"I'm sorry, Mr. McFly. I meant I was just starting on the second coat."
-Biff Tannen, 1985
Floyd Mayweather, that hybrid of sublime boxing ability and conspicuous celebrity, has employed high-wattage escorts 50 Cent, Justin Bieber, and Lil Wayne as ring-walk entourage members for past fights. Gennady Golovkin may need to recruit Teddy Roosevelt, Lee Marvin, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to usher him into future battles, characters worthy of accompanying a man who appears the embodiment of masculine ethos in the ring.
Golovkin's trail of terror continued on June 29, as he performed minor surgery on Matthew Macklin's face for two rounds before bisecting him with a single, brutal punch to the liver, decisively, and probably mercifully, bringing matters to a close in the third. Golovkin's bandwagon continues to fill up and those who snagged an early seat appear more and more prescient with each passing day.
In Macklin, the man, nay, the legend of "Triple G" (Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin) finally found himself a credible middleweight contender standing in his path, a veteran fighter boasting one thing Golovkin was lacking, experience at the highest level. Macklin was expected to lose, yes, but he was at least presumed to acquit himself respectably and make Golovkin, who had been feasting on undersized pseudo-contenders and journeymen, really earn it.
Golovkin reduced Macklin to ash and brimstone just like the rest. Even worse, he turned him into Nobuhiro Ishida, a middling junior-middleweight who suffered the same third-round knockout fate against Golovkin earlier in the year. Macklin, the competent pug who some claim was wronged in a hotly debated split-decision against longtime stalwart Felix Sturm. Macklin, who revisionist mythologists often boast was giving the division's consensus best, Sergio Martinez, life and death for ten rounds before succumbing after a series of damaging punches to close the eleventh (he wasn't, but he certainly gave a valiant effort against the elite fighter). And Golovkin goes and does everything short of performing a babality on the poor guy.
Yes, he has arrived. It is now prudent to rate Golovkin as the clear #1 challenger at 160 lbs. behind only the lineal champion, the aforementioned Martinez. And it's also not just plausible, but likely, based on recent evidence, with Martinez' deteriorating physical skills, that Golovkin is the best fighter currently campaigning there. It's obviously too early to mention the Kazakh destroyer alongside such historic division luminaries as Carlos Monzon or Marvelous Marvin Nathaniel Hagler nee Sims, but Golovkin's ceiling appears higher than Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. floating on a fluffy cloud in Asgard sharing bong hits with Odin and Loki.
So surely the next logical move would be Golovkin vs. Martinez to make the coronation official, right? Sergio, pass the torch, keep the Burger King crown? It's a no brainer, innit? Alas, the match will have its' naysayers and rightfully so. Martinez is not the same fighter he was at his best. On top of the natural degeneration any man will face at age 38 (see Washington Wizards: Jordan, Michael), Martinez has now exited the ring from two consecutive fights with an identical set of injuries; a broken hand, a cut above the eye, and, most damningly to a fighter so reliant on his legs, damage to his knee severe enough to require surgery. There is something mildly insidious in sending this noble champion, a man who has given the sport an abundance of exciting fights and memorable moments over the last few years, as a lamb to the slaughter to validate the ascension of the next big thing.
The best version of Golovkin will never face the best Martinez, whose ghost still prowls the ring somewhere in the twelfth round at the Thomas + Mack center on Mexican Independence Day, admiring the sheer bravado of his inevitably final stand. Even with the brief sample size of one fight since, it hardly seems a great leap to suggest Martinez was never the same after emerging from the carnage of that last-minute game of chicken with the relentless cruiserweight who stalked him to the final bell. That frantic ninety seconds as the wounded Martinez stood his ground and traded in a round for the ages likely marked the end of his time at the top of the sport. Age, injuries, and thousands of punches to the head during a fifteen year career have sent the once-spectacular talent into rapid decline.
Martinez has always shown enormous heart in the ring when things get tough, with a compelling blend of confidence, courage and pure machismo. By some accounts, he's actually contemplating, even suggesting, fighting Golovkin, perhaps for a chance at another late-career triumph, likely also motivated by those who say his time has passed. While a lot of fighters publicly lobby for unlikely opponents, Martinez has the track record to make these claims believable.
Surely something's not right in that perfectly defined head of his, volunteering a date with the executioner? Or maybe, once again, he is revealing himself as a genuine champion with staggering pride, not so eager or willing to go off gently into that good night. One can expect that same attitude in the ring, should this fight actually come to fruition, precisely the reason it should not happen. Martinez no longer appears to have the legs to exercise his brand of rapid in-out movement, nor the reflexes to successfully pull off his hands-down, head jerking gambits. Against a fighter with Golovkin's power and composure, these lapses will be fatal.
Martinez has earned the right to forge his own destiny. As things stand, it seems preferable for him to embark on a retirement tour, wrap things up with a cupcake or two, and bow off stage right. Golovkin will have plenty of worthy opponents to make his bones on, with young fighters like Peter Quillin emerging at 160 and talent-rich divisions just north and south. There is no need for Golovkin to polish off the carcass of a dignified flag-bearer whose greatness has all but evaporated. It would be distasteful at best, not at all befitting a good boy like Triple G.