What’s the rush with Golovkin?
Within the swanky confines of the Salle de Etoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco, WBA middleweight ruler Gennady Golovkin systematically and brutally crushed the game Martin Murray over 11 punishing rounds. For “GGG,” it was his 19th consecutive stoppage, raised his mark to a sparkling 32-0 (29) and was his 13th title defense. Forget any linear claims (currently held by Miguel Cotto); the best 160-pounder on the planet is this smiling assassin from Kazakhstan, bar none, end of story.
Golovkin seems right in the thick of his physical prime and still has an incredible zeal for the sport.
He is both the irresistable force and immovable object. Murray learned that this past weekend. The roughneck from Merseyside, who is as stout and durable as they come, was on his back foot from the early seconds of this contest, floored twice in the fourth stanza, decked in the 10th and eventually halted in the early seconds of the 11th frame, saved from impending doom by referee Luis Pabon. Pabon showed more mercy toward Murray than the latter’s own corner, which refused to pull the plug even when it was evident that Golovkin’s dominance – both on the scorecards and from a physical standpoint – was insurmountable. A proud prizefighter who had never come close to being stopped was beaten into submission.
No, Murray isn’t a future Hall-of-Famer but coming into this fight, he had a mark of 29-1-1 (12) and you could make an argument that he should’ve been undefeated coming in. He fought to a disputed draw versus Felix Sturm in Germany in 2011 and was on the short end of the stick in a hometown decision in Argentina in 2013 against Sergio Martinez, then the middleweight champeen of the world. This was a seasoned veteran and hardened man who had competed well at the world-class level coming into this contest. But he was simply outclassed and turned into another “good boy” on this day.
Currently, Golovkin holds the WBA strap, the interim version of the WBC belt and the IBO crown. There seems to be a demand from certain segments of the media and fan-base for Golovkin to move up to super middleweight (which is something he and his team are willing to do for certain match-ups that are economically viable). But he’s made it clear that his goal for the time being is to unify and clean out the middleweight division.
The reality is, since coming over to the States less than three years ago, Golovkin has raised his popularity exponentially and has steadily developed his brand. Despite what some think, there’s a reason he’s gone from the Turning Stone in Verona to the Theater at the Madison Square Garden to its big room to the StubHub Center. He’s also played to steadily rising HBO ratings. As of now, the public doesn’t find his middleweight run monotonous.
So the question is: What’s the rush to move him up?
Shouldn’t Golovkin be afforded the same opportunity to consolidate the division as Bernard Hopkins had received years ago?
And what’s interesting is that while there is criticism of Golovkin’s resume (and it is admittedly lacking), if you go back to Hopkins’ title reign…well, there seems to be some revisionist history going on with a long run comprised of 20 title defenses. After needing two attempts to down Segundo Mercado, his early title defenses consisted of forgettables like Steve Frank, Joe Lipsey, William “Bo” James, a faded John David Jackson (who was actually coming off a loss to journeyman Abdullah Ramadan in his previous contest), Andrew Council and Robert Allen (who actually “earned” three title opportunities). Hopkins’ most underrated and underappreciated early defense came against the 32-0 Glen Johnson, who went on to have a storied career of his own. He even took on a shot Simon Brown (whose best days were at welterweight) during the early stages of his reign.
Hopkins’ big break came in 2001 when he was included in Don King’s middleweight tournament along with the fellow beltholders Keith Holmes, William Joppy and Felix Trinidad, who unified a portion of the junior middleweight title and was among the biggest stars in the sport. Hopkins dispatched Holmes and, in a career-defining effort, shut “Tito” down at the Garden in front of 20,000 Puerto Ricans with the rubble of 9/11 still smoldering just a few blocks away. In many ways, it was a star-making performance for Hopkins but after unsuccessful attempts to make a rematch with Roy Jones Jr. (who had beaten “The Executioner” in Hopkins’ first title attempt in 1993) over 60/40 – remember that? – he faced the mediocre row of Carl Daniels, Morrade Hakkar, and Joppy before landing another marquee fight against Oscar De La Hoya. Hopkins made his last successful title defense against Howard Eastman before losing in controversial fashion to Jermain Taylor.
So basically, while Hopkins has to be lauded for his consistency and longevity, his two big fights as the middleweight ruler came against natural welterweights. For every dangerous challenger like Antwun Echols, there was plenty of flotsam and jetsam in his line-by-line on BoxRec.
Golovkin’s middleweight title run began in Aug. of 2010 when he stopped Milton Nunez in one round in Panama to capture the interim WBA title. From there, he took on Nilson Tapia, Kassim Ouma, Lajuan Simon and Makota Fuchigami before coming stateside in 2012. Since then, Golovkin has turned away Grzegorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Osumanu Adama, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio and now, Murray.
Not overly impressive but in the second half of this run, he is at least facing solid contenders and former beltholders. What’s missing is a Trinidad or De La Hoya fight. Unfortunately for Golovkin, during his recent ascension, Martinez was being cashed out. Now we live in an era in which boxers are more than willing to vacate belts for career-high paydays (read: Peter Quillin) and hide behind the fractured nature of the sport. It’s very unlikely that if Quillin should capture the WBO belt from Andy Lee in April, he will actually come out from the safe shelter afforded him by Al Haymon and the Premier Boxing Champions. Cotto – who just happens to be a Puerto Rican star like Trinidad – ironically is the guy who could vault Golovkin into the next plateau of stardom. By capturing the WBC interim crown last October versus Rubio, he put himself in line for a guaranteed shot at Cotto after his next voluntary defense. But Cotto is clearly at the business stage of his career and may have no interest in going through this meat grinder.
Currently, the IBF belt is vacant and will soon be contested by David Lemieux vs. Hassan N’Dam. It’s not clear if Golovkin will ever get into the ring with either.
So for the time being, it looks like Golovkin will have to settle for working in volume and being among the most active champions in the world. He has performed nine times,(it would’ve been 10 without the untimely passing of his father in February last year) since Sept. of 2012. The plan is for him to perform up to four times in 2015. But there will be increasing pleas for Golovkin to move up and he will inevitably catch backlash and a loud, vocal chorus of detractors will scream from the rooftops. It comes with the territory for any fighter of note. Hopkins actually faced this in the early-to-mid-2000s when he first declined to move up to face Joe Calzaghe at 168 a year or two before meeting Trinidad. And after catching a lot of heat for not moving up in weight immediately, he eventually faced the “Golden Boy” three years afterward. It has to be noted that the ageless Hopkins was 36 years old when he faced Trinidad.
Currently, Golovkin is 32.
Perhaps he simply has to bide his time.
The last undisputed middleweight champion before Hopkins was the man the “Alien” admired so much – Marvelous Marvin Hagler. And what did his middleweight title run look like?
Well, after bludgeoning Alan Minter in London and having beer bottles thrown at him, he faced Fulgencio Obelmejias, rematched with Vito Antuofermo (who held him to a highly questionable draw in his first title effort in 1979), Mustafa Hamsho, Caveman Lee, Obelmejias again, Tony Sibson, Wilford Scypion, Roberto Duran, Juan Domingo Roldan, a return engagement versus Hamsho, Thomas Hearns, John Mugabi and his career-ending loss to Sugar Ray Leonard.
It’s interesting but you’ll see some soft touches, solid and underrated contenders and big names who started off in lower weight classes like Hopkins.
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