Gennady Golovkin and Nicholas Walters share a lot more in common after Saturday night’s explosive fights in Carson California. Before “Mexican Style” the only common attribute between Golovkin (a Kazakhstan-native who’s won an Olympic silver medal) and Walters (a Jamaican-born fighter who trains in Panama) was their similarly impressive knockout records. Now, however, people should start looking at Walters as more than a rough and tumble power puncher. Like Golovkin, he’s a heavy-hander fighter who has the smarts to pick and choose shots while maintaining forward momentum and a killer instinct. That combination of attributes is unique, and may take Walters on as wild and lucrative a ride in the sport of boxing as it has Golovkin.
Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire v. Nicholas Walters
“[To be a champion] the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali
He said he trained harder for this fight than ever before, but it’s difficult to believe Donaire’s claim for more reasons than the brutal knockout he suffered. In interviews at Friday's weigh-in, Donaire's chief cornerman for the night, Robert Garcia, said he hadn’t even seen Donaire until that very day. Donaire had spent the entire time training, once again, with his father. The father and son team have accomplished some great things together in the past, including Donaire’s first world title, but that was quite a long time ago.
The two parted ways in 2008 due to personal differences. They reunited in 2013 leading up to Donaire’s one-sided loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux. For that fight Donaire spent less than a third of his training camp with his lead trainer Garcia. Now, in his second loss in four fights, Donaire trained even less time with Garcia. The reunion with his father has not had the effect he probably hoped for. Donaire today looks like a shadow of his 2012 self, who fought and won four times that year.
On Saturday, Donaire never seemed to find his rhythm or consistency. Even when he was landing and coming forward, he was wild and off balance—a dangerous combination when facing a big puncher like Walters.
Walters dominated nearly every round not just with his much-touted power, but with a consistent jab. The jab allowed Walters to control the tempo in the slower rounds, and set up his power shots from the outside in the quicker rounds. It also started the huge welt on Donaire eye.
Just as he was the first throw on the outside, on the inside Walters also took the initiate, which paid serious dividends, especially with the uppercut in the third round that took Donaire off his feet—the first time Donaire has tasted the canvass.
Walters’ dominating performance was capped off with a fantastic knockout in the sixth. The right hand that splayed Donaire out landed over the ear, near the top of the head. Donaire beat the count but almost as soon as he was on his feat the referee called off the fight, and Donaire proceeded to lose his balance and nearly fall into the ropes. He didn’t know his own mother’s name at that point.
The victory wasn’t unbeliable or shocking, despite the fact that Donaire has never been knocked out. Walters combined his power with a clinical use of the jab and pacing. Add to that the fact that Donaire hasn’t carried his own power into higher weight classes, a lack of training with Garcia, and Donaire’s refusal to throw anything but power punches and the knockout makes all the sense in the world.
There are now great options for Walters. If virtuoso boxer, Guillermo Rigondeaux, were willing to come up a division, hardcore fans would love to see whether he could handle the smart pressure and heavy hands of Walters. If the Cuban wants to stay at 122 lbs., then matchups against the winner of Evgeny Gradovich vs Jayson Velez, or the extremely impressive Vasyl Lomachenko make perfect sense. With his sixth round knockout of Donaire, the world is now Nicholas Walter’s oyster.
Gennady "GGG" Golovkin v. Marco Antonio Rubio
Much of the energy and ending of the headlining matchup between Golovkin and Rubio was summed up by Jim Lampley in a short sentence:
"This is very much like the early days of @MikeTyson." - Jim Lampley on @GolovkinBoxing - https://t.co/szO0yrmGbP #TweetReplay
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) October 19, 2014
Most in the record-breaking crowd at the StubHub Center might have shared more in common with Rubio (e.g. nationality, language, and customs) but they were there to see Golovkin. That was immediately obvious from the cheers Golovkin received as he walked out to do a pre-fight victory lap around the arena. The fans pushed so hard to reach for him that if it weren’t for a bright spotlight following him, he would have been lost amidst the hundreds of out-reached hands and arms.
In some fights, the added pageantry is necessary to make up for a lack action the fight is going to produce. With Glolovkin, the pageantry was necessary because the fast and furious action he delivers usually results in short fights. The fans had paid their due to see Golovkin in action but also to be with him, to take in the excitement that builds before creshendo. The extended ring walk fed the arena's excitement like kindling to fire. It was one of several brilliant marketing decisions that night.
Rubio looked huge in the ring, bigger than the light heavyweights who had fought earlier that night. Even still, it was Golovkin who was the aggressor from the get go. The larger man just seemed like big prey.
Rubio’s lack of attack earlier on did nothing to earn Golovkin’s respect, so Golovkin had no reason to hold back on his punches. Whether Rubio’s timity was the result of fear, Golovkin’s power, or a fight-plan doesn’t really matter. It allowed Golovkin to get comfortable, which meant a quick night of work.
The fight came to an end in the middle of the 2nd round with a vicious left hook that landed toward the top of Rubio’s head, quickly causing him to crumble. On the ground it looked as if Rubio briefly contemplated staying down before actually starting the long hard journey up for more punishment. But the early hesitation cost him as he was counted out before he made it back to his feet.
This is a familiar sight that boxing fans have come to expect from Golovkin. He’s run through so many opponents that people may be developing a warped sense of how easy it is to accomplish what he’s done.
In 2015, all signs point to another slew of exciting fights for Golovkin: Martin Murray, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are all possible and likely. Both Jim Lampley and Roy Jones Jr. have likened Golovkin’s rise to that of Mike Tyson, who although not the greatest heavyweight of all time, managed to work his way into Burt Sugar’s best 100 Boxers of All time List. Right now Golovkin is exciting can’t-miss boxing entertainment. He’s a smart power puncher with Olympic pedigree. After Saturday he’s tied for the third most middleweight title defenses in history. But if 2015 includes victories against the four men above, especially if knockouts are involved, pundits will start pulling out their history books and boxing legers, trying to figure just how close Golovkin is to earning a spot on one of boxing’s many hallowed lists.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.