Aftermath: On Golovkin-Brook and Gonzalez-Cuadras
There is a moment, if not several, in each of his fights which is akin to a blast of wind invading a room. Witnesses to it, like the curtains, the stack of papers, the door ajar, move in response, not reacting so much as getting caught up in the gust. Like the frantic flames of the room’s candles, opponents dance distressingly until they too become part of that force – their smoking remains part of its proof.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez delivered a handful of those moments against Carlos Cuadras at The Forum in Inglewood, California last weekend. Cuadras did the distressed dance of all those snuffed flames that preceded him but was never extinguished. Instead, he employed what movement, size and speed he wields effectively enough to force Max Kellerman, were he ever pressed on the matter, to temporarily dispense with his simplified criteria for winning: because the number of rounds of which Kellerman would have preferred Gonzalez as winner were probably incongruent with the pre-established narrative he delivered.
Harold Lederman, too, under similar pressure, might rethink, if not his scorecard, his explanation for it. Time and again, Lederman noted the harder punches Gonzalez was landing. How, though, can the force of a punch be evaluated according to anything but its effect? If Lederman were going by body language, Cuadras looked like the harder-throwing man. Indeed, Gonzalez rarely looks like he’s throwing hard. Technique, precision and sequence produce the evil in his gloves. Body language is misleading, of course, even irrelevant, in terms of gauging just how hard a punch is. But so is all talk of harder punches not rooted in the product of those blows (and even those don’t tell the story, since not all fighters absorb leather equally). The most that could be said is Gonzalez and Cuadras hurt each other with welcome frequency and, if Gonzalez really was landing the harder punches, Cuadras should not have rallied as he did late in the fight.
Cuadras accomplished much against Gonzalez, as any photo of Chocolatito taken since last Saturday will attest, and showed that Gonzalez’s steady climb through the weight divisions, however tiny the increments, will eventually see him beaten. That Cuadras achieved this much after a second round that left his mouth agape for the remaining 10 is a reminder that whomever does eventually scalp the little Nicaraguan (who has now gone two fights without a stoppage for the first time since 2009) will need to boast advantages beyond those measured on a scale.
It has become trendy to praise Gonzalez, to recognize what is superlative and rare and, thus, it has become trendy to denigrate him. It is understandable that people look at a man that could sleep in a large dog crate and struggle to find reasons to fear him. The placid expression on those boyish features, a physiognomy almost incapable of sneer or snarl – his is the bearing of a paperboy. And who fears the paperboy? Lest you think the absence of that fear does not color how Gonzalez is appraised, how he is esteemed, spend a moment reflecting on why the “Baddest Man on the Planet” is so laudatory a compliment.
There is the fact that Gonzalez, despite the familiar surname, not only fights under the wrong flag but, as he was Saturday night, in direct opposition to the correct one. And of the four titles he’s won in as many weight classes? If not for those divisions being separated from each other by barely more than the mass of a toddler’s full diaper, if not for the proliferation of titles cheapening even the hardware that can still mean something, surely Gonzalez would meet with less criticism. Yet with every move up in weight, the relief he finds on the scale is countered by the greater peril that meets him in the ring. Moving up seven pounds over a career is nothing? Very well, then neither is moving up eight pounds for a man one-and-a-half times Gonzalez’ size.
Did unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin allow IBF middleweight titlist Kell Brook to tee off on him in the early rounds of their fight from the O2 Arena last Saturday? The answer is elusive, little more than grist for a mill that never stops turning.
But the reason it can be asked is because Golovkin was unimpressive for much of his fight with Brook. He neglected his jab, chased Brook instead of cutting off the ring and missed badly with a number of telegraphed punches. He may not be the monster of his mythology but Golovkin is a better fighter than he showed in the opening rounds against Brook. The result of his sloppiness was a handful of choice counters buried in his face, some stern words from a trainer in the unfamiliar position of feeling compelled to do more than Tweet and take photos and a bloody nose.
Somewhat lost in the talk of what Golovkin did and did not do – intentional or otherwise -is that Brook is a very good prizefighter and making mistakes against him carries a price. Even with the disparity in size, he is arguably the best name on Golovkin’s ledger – and if that is not an indictment of the middleweights who have faced Golovkin, especially of those who have not – and even of Golovkin himself – what is? Had Brook been a middleweight, perhaps the price he extracted would have taught us something. Of course, Golovkin may just as well have fought him in a manner befitting a more legitimate threat, as he did against punchers Curtis Stevens and David Lemieux. Alas, there is no middleweight Kell Brook to be found anywhere.
Whatever explained Golovkin’s amateurish start, when he wanted the fight to end, he conducted himself accordingly. Before the end of the fifth round, both Brook and his trainer Dominic Ingle’s ever-ready white towel were swept up in the bluster.
There is little drama in a fight that remains a topic of discussion, primarily because of debates about whether the winner intentionally gave a mediocre effort or about which welterweight fared better against his middleweight executioner this year. A fight should produce some enticing futurity. The aftermath should be marked by anticipation of what comes next. There is no such futurity for Golovkin, unless you can get excited about verbal agreements, unless you can put hope in talk of a potential fight happening a year later than necessary – should it happen at all – and preserve that hope in the face of what tedium might be offered in the interim. Give Golovkin his credit, though. Not only can he draw a crowd to his mismatches, he can drive them into a frenzy.
When Roy Jones Jr. was in the midst of his light heavyweight reign, he once played in a semi-pro basketball game before facing Eric Lucas. Jones thought, by weakening himself prior to fighting, he might generate some intrigue in the match. He was wrong. Jones was, to the surprise of nobody, too much for Lucas, whom he stopped in 11 rounds over 20 years ago. What Jones needed was not an opponent for whom he could compromise himself but one he wouldn’t dare face at anything but his best. Jones was a great fighter; Golovkin might very well be the same but what he needs are opponents to confirm as much. He will struggle mightily to find them if he keeps looking to the reluctant bunch in his moribund division. Affix blame wherever you see fit but to never see Golovkin face real adversity, to never see what substance the man has (and the hunch is he has plenty) would be a shame.
You can follow Jimmy Tobin on Twitter @jet79.