Theatre of Cruelty: Golovkin hammers Macklin in Mashantucket

USA TODAY Sports

It was supposed to be the first test of his career, but a vicious left hook and another knockout later confirmed Gennady Golovkin as a very, very real deal.

Quite who decided that Gennady Golovkin still needed to prove himself remains to be seen, but the inspection that Matthew Macklin was supposed to provide backfired horribly on Saturday night at the Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket. Macklin, from Birmingham, England, came planning to test Golovkin's untouched chin and unused gas tank, yet it was the "Good Boy" from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, who elected instead to administer his own surgical examination of his opponent's credentials to share an eighteen foot ring with him. Indeed, through two and a half brutal, bruising rounds, Golovkin's furious hands became scopes, retractors and probes designed to open up Macklin's febrile skin and reapportion his stolid constitution.

Long the nearly-man of the middleweight division, Macklin had been an unfortunate loser to Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez in his previous two vaunts at world titles. Though gifted neither with devastating power nor impressive speed, diligence and dedication had seen Macklin take his few noteworthy attributes - which include a willingness to double jab, a sturdy if unexceptional chin, and a true fighter's heart - further than most would have predicted.

Yet the notion that such workmanlike tools could disrupt a fighter with Golovkin's skill, application and chutzpah was unsurprisingly exposed as a fallacy. Golovkin, after all, may not have faced the proverbial murderer's row at middleweight, but the sheer dominance of wins over Rosado, Proksa, Ouma and others had offered glimpses of a talent unlikely to be fazed either by occasion or opponent. Perhaps those who exhorted Macklin as a potential victor forgot that the man facing him was a world amateur champion and Olympic silver medallist, a fighter with 371 wins from a combined 376 amateur and professional fights, whose style perpetually invokes an uncommon predisposition to the knockout. Perhaps they forgot how bouts typically unfold when contested by humble workmen like Macklin and those capable of terminating fights at any point, like Golovkin.

For Golovkin is not only refined and skilled - with his footwork a noteworthy lesson in subtlety and economy - but also one of the mysterious few who possess that kind of uncommon power capable of determining a fight's direction in the matter of seconds. Indeed, if Macklin's curtailed examination proved anything, it was namely this: that Golovkin is one of boxing's truest punchers. His, as Macklin noted after the fight, is a power manifest in both fists, one that translates not only into hooks, uppercuts and crosses, but jabs too. It is a power so brutally physical that we might call it hyper-physical, its mystery and effect so striking that we can approach it only through the most metaphysical of terms.

Yet within that mysterious category of puncher, Golovkin is a further enigma. Commonly, there are two types of puncher: the cautious, languorous, laidback one, who treats his bullets like he does spare change, and then the ferocious, feverish, angry one, who fights like a corkscrew of aggression, seeking always to impress his fury on an unfortunate opponent. Into the former category we might cast someone like Randall Bailey, with his lethal right cocked until some sudden moment of exposure urges it forth. Into the latter, the likes of Mike Tyson, or Edwin Valero, or Tony Ayala, or any other fighter whose style hints at a darker hinterland of rage, bloodlust and hostility.

Golovkin, though, is emblematic specifically neither of one nor the other - or perhaps, rather, he is emblematic of both. Charming and assured outside the ropes, Golovkin is a smiling demon between them, moving with such precise economy that he is able always to dictate the geography of a fight while he beats his insistent rhythm into the canvas. He is never loose with his punches, but nor is he spare; likewise, he is never frantic in the ring, nor ever becalmed. Golovkin is the happy medium of two extremes: a tax inspector with a friendly smile, a murderer with a warming laugh. Golovkin promises to punish you now and be amiable with you after.

The principle question leading into the fight, of course, surrounded Golovkin's chin: what would happen, as Max Kellerman pondered aloud at the opening bell, when Golovkin was caught flush by a punch from a man his own size? Beginning immediately on the front foot, Macklin sought his own answers as he doubled up the jab and sought to push Golovkin in directions rarely travelled. Yet within a minute, it was Macklin who found himself moving backwards, as his over-eager forays into Golovkin's range invited sharp jabs and thumping left hooks that served as an early warning to the unfortunate challenger: keep away.

Indeed, where Macklin's punches barely made a sound, Golovkin's shots - whether jabs or hooks, lefts or rights - were always audible, making not a dull thud but a sound that was eager and crisp. Though Macklin is by no means the heaviest of punchers, 20 knockouts from 29 victories are testament to some degree of whack - yet comparison with Golovkin was moot. A straight right towards the end of the first round saw Macklin's balance disarrayed, while another shot at the start of the second - this one by no means clean - only further disarranged the New York-based fighter's legs.

Stopped before by Martinez and Jamie Moore in the later rounds, the failures of Macklin's chin had tended previously to correlate with the exhaustion of his energy reserves. But, as he was soon to be taught, grit and determination mean little against a fighter with Golovkin's natural resources. Indeed, as jabs and hooks began not only to find their targets, but to club them, with increasing abundance, the direction of this particular encounter seemed ever more obvious. As at the start of Gravity's Rainbow, though, "the evacuation still proceeds" - even when "it's all theatre."

With two minutes left in the third round, Macklin backed against the ropes in search of some hidden retreat that might afford him respite. Familiarly, though, the figure of the Kazakh fighter quickly loomed to dispel any hopes of a safe haven within the ropes, hammering the ducking Macklin with a right uppercut of sufficient torque to end the fight on its own right. By this time, Macklin was totally reticent to offer to Golovkin's furious hands his chin and face - which now bore a gruesome cut and increasingly looked like the victim of a sustained mugging - yet he nonetheless failed to account for another weapon in Golovkin's arsenal: his devastating left hook. Afforded sufficient time to turn the full force of his body through the punch, Golovkin's shot found Macklin's exposed right side with all the power, velocity and speed required to crumple his opponent and unplug devitalized legs.

Can anyone doubt the "Good Boy" any longer? Few would likely argue with the proposition that Macklin's powers are on the wane after a career filled with tough fights, but the speed and efficiency with which Golovkin dispatched his notable opponent was remarkable. One of a generation that typically finds its biggest fights too complicated to arrange, Golovkin stands for something simpler and easier to digest: with Golovkin, there is no fancy posturing and there are no large words, just lefts and rights and lefts and rights.

Indeed, with a come-one come-all attitude and the full support of HBO, future opponents should include the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Sergio Martinez, Carl Froch and Andre Ward. Unlike most, there is little doubt that Golovkin could provide a compelling encounter with Ward that, should it happen, might impel the final push toward stardom that both fighters seek. Boxing, after all, is mostly theatre - and Golovkin's style is suitably cruel, as Matthew Macklin unfortunately found out, to justify a future role as one of the sport's lead actors. As Antonin Artaud noted, "there are those who go to the theatre as they would go to a brothel": and, we might add, that as long as there's a place for cruelty in human nature, there'll be a place for punchers like Golovkin.

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