After Saturday night's complete domination of Daniel Geale, the question isn’t whether or not Gennady Golovkin is great, or if he’s as good as the hype. Those questions have been thoroughly answered. After his 17th consecutive knockout (the last 10 in title defenses), what hardcore fans and casual boxing watchers should be asking is: Just how great can he become?
Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, recently said that in the history of boxing middleweights, Golovkin stands only behind Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Ray Robinson. Damn. Boasts like that are difficult challenges to ignore and even more difficult to live up to, but against Geale, Golovkin did his best prove his trainer right.
There’s an old truism in boxing that says shorter, straighter punches land first. It almost goes without saying, if you land first, you’re probably landing best. In Saturday's fight, Golovkin showed that his game is far beyond the fundamentals, beyond even the basic truths of boxing. He put an end to the night with a counter right hand that was wider and slower than the one Geale threw and landed flush. Golovkin took the best Geale could muster. Golovkin didn’t roll, shift or dodge. He took it square on his chin, but Golovkin had so much force coming the other way with his own counter right hand that his punch pushed on through the power Geale delivered. Golovkin’s right hand landed just as flush as his opponents’, but this punch finished the night. Geale crumbled under the might of Golobkin’s fist, and the referee barely let Geale stand before calling off the fight.
Golovkin’s punch wrapped up a fight that was already leaning heavily in his favor. It wasn’t that Geale looked bad. This wasn’t a shot Sergio Martinez (vs. Miguel Cotto) or a shot Sugar Shane Mosley (vss Manny Pacquiao). Far from it. Geale looked hungry and physically capable. It’s just that capacity for action and likelihood of executing that action are two very different things. Golovkin’s jab was sharp from the beginning. He cut off the ring as easily as he always does and even seemed faster than usual — a terrible combination for Geale.
Geale’s best work (although extremely fleeting) seemed to come on the inside, where Golovkin kept a high guard but remained too static and squared himself up to his opponent, leaving openings for looping hooks and even a hard uppercut. In truth, however, that’s mostly criticism for criticism’s sake. Geale lacked the power and alacrity to see and act on those openings while at the same time trying to stay on his feet.
With his latest stoppage, Golovkin adds a 10th successful defense of his title, leaving him 11 behind the living legend Bernard Hopkins, who defended the middleweight crown 21 times! Golovkin has more of a chance of beating that record than there being a serious conversation about whether he’s on par with Sugar Ray Robinson. Assuming he did beat Hopkins’s record, would that be enough to enshrine him among the top three middleweights of all time? No.
To keep it brief, here are just two reasons why he’s farther back in line than the top three:
Monzon, one of the most troubled souls to ever lace up gloves — that’s saying a lot — is way ahead of Golovkin. After going 16-3 in his first 19 fights, Monzon never lost again. He successfully defended his title 14 times (a record later broken by Hopkins) and ended his career 87-3-9, 59 knockouts.
Called the "Pittsburgh Windmill," Greb threw punches at an unbelievable rate and from every angle on a protractor, and even some others. He died at the very early age of 33, with an incredible record of 107-8-3, 48 KOs (and a newspaper decision record of 155-9-15). Often remembered as the only man to ever defeat the great Gene Tunney, few realize his autopsy revealed that he fought with one eye blind for the last few years of his career! It's not that, "they don't make 'em like they use to." It's that few men like Greb have ever lived.
That leaves out guys like Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Mickey Walker and Stanley Ketchel, all men who not only deserve places ahead of Golovkin, but they deserve places ahead of Hopkins — for now.
Whereas these men have long been outside the squared circle, Golovkin still has many years ahead of him. He might never have the record of Monzon or Greb, but with the time he has left, Golovkin might add legacy-building names like James Kirkland, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez to his record. North of the 160-pound limit, fights against Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson would all electrify the boxing world. Each would certainly build on Golovkin’s legacy, but promotional issues and purse squabbles are likely to leave these heavier match-ups for an undetermined future.
Cotto, whom Golovkin called out in his post-fight interview, will not step in the ring against him. Cotto's got two names left on his list before retirement comes a calling: Canelo Alvarez and, if he can beat him, Floyd Mayweather (in a rematch). Stepping in the ring against Golovkin would give Cotto flashbacks of the brutal beating he took at the (likely loaded) hands of Antonio Margarito.
Alvarez, given his craving for legacy, pride and pleasing fans, is more likely to want to face the inimitable challenge that Golovkin presents. Given Golovkin’s stated willingness to drop to 154 pound for a big PPV fight, the planets might be aligning themselves for one of the biggest, most exciting and significant possible fights out there, second only to Mayweather-Pacquiao. Let’s make it happen, boxing fans: If you tweet it, it will come. #CaneloGolovkin.
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.