- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The middleweight division is red-hot and filled with talent, but no single fighter in the weight class might be as interesting and worth watching as Gennady Golovkin, whose performance on Saturday night against Grzegorz Proksa was so overwhelming and so impressive that you have to wonder who the heck is going to want to fight this beast.
On Sept. 15, lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, universally considered one of the top few pound-for-pound fighters in the world, will square off against ever-improving and bull-strong titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a major HBO PPV event in Las Vegas.
Martinez is considered the best fighter in the 160-pound division, and it's a status he deserves based on clear wins against such quality opponents as then-champion Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams (in one of the best knockouts ever), Sergiy Dzinziruk and Matthew Macklin.
Chavez is also making a case that he is a lot better than many of us have given him credit for, based on the way he took apart solid opponents such as Marco Antonio Rubio, Andy Lee and Sebastian Zbik.
On Saturday, Australia's Daniel Geale, whom I've been high on for quite some time, unified two of the alphabet belts with a shocking split decision victory against division stalwart Felix Sturm in an excellent fight. Geale's win wasn't shocking because he hadn't fought well enough to deserve the decision. It was shocking because he got the benefit of a split verdict in Germany, where Sturm is a hero and has had his share of hometown decisions go his way (including against Macklin). With the victory, Geale made his case that he deserves praise as one of the elite middleweights in the world. And with two belts, he's going to make a lot of money very soon, even if some don't want to give him the praise.
On Oct. 20, "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin, one of the top young contenders in the division, will try to state his case that he belongs in the conversation about the best middleweights when he chases a title (paper as it may be) against France's Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam.
But the guy who might someday rise above them all is Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs), who is simply a fighting machine.
He is 30 years old, so he's no youngster, but he had a brilliant amateur career in which he knocked out Lucian Bute and also defeated Andre Dirrell and Lee before winning a 2004 Olympic silver medal for Kazakhstan. As a pro, Golovkin won a title in 2010 but has remained one of boxing's best-kept secrets.
After Saturday's showing, however, the secret is out in a big way. Golovkin looked freaking awesome in his American and HBO debut as he destroyed a quality top-10 contender in Proksa (28-2, 21 KOs).
I actually thought Proksa, with his Martinez-like awkward style and southpaw stance, might give Golovkin at least a little bit of trouble. Maybe outbox him for a few rounds. Maybe touch him with the straight left hand here and there. Ummm, he didn't. At all.
Proksa, who had destroyed former titleholder Sebastian Sylvester in three rounds and sent him into retirement last fall, had never been down in his career. Golovkin took care of that -- and then some.
He dominated the entire fight and dropped Proksa three times en route to a tremendously impressive fifth-round knockout at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., to retain his version of the 160-pound crown.
The night could not have gone more perfectly for Golovkin, who did exactly what he wanted to do. After he campaigned hard with K2 promoter Tom Loeffler to the networks and media to make the case that he deserved some love, HBO took a chance on him. It's a chance HBO will not regret.
Golovkin knew how significant the opportunity he had on Saturday night was, because you get only one chance to make a first impression -- on HBO, on the American boxing media and, most important, on the American fans seeing him for the first time.
So Golovkin didn't want just to win the fight. He said to anyone who would listen during the buildup that he wanted to produce an exciting and memorable performance because it was his U.S. and HBO debut.
Golovkin has charisma, a boyish grin and enough command of English that he can help market himself in a big way, along with a fighting style that you can fall in love with. Trust me, there are going to be a lot of smiles in the Monday morning HBO Sports staff meeting after Saturday's performance.
Golovkin dropped Proksa in the first, fourth and fifth rounds and was never remotely in trouble. Proksa was game, but he simply had no answers.
Afterward, Golovkin was humble.
"Not an easy fight for me," he said.
"I'm ready. I'm happy. My first fight on HBO," he said. "My dream is to fight on HBO and in America. I'm happy now."
He then reiterated that he would fight anyone from junior middleweight to super middleweight. Anyone.
HBO's Max Kellerman asked him whether he would fight super middleweight champ Andre Ward, if Ward beats light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson next Saturday night.
Of course, Golovkin said he would.
"Doesn't matter who's next," he said. "I'm ready."
Golovkin is ready. There is no question about that.
What there is a question about, however, is, after Saturday's monster performance, who in the world is going to volunteer to get in the ring with this guy?
Gennady Golovkin did exactly what he hoped to Saturday in Verno, N.Y.: break down Grzegorz Proksa and excite a U.S. audience in his stateside debut. His next challenge? Getting other 160-pound studs to step to him.