In a boxing world that thirsts, hungers, yearns, and other saucy adjectives for knockouts and exciting star fighters, Gennady Golovkin has been a Godsend the last couple of years. As the 32-year-old Kazakh middleweight has made his way to HBO, he's seen his profile raise among the boxing fans who weren't going out of their way to find streams of past fights in Germany, Ukraine, Panama, et cetera. The results have been good.
Golovkin (30-0, 27 KO) has become a reliable second-tier (non-pay-per-view) star for HBO, and one of the hottest names in the sport. Why? It's simple: he knocks people out, and doesn't do it just by waiting around for the perfect punch.
Golovkin returns to the ring on October 18 against Mexican veteran Marco Antonio Rubio. Let's take a look at where Golovkin's been, where he's headed, and what more may come.
- Daniel Geale (2014-07-26)
- Matthew Macklin (2013-06-29)
- Sergey Khomitsky (2007-05-25)
- Gabriel Rosado (2013-01-19)
- Curtis Stevens (2013-11-02)
Geale stood as the best overall fighter Golovkin had faced, even if perhaps not, on paper, the toughest style matchup. More a tactical fighter than a banger, Geale had scored a win in 2012 over Felix Sturm in Germany, plus a 2013 rematch win against Anthony Mundine at home in Australia. An August 2013 loss to Darren Barker showed that Geale wasn't really an elite fighter, though he remained a top middleweight contender. And Golovkin destroyed him, finishing him off late in the third round. To Geale's credit, when he knew the fight was hopeless, he bit down and went for the firefight. The results were predictable.
At the time, Macklin was the most legitimate contender that Golovkin had faced. A controversial 2011 loss to Sturm in Germany had kept him from picking up middleweight gold once, but that fight combined with a valiant but ultimately short effort against Sergio Martinez in 2012 gave us good reason to think he might give Golovkin at least a little bit of trouble. He did not. Macklin felt the power in round one, and was done by round three. He was simply overwhelmed.
Ranking Khomitsky this high on Golovkin's list of best wins might seem weird, and maybe it is, but again, this part of these features isn't just about biggest names or most exposure, but often about the timing of wins, too. And for Golovkin in 2007, Khomitsky was a statement. It was Golovkin's eighth pro fight, and a big step up from the club guys he'd been dismantling as he started his career in Germany.
To this day, Khomitsky is a tough out for decent fighters. He gave Martin Murray all he could handle last December, and though he was stopped by Robert Stieglitz in July of this year, he fought Stieglitz tooth and nail in a violent, bloody battle that was curiously stopped when the referee decided that Khomitsky's corner was taking too long re-taping his gloves. Real Germany stuff.
If you've never seen Golovkin vs Khomitsky, check it out. You'll see a baby version of today's Golovkin, more or less. He wasn't quite the predator he is today, but he still forced a very tough man to give up:
After that, I go with Rosado and Stevens, in that order. Golovkin smashed Rosado and really beat the hell out of him. He never dropped him, but it got to a point where trainer Billy Briscoe simply had to stop the bloodbath. Rosado had come in on a good run, took a chance that was offered, and was just outclassed. The same could be said of Stevens, although that fight is more memorable for Stevens' classic reaction to being dropped by GGG:
For whatever it's worth, I thought Curtis actually gave GGG his best fight to date, as he did some nice things defensively and with his own offense to create a few opportunities for himself. In fact, I think it might have been Stevens' best performance, as well as one of Golovkin's. Stevens made it through eight rounds before the fight was stopped.
There are none. And there are really none on the horizon, either. With Sergio Martinez looking physically finished against Miguel Cotto, and Miguel Cotto not really being a middleweight, and Peter Quillin with Al Haymon, and the rest of the middleweight lot looking no better or worse than guys Golovkin has already beaten conclusively, who is supposed to challenge GGG?
Up Next and Beyond
Marco Antonio Rubio gets next crack at GGG on October 18. It's Golovkin's debut in California, as K2 looks to build a west coast following for him after getting him a headline bout at the real Madison Square Garden arena, not the theater.
Rubio (59-6-1, 51 KO) has a record that kind of reflects his ability, and kind of does not. I don't mean to dismiss him. He's a decent fighter, a fringe contender going on forever, but he's never been a real threat. His best fight was probably against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, a loss in February 2012. I thought he did well in that fight, and the "oops! we forgot to take the drug tests after! well, sorry!" bit from the Texas commission was the usual laughable alleged "incompetence" that boxing experiences on the reg -- because dang, everyone is just so bad at their jobs! oh well! when in San Antonio!
But other than that and a win over David Lemieux in 2011, what has Rubio done? He's been shown what I can only describe as favoritism by the WBC for years, constantly put into position to challenge for their titles even if he's done nothing more than beat up a bunch of old men and unqualified nobodies to stack up a bogus record. In his last fight, he won the interim WBC middleweight title, beating Domenico Spada. Apparently, that stupid belt will be on the line in this fight with Golovkin, too.
Along with the Chavez fight, I thought Rubio was memorable in his October 2008 win over Enrique Ornelas, a fringe contender of equal quality, both gritty, tough fighters. They had the fight of the night on the Hopkins-Pavlik card, and I would say they stole the show, except that B-Hop embarrassing Pavlik for 12 rounds did so. That led into Pavlik embarrassing Rubio, who went to Youngstown to fight the middleweight champ in his rehab bout. Rubio was off all night, looking distraught and totally out of his depth, before the fight was stopped after nine completely one-sided rounds.
The Pavlik fight doesn't represent the real Rubio. At his best, Rubio is the guy from the Chavez and Ornelas fights, a scrapper with some punching power. I hesitate to say the Lemieux win was even Rubio at his best, though it might be his best win. Lemieux fell into a veteran's trap because Lemieux thought he could knock out anybody any time he wanted to do so. It was great planning and execution from Rubio, but Lemieux beat himself as much as anything.
Can Rubio beat Golovkin? No. I mean, sure, maybe he scores a home run shot. But that's possible in any fight against anyone. There's nothing Rubio does better than Golovkin.
After that, the talk of Golovkin maybe going up to 168 will start again, and it's understandable. I tire of "well, he should move up in weight for my enjoyment" arguments. If a fighter is content at a weight, makes it comfortably, and is simply better than everyone there, that's just how the cookie crumbles. If Golovkin, who isn't an especially big guy at 160 by any means, doesn't think the time is right to go to 168, who am I to argue?
Now, obviously, I'm like anyone else, and I'd love to see Golovkin go to 168 pounds and maybe challenge Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, George Groves, James DeGale, that Andre whatshisname, maybe even finally get that fight with Chavez Jr done. If nothing else, against the more durable guys (Froch, Chavez, whathisname), he's likely to meet resistance simply because they're bigger men who should in theory be more capable of taking his shots. Froch-Golovkin, in particular, sounds like a dream fight to me.
But whatever Gennady does, eyes of the boxing faithful will follow. We may point out a fairly thin record with no wins over elite fighters, we may then argue that it's not like the elite are dying to fight him, we may wish a move up to super middleweight, but Golovkin is must-see TV. Is there anyone on the horizon that can beat him? YOU make the call!