When Gennady Golovkin cut through the very capable Grzegorz Proksa on this past weekend's edition of HBO Boxing After Dark, it got the attention of the boxing world. While there are some that are hesitant to crown Golovkin based on his United States debut, there are many others who immediately inserted him into those men at the very top of the middleweight division.
But, perhaps most interesting in all of the reaction, is that...well...that there was any reaction to begin with.
Most episodes of Boxing After Dark these days happen and then the world moves on. But there was something in the ferocity of Golovkin's attack, possibly amplified by Proksa being tough as nails and taking the beating like a champion, that seems to have stuck with the people who watched the fight.
We've seen fans and media put him in the ring with men like Chavez, Jr., Martinez and Geale. He's effectively gone from a guy at the head of the "B-tier" of middleweights to someone talked about with the absolute best.
And he deserves it, because he laid a championship caliber beating on Proksa. A beating that Proksa himself seemed completely impressed by.
But it's still strange to see a "mainstream" website like ESPN affiliated Grantland write a fawning post-fight about a B.A.D. fight featuring a couple of non-American, non-superstar boxers.
And Rafe Bartholomew even went as far as to cast Golovkin into a pretty major role, that of "the next Manny Pacquiao":
So can Golovkin be boxing's next Pacquiao? The comparison is imperfect. Pacquiao was 22 when he debuted on HBO. Golovkin is 30. Pacquiao turned pro when he was 16 and his boxing skills remained unrefined throughout the first decade of his professional career. Golovkin, on the other hand, had a decorated amateur career and possesses the polished technique of an Olympian. Pacquiao's kinetic hand speed and improvisational flurries allowed him to overwhelm champion fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, and Miguel Cotto, while Golovkin's attack is more steady than fast. But here's what they have in common: Manny Pacquiao and Gennady Golovkin both throw punches with real stopping power. They have aggressive styles that lead to knockouts and TKOs, and they don't mind taking a few punches in the course of landing their own. They both hail from countries that aren't well known to the American mainstream (although, with more than 3 million Filipino Americans buying his pay-per-view fights, it's fair to say that Pacquiao's ethnic draw is far greater than Golovkin's). But as Pacquiao has proven, boxing fans don't need to be able to locate the Philippines on a map to decide that Manny is worth their pay-per-view money.
Unless Golovkin's fight with Proksa was somehow a fluke, this Kazakh with the shaggy helmet of hair, slightly Eurasian features, and devastating fists is a special fighter - one who can carry boxing when Pacquiao decides to retire and open a megachurch and when Floyd Mayweather collects his last mammoth paycheck.
As he said, the comparison is imperfect. And he does delve into the idea that some of the top promoters aren't going to want to put their guys in against a technically sound, thunderously powerful middleweight.
Right now they're able to hide behind the always convenient "he's just not worth the money" excuse to keep a Martinez or a Chavez Jr. out of the ring with him. And you can't get big without someone giving you a little help along the way.
But, ultimately, we do a fighter like Golovkin a disservice by thrusting him into the "next Pacquiao" role. It's the same as any "Next Jordan" or "Next Ali" comparisons start dropping. There are usually cultural and sporting differences that set those iconic fighters apart. The next Ali isn't ever going to happen because Ali was so much more than simply a boxer. Similarly, Pacquiao is a bizarre mix of national hero, politician and boxer who has been able to climb in weight in unheard of ways.
So no, ultimately I don't think Golovkin is set to be a guy who will have the cultural impact of a Manny Pacquiao, and he doesn't have an Oscar De La Hoya to pass the torch in the ring. But, maybe if a big time promoter and a big time fighter agree to give him a chance, we'll get to see just how much of a legend he can build.