys,' not the 'why nots,'" -- I found appealingly optimistic from the Irishman, who told me he's happily transitioned from the ring to the stage, as an actor, rang in my head as the 10 hopefuls climbed into the ring and waited for the first bell to ring for their audition.

Check back tomorrow for part two, to learn the identities of the lucky three, and to get the answer to a question that has nagged me for ages: Do boxers ever get distracted by the ring card girls during their bouts?

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Golovkin: Stevens has a 'big mouth'

October, 3, 2013
When informed of Curtis Stevens' brash talk about what the Brooklyn-hitter is aiming to do to him on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden's Theater, Gennady Golovkin reacted in the same manner in which he fights: with a measured but aggressive tone.

When told Stevens sought to "decapitate" him, the 31-year-old Golovkin, in a phone interview from California, where he's in camp with trainer Abel Sanchez, said, "Yeah, he has a big mouth, and every time he does a lot of talking. I think he's a little scared of me. He's scared."

You can see for yourself how this plays out, as the fight will run on HBO.

The 28-year-old Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs) didn't diss Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs) wholesale during a Wednesday media chat, acknowledging some strengths in the Kazakh. But he did label him a "hype job." The WBA middleweight champion Golovkin didn't deride Steven's skills on Thursday, to me at least. He heard that Stevens has been working on his agility and mobility. That's well and good, Golovkin said, but he expects Nov. 2 to turn into the sort of fight he craves: "a street fight."

For Golovkin, a man who seems to maintain a resting pulse rate even when he's in finishing mode in the ring, this constitutes trash talk.

Stevens disses Golovkin as 'hype job'

October, 2, 2013
Curtis Stevens, who meets the most feared man in boxing, Gennady Golovkin, on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden, didn't sound Wednesday like he was in panic mode. Stevens, the Brownsville, Brooklyn, hitter who's been on a solid run of stoppages, has picked up some tidbits from former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, as he's working out at a camp owned by Holmes in Easton, Pa.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Stevens
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsCurtis Stevens
Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs) didn't back off some of his prior provocative talk, as he promised to be gunning for Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs), hard. (HBO will show the scrap, a co-promotion by K2 and Main Events, for the record.)

"Larry Holmes told me the jab is the key to everything," said the 28-year-old Stevens, a Main Events boxer who's been sparring with the likes of Ossie Duran and Yusaf Mack. That's all well and good, he seemed to imply, but he's still going to be looking to hurt the 31-year-old Golovkin with both hands. He scoffed at the foes Golovkin has taken down and labeled him a "hype job."

Stevens said he has been focusing on agility, the implication being that he knows Golovkin likes to stalk a foe and wear him down. He said he thinks Golovkin can be pushed back and hit because his head movement isn't great. He won't go in looking to score a one-punch KO, Stevens said, but with his power, a KO is always possible.

He said in the next few weeks, he might try to get under Golovkin's skin: "I might piss him off even more. It's game time now, I'm hungry, I want blood." Trying out a Halloween theme, he said he will look to "decapitate" Golovkin on fight night. "I'm ready to go in and shock the world," he said.

When he wins, he said he'd like a date with Sergio Martinez next and shrugged off the surprise in some circles that he lobbied for this chance. "He's the most feared middleweight in the world," he said. "Why not go after Gods, instead of peasants?"

It remains to be seen how his performance plays out, but to this point, Stevens has talked a helluva game: "I'm coming in to knock him out," he said. "I'm going in to wreck the wrecking machine."

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Stevens discusses "coffin" Tweet

September, 5, 2013
Curtis Stevens likes to stir it up on social media.

The Brownsville-bred middleweight gets the opportunity of his boxing life Nov. 2, when he faces off with WBO champion Gennady Golovkin at the Madison Square Garden Theater. The bout which will run on HBO.

Stevens, with a 25-3 (18 KOs) mark, does something I very much enjoy. Besides being a finisher type who looks to get in the ring, and get his foes out, he commits heavily to most of his punches.

He finds the most negative tweets about himself and about his chances against Golovkin, the 27-0 wrecking ball from Kazakhstan. And, he re-tweets them.

I chatted with Stevens on Wednesday, shortly before the press conference at the Refinery Hotel in midtown, to hype the Nov. 2 contest. The bout will be promoted by K2 along with Kathy Duva's Main Events, Stevens' promoter.

So ... why re-tweet the critiques?

"It's about motivation," the 28-year-old said. "I'm not doing it it so my people come after you. And I like to stir the pot, because the critics are going to be pissed off that I re-tweeted them."

The pot got stirred Sept. 3, when Stevens and some pals convened around a mock coffin, inscribed with the words "RIP GGG." Triple G is Golovkin's nickname. The underdog told me he's having fun and doing some promotional heavy lifting. He knows both men will be looking to smash the other, but it's not personal. It's business. "My fans love it. HBO probably loves it" he said.

Stevens met up with Golovkin for the first time during a photo op at MSG Wednesday morning. The Brooklyner can talk mad trash. He told me that a guy like Golovkin can put up a shell, a wall, a facade. "He's finally seeing me, my physique, he may be a little nervous," he said. "He knows I have that thunder. He knows if he gets caught. It's going to be lights out for him. He knows in his mind. I'm coming for war."

I put Stevens through one of my standard tests. Is it "if" he beats Golovkin, or "when" he beats him?

"There are no 'ifs' in my vocabulary," he said. "When I become the WBA middleweight champion, when I become the most feared middleweight champion in the world by taking out the most feared middleweight in the world."

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Darren Barker triumphs in A.C.

August, 18, 2013
Brit Darren Barker was the busier man against Aussie Daniel Geale in Atlantic City at the Revel on Saturday night, and was rewarded with a split-decision victory as well as the honor of wearing the IBF middleweight belt.

The scrap, which ended with Barker getting love from two of three judges, clarifies things a bit in the middleweight division. You must forgive me, because by all accounts Barker is a solid citizen, a nice lad who has had to surmount, arguably, more hurdles to get to the big stage success than most, but the win solidified for me that finding a stern test for Kazahk detonator Gennady Golovkin won't be easy.

That doesn't take away from my appreciation of a solid prizefight, and my admiration that Barker got the W in honor of brother Gary, a boxer of some promise who died in a 2006 car crash; or my regard for Barker's decency, on display in fall 2011, when he intervened to help a stranger getting attacked on the street in England -- and was pummeled by about 10 guys for his trouble, to the tune of major dental damage.

Barker (26-1) and Geale (29-2) showed desire galore, and gave the fans at Revel's first fight card a solid showing, but no, neither looked to be the type who'd throw a scare into Team Golovkin, and give the ascendent hitter a taste of losing.

I asked Tom Loeffler, the U.S. rep for Golovkin's promoter, K2, his takeaway from the Barker win.

"My take is that we know why Geale wouldn't fight Golovkin (27-0), completely different level of champion," said Loeffler, with a reference to his assertion that then WBA champ Geale had avoided fighting GGG after the WBA ordered him to do so. He then pivoted away from the mild critique, to give a thumbs up to both combatants. "I thought both Geale and Barker showed a lot of heart and both seem to be good guys outside of the ring. It's nice to see classy guys in the middleweight division."

The rumor mill is saying that Golovkin will next tangle with Brownsviller Curtis Stevens, who is also on a KO tear, albeit on a lesser scale. A source at Main Events, Steven's promoter, said that was not a done deal, but signs point to that bout unfolding in N.Y. on Nov. 2.

Sergio Martinez, being a beltholder at middleweight, has to be in theoretical discussions for what comes next for Barker. I asked Team Martinez's Nathan Lewkowicz* his take on the Barker triumph. "I think it shows that Sergio fights top fighters," he said, referring to Martinez's Oct. 2011 KO11 victory over Barker, which at the time didn't draw universal praise for Sergio. "People said Barker was not that good and obviously he is. Sergio's next fight will be in April or March. We're looking to make a big splash with his return." Lewkowicz said Martinez' recent knee surgery is playing out well, that he is working out twice a day already.

Some names in possible play for Martinez' next go, we've heard, are Miguel Cotto, who would move up from 154, Floyd Mayweather, who wouldn't, Golovkin, Barker and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who dropped a lopsided decision to Sergio in Sept. 2012 but spurred rematch interest with a 12th-round knockdown of the champ. We hear Team Martinez would entertain that sequel only if Chavez Jr. agreed to rigorous PED testing.

Readers, lay out your best-laid plans for how you'd like to see the middleweight puzzle pieces get moved about in the near future.

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*=Lewkowicz on Sunday clearly wanted to exult some in the win by Kiko Martinez at Revel. Martinez, a 27-year-old Spaniard managed by Sergio Martinez and promoted by Nathan's father Sampson Lewkowicz, is 5-5, but he fought twice as tall and nasty against IBF super bantam champ Jhonatan Romero of Colombia. Martinez, now 29-4, scored a TKO6 win, one of three title changes shown on HBO. "Kiko is the Lucas Matthysse of the super bantamweights," Nathan told me. "He put in hard work and it shows that having the right trainer (Pablo Sarmiento) and a great team can produce some positive changes in a fighter."

Could we see Jacobs vs. Quillin?

August, 13, 2013
Danny JacobsWill Hart/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsDanny Jacobs has the opportunity to win a world title in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York

Danny Jacobs will headline an Aug. 19 show in New York, and if he gets a "W" in that one, chatter will accelerate about his next opponents. In the middleweight division, possible targets will include people near and dear to the Brownsville-born boxer. For starters, Peter Quillin, a fellow Golden Boy fighter, holds a middleweight title. Jacobs and Quillin are friendly -- would that preclude Jacobs from taking a fight with Quillin?

"I will fight anyone in the world if the opportunity presents itself," Jacobs told me. "This is a business. It's in the hands of my manager and the promoter. I'm not out to call anyone out or make a whole scene."

So is that a yes, you would fight Quillin? Jacobs chuckled.

"It doesn't matter what champion they put in there with me, I'm ready for anyone," he said.

Curtis Stevens, who also grew up in Brownsville, is enjoying a resurgence. His finisher's instinct was on display on Aug. 3 when the took out Saul Roman in the first round in Uncasville, Conn. Would Jacobs fight his fellow Brownsviller?

"Me and Curtis Stevens, we are kind of like family," Jacobs said. "My girlfriend is his cousin. We have a child together. Anyone else is a possibility. Sergio Martinez, Matthew Macklin, Quillin ... as long as [Jacobs advisor] Al Haymon says it makes sense."

Brownsville's Stevens wants Golovkin

August, 7, 2013
A few years ago, Brownsville boxer Curtis Stevens found God, with the help of pound-for-pound ace Andre Ward. But that hasn't presented an impediment for Stevens, a 28-year-old middleweight, when he steps into the ring looking to beat down his foe.

He did just that on Aug. 3 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, when he delivered a nasty left hook that sent down Saul Roman in Round 1 like he'd been Tased. The ref didn't bother starting a 10 count, as Roman was on his back, in la-la land, on a Main Events card.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Stevens
AP Photo/Mary AltafferCurtis Stevens
That win and his finishing mindset have Stevens believing he's deserving of a crack at another more heralded hitter, Kazhkstan's Gennady Golovkin. The 30-year-old Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs) has become an HBO golden boy this year, and word of his pop in both hands has made it hard for promoter K2 to secure fights for him. (An offer is supposedly out for him to fight Martin Murray in November). But Stevens says he wants that test, and wants to give the fans a bout between two men who are show-closers.

"People want to see KOs," the 25-3 (18 KOs) hitter told NYFightblog. "They want to see knockout artists fight each other. He's a power puncher. I'm a power puncher. It just makes sense."

Naysayers are going to note that the 33-year-old Roman is no stranger to being stopped early, as this is the seventh time that has occurred in his 10 loesses. But Stevens counters that argument. He said that it took contender Vanes Martirosyan seven rounds to stop Roman in 2011, and title challenger Gabriel Rosado only beat Roman via split decision, in 2010.

"He's been stopped, but never like that," Stevens told me. "What happened on Saturday, nobody did it like that."

Stevens said he hasn't heard on the grapevine whether Team Golovkin is keen on accepting his challenge: "They might not want it now, not after that."

Stevens said that after his career hit a lull, following losses to Andre Dirrell (in 2007) and Jesse Brinkley (in 2010), he got lifted up by a meeting with Ward, in camp for his May 2011 fight with Arthur Abraham. "Ward showed me different things, and God has been a big part of my life since," Stevens said.

But don't start thinking the Brownsville has been smoothed off this kid.

"Do I worry about wanting to knock your head off? No," he said. "God understands what I'm doing here. He's the one who gave me the talent. You've got to be humble with it. It's war ... but it's nothing personal."

If and when he does get Golovkin to put up his WBA middleweight crown, Stevens said he will stop HBO's pride.

"I'm gonna take him out," Stevens said. "It's my time. My time is now. I'm gonna shine. I'm not saying he doesn't have power, but when I touch them, they react. How is he gonna react? They don't act too good after they get touched.

"I'm from Brownsville, I'm a different-type animal. I'm gonna go in there and take what I want."

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