Golovkin vs Proksa Preview: Sink or Swim For Would-Be Middleweight Contenders

Gennady Golovkin has hit New York City. He'll actually be fighting in Verona, however. (Photo by Ed Keenan/K2 Promotions)

Gennady Golovkin and Grzegorz Proksa are headlining an HBO boxing card on Saturday night. It still hasn't quite sunk in for me. It's like some kind of fantasy, where the pieces of the puzzle move as they should, instead of the rather silly and often downright wrong way they tend to move in American boxing especially, but boxing in general these days.

In a world where Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr have been able to get away with main event fights on Boxing's Biggest Network pitting their name values against fighters unknown or close to unknown to the marginalized American audience (Sebastian Zbik, Matthew Macklin, Darren Barker, Marco Antonio Rubio), we now are at a point where Martinez and Chavez Jr have run out of those type of opponents, must fight one another on September 15, and hell, after that, they have to fight someone, don't they?

[ Preview: Sturm vs Geale ]

So here we are with Golovkin and Proksa, two fighters who have never been on HBO in their lives. Golovkin has never fought on American soil, even. Proksa has, but those were bouts one, two, and five of a career that has mostly operated out of his adopted homeland in the United Kingdom.

Even talking about it right now, it's not sinking in. Golovkin vs Proksa? Maybe as a, "What the hell? Why not?" co-feature to something significant. But as a main event? Really?

Keep in mind, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. If all goes right on Saturday night, Golovkin vs Proksa could very well be the best action fight you'll see on HBO in 2012.

Golovkin_vs_proksa_poster_medium Golovkin seems like a kid to many, perhaps, but the 30-year-old former amateur standout has been a pro since 2006, following a gold medal at the 2003 World Amateur Championships, and a silver at the Olympic games in Athens in 2004.

His 2003 Worlds run saw him defeat, in order, Matt Korobov, Andy Lee, Lucian Bute, Yordanis Despaigne, and Oleg Mashkin. All of those fighters except Mashkin went on to have at least some level of professional success. In Athens, he scored a win over Andre Dirrell in the semifinals.

His professional career has been interesting, but I have to get to a reality for me personally observing Gennady Golovkin as a pro before we go any further here. I think Golovkin is talented. I also believe he's very flawed. And one thing that you cannot escape is the fact that in six years as a pro, and now 30 years old, Gennady Golovkin has not done anything worthy of the level of hype he sometimes receives.

I'm not trying to tell you that Golovkin is "overrated" in the general sense. He might be, but I'm not convinced of that, because it goes two ways. Everything he hasn't yet done, he also hasn't had the chance to do. The Kazakh-born fighter, who now lives in Germany, had a dramatic and familiar story with former promoters Universum, who have perhaps done more to exploit boxing as a form of entertainment than a legitimate sport than anyone else has. If you think Floyd Mayweather "cherry-picks" opponents, you're missing some great stories from the less famous circles of the sport. The Universum matchmakers would have led Mayweather screaming into the hills away from such daring challenges as Carlos Baldomir and Victor Ortiz and Henry Bruseles.

Anyway, the point about Golovkin that I want to make is simple. I know some of you are going to argue about how this word is being used, because he holds some meaningless paper title (Felix Sturm holds the "real" WBA belt, if you're inclined to believe there are "real" sanctioning body belts). But more than anything else, Gennady Golovkin remains a prospect, and one getting a little too damn old to be a prospect.

Maybe Sturm truly ducked him. Maybe N'Jikam ducked him, too. Maybe Universum held him back -- he wouldn't be the first or the 20th to make that claim. But whatever you want to chalk it up to, we have not seen Gennady Golovkin tested against a top opponent. This fight is every bit the proving ground for him that it is for his lesser-regarded opponent, who does not hold any world titles and recently had to reclaim his European belt from a guy who really never should have beaten him in the first place.

And that's what makes this fight so damn attractive to me. Someone's going to prove at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, wherever in the hell that is, that they belong in the discussion at middleweight. Golovkin has the hype and some media support. But if he's really for real, he's got to be impressive here to finally back up the crystal ball with hard evidence.

The Fight Itself

Hey! Apart from all that, what can you expect from this as a fight?

Golovkin (23-0, 20 KO) is an offensive powerhouse when he's at his best, a hard charger who comes out guns blazing and all kinds of other stuff like that that I could keep adding to this sentence to make him seem like a can't-miss fighter with action star potential. Imagine left hooks and right hands, ferocious power out of a muscular, 5'10" frame, on some highlight reel video set to something by Megadeth (the early years, natch).

The trouble with projecting Golovkin to be this dominant offensive fighter goes back to the fact that he's unproven. Who is his best opponent? Lajuan Simon? A faded Kassim Ouma? Hell, was it Ian Gardner way back in 2008? Yes, he has overpowered the Makoto Fuchigamis of the world, but, well, of course he did. The same goes for the likes of Nilson Tapia and Milton Nunez.

I'm not saying that Golovkin laying waste to Simon -- a durable, respectable pro -- in 2:17 wasn't impressive. It was. And his fight with Ouma was damn fun to watch, in part because Golovkin eschewed defense in the fight and let himself get into a true brawl with the Ugandan veteran. (Ouma, for the record, was badly beaten up in that fight and hasn't fought since.)

But Proksa, on paper, is as much a step up for Golovkin as Golovkin is for him, or at least it's comparable. This isn't an A-side/B-side fight. This is kind of the best possible version of a ShoBox main event -- two guys getting close, with genuine potential, about to throw down. In other words, it's actual, genuine, classic Boxing After Dark material. It's not just called that because Lampley isn't working, which has been the only real difference between B.A.D. and HBO's "World Championship Boxing" series in recent years.

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Proksa (28-1, 21 KO) is himself a fine offensive talent, and no more than six months ago, was a sexy pick for rising star of the middleweight ranks. Then he ran into a punchless Welshman named Kerry Hope, got cut up, didn't handle it real well, and he lost for the first time as a pro.

Now, I said then and stand by my belief that Proksa was actually the better fighter in that ring, but he didn't give many other people that impression. Hope fought confidently, and some people like that active style that he employed, which wound up winning him enough rounds. No matter how you slice it, or even if you are part of the minority that includes me and maybe two other dummies in the world that thought Proksa clearly did win that fight, Grzegorz didn't perform well. Blood bothered him greatly and he found himself in a fight that he didn't expect, or simply wasn't prepared for when it became what it did. Kerry Hope surpassed expectations in that fight, and greatly so at that. Proksa was way below what was expected, and even if he'd gotten a decision win, I think his stock would have dropped anyway.

In fact, maybe it's better he lost and got a chance to redeem himself in the rematch on July 7, where he pretty well dominated Hope and won via eighth round TKO. The 27-year-old Proksa now comes into this riding some momentum, erasing more a bad performance than just a loss, rather than potentially coming into this fight with people remembering a closer-than-expected win where he underwhelmed.

Proksa has been compared to Sergio Martinez in the past, a southpaw who goes out of his way to be stylish. He fights with "swagger," big confidence, when he's in control. He's not afraid to leave his hands down and try to unleash shots from odd angles. He's got power in both hands. Listed at 5'8", he is small for the division, but size has not been a problem for him yet.

Proksa's best win came in October 2011, when he dismantled Sebastian Sylvester in three rounds.

As a style clash, I think this has fireworks in store. It could be a long, drawn-out battle of offensive talents banging away at one another to see who can stand it the longest, or it could be the San Diego 4th of July of fights:


They do both have some fairly large "technical errors" in their games, after all.

Prediction

I'm going with Golovkin in a hell of a fight. Both guys will get hurt, I think. Both are going to have their mettle tested like never before. So here are three quick reasons why I'm picking the more hyped fighter:

  • Generally speaking, hype is there for a reason. I'm not as wowed by Gennady as some out there are, but he's good, and I think he's got a better overall package than Proksa.
  • Golovkin's record may not have the sort of big-time wins you'd like of someone with said hype, but he does have a better record than Proksa. I think that's undeniable.
  • Golovkin seems like someone who's chomping at the bit for this fight. Proksa is a talented fighter, but I've seen him outhustled by Kerry Hope. How will he stand up to Golovkin when Gennady gets rolling on offense?

I'll take Golovkin by stoppage in the seventh round, officially. Proksa will be there early, but I expect Gennady to break him down and ultimately just break him.

Co-Feature: Dzinziruk vs Gonzalez

The 154-pound co-feature will see veteran Sergiy Dzinziruk (37-1, 24 KO) return after about an 18-month layoff following a one-sided loss to Sergio Martinez in 2011, and he'll be facing Puerto Rican prospect Jonathan Gonzalez (15-0, 13 KO). Dzinziruk was at one point the best 154-pound fighter in the world, but it's been over two years since he won a fight, and almost four since he beat anyone of actual substance (sorry, Daniel Dawson fans).

Chances are at least decent that the Dzinziruk who waged war with Lukas Konecny in 2008, which was one of the best European fights of the 2000s, doesn't actually exist anymore. He's 36 years old and there's really no telling what we'll get from him.

Gonzalez, 23, hasn't exactly blown me away as a prospect, but he does his job and wins fights. He's got a toughness and he's got some power, though his last two opponents (Billy Lyell and Richard Gutierrez) did both last the 10-round distance, and were definitely his best opponents.

I'm not making an official pick here, but I'll say this: If Dzinziruk is the fighter he was in 2008, Gonzalez is in a lot of trouble. If he's not even the fighter of 2010 (Dawson) or the ass-whipping from Sergio last year, then Gonzalez likely will be claiming a pretty decent scalp.

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