Gennady Golovkin: Time and place
The measurement of time in the world of sport acts differently than it does in the day to day of our normal lives. One athlete can be deemed “old” at the age of 33, while another might just be reaching his physical prime. Like a Christopher Nolan movie, time for athletes is not measured by a simple number – it’s measured by multiple factors unique to an individual situation. This complex equation of personal circumstances can lead to a 40-year-old quarterback still being able to perform at a high level, a power pitcher who starts to break down physically at the age of 30 or a 35-year-old boxer reaching the pinnacle of his career, just as he moves away from his fighting prime.
IBF, IBO, WBA and WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is not the same fighter he was two or three years ago. In his March bout with former WBA “regular” middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs and his most recent fight with lineal middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, Father Time seemed to finally grab a hold of Golovkin’s coat tails. Round after round, Golovkin’s howitzer of a right hand seemed to just miss both Jacobs and Canelo, along the ropes. Like a pitcher whose slight mechanical change leads to his fastball being tipped to opposing batters, Golovkin’s kill shot now seemed a predictable (and avoidable) weapon, rather than the last thing a man might feel before his night of fighting would reach its conclusion.
To be sure, both Daniel Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez are probably better than much of Golovkin’s previous competition. This must have indeed played a factor in their ability to perform as they did against the reigning middleweight champion. Yet I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched the Canelo-Golovkin super-fight, this past Saturday, that I was watching more of what a great yet aging fighter was unable to do, rather than what a great younger fighter was able to do.
Canelo did away with the concerns about size and power in his first real encounter in the middleweight division. He took some power shots from Golovkin well, and even held his ground, at times, in the middle of the ring. Capitalizing on the early counter shot wariness (or big fight nerves) of Golovkin, Canelo seemed to win two or three of the early rounds. Yet as the fight progressed, Golovkin began to settle into a familiar rhythm. This in-ring repetition was something I first noticed, back in January of 2013, when I watched Golovkin destroy Gabriel Rosado from near ringside at The Theater in Madison Square Garden.
Stalk, corner, batter, repeat – that was how Golovkin hunted his prey. All the while absorbing his opponents punches without so much as blinking. This physical and mental destruction of his foes would ultimately lead to a knockout and their transformation into a “good boy.” Golovkin seemed to relish this almost as a make-believe science fiction monster would relish devouring its victims and collecting their souls as souvenirs. Yet as Golovkin began to stalk Canelo Alvarez, it became clear that this was not the same pattern of destruction he had unleashed from years past.
What was once “stalk, corner, batter, repeat” was now “stalk, corner, pause, punch, maybe batter, wait, follow, miss overhand right, repeat.” It was enough to win rounds on pure aggression and ring generalship but it was far from enough to precipitate Alvarez’s destruction. Alvarez is masterful and relaxed along the ropes and his defense and head movement have always been underrated. Yet one has to believe that the Golovkin of two or three years ago leaves the Mexican icon in the arms of the referee as the fight ends in a technical knockout.
It would seem that Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions knew what they were doing by waiting to put Canelo in with Golovkin. For one of the most important aspects of time and how it functions is timing. The art of figuring out when something is too soon, too late or just right is a difficult one. If De La Hoya and Golden Boy had put Canelo into the middleweight division too soon, the outcome might have been disastrous. Yet it seems their well-timed debut will allow Canelo to have a good run at middleweight. He should continue to move into his prime while Golovkin will try to hold on to the tail end of his. Should there be a rematch of their contest, I’m sure De La Hoya and Golden Boy will prefer to have the fight back in Las Vegas. Time and timing might matter a whole lot but so does the actual place where things happen.
When Las Vegas was announced as the location for the highly-anticipated showdown between Alvarez and Golovkin, many fans chastened because it ended their dream of attending the mega-fight. Some also began to show concern that Golovkin would not be granted a fair shake in the town where Canelo was heir to the Floyd Mayweather Jr. throne. For the boxing powers that be are very good at recognizing who makes them money and who doesn’t. They know Canelo Alvarez is one of the biggest cash cows in boxing, and time is still on his side. As said previously, Golovkin’s time is running out.
At the conclusion of the Canelo-Golovkin bout, I felt Golovkin had won by two or three rounds. However, I knew, in Las Vegas terms, the outcome of the bout was indeed a toss-up. Yet even I was surprised at the infamous Adalaide Byrd scoring the fight 118-110 for Alvarez. Her card was the equivalent of a Major League Baseball umpire calling strikes on pitches that sail a foot wide of home plate, inning after inning, in Game Seven of the World Series. Her scoring tainted and damaged the outcome of the event but, of course, there was nothing that could be done to fix it.
Fighting and beating Canelo Alvarez should have been the pinnacle of Golovkin’s career. It is indeed a shame that all the hard work he endured to get to this point was left in the hands of a judge who was clearly inept, at best. Golovkin did all he could to take his legacy into his own hands and remove the judges from the equation. Yet the outcome was ultimately determined by two factors beyond his control:
The passage of time which enabled him to secure the defining fight of his career and the city where it had to happen.
Like many things in life, it was simply a matter of time and place.
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