Every now and then, a fighter comes along who strikes fear into most of his opponents. Mike Tyson is the first name that springs to mind for modern boxing, and it was that pure intimidation factor, and the resulting knockout brutality of his fights, that made Tyson such an enormous global star at his peak, and even well past it.
Nowadays, we may not have a heavyweight human highlight reel, but we do have Gennady Golovkin. While the similarities between Tyson and Golovkin are seemingly few, they do share something: they're amazing GIF material. The way Golovkin batters opponents with power and precision makes for some pretty stunning reactions from his opponents. Remember, these are all professional boxers. And none of them suck at it, either.
Let's start with Golovkin's 2012 beatdown of Grzegorz Proksa. This was the HBO debut for both men. At one point, Proksa looked like a rising star in the division, a Sergio Martinez-like fighter with confidence, style, power, and skill. A shock upset loss to Kerry Hope in 2012 was avenged in 2013, and Proksa made his way to the U.S. to take on Gennady Golovkin, another top European name in the division.
Here's Proksa dealing with Golovkin's power and combination punching prowess:
Proksa's trip to the canvas comes after hard body shots and brain-rattling blows to the head, and the expression on his face as he hits the mat is almost one of relief as much as it is awe and bewilderment. Proksa never stopped throwing punches at Golovkin and gave his best, but his face at the end of this GIF tells the tale of the fight pretty well.
In 2013, former title challenger Matthew Macklin was set up as Golovkin's toughest challenge to date. Instead of any serious challenge, Golovkin ripped through the Irishman, hammering him with body shots. Here's the third round finish of the fight, with Macklin doubled over and wincing in pain from GGG's assault.
Later in 2013, Golovkin fought Curtis Stevens. This was an eye-opening topic of discussion in the Golovkin-Lemieux Face Off from HBO, as GGG told Max Kellerman about his memories of the fight, and his desire to carry Stevens as long as possible to punish him for his pre-fight comments and trash talk.
"You want streetfight? Let's go. I show you. We have time. We have 12 rounds. I beat him. Beat him, beat him, beat him."
This is the mother of all Golovkin GIFs, of course:
In 2014, Golovkin met former titleholder Daniel Geale of Australia, a good boxer who in theory could have presented some matchup problems for Golovkin had he been able to, you know, box. He couldn't, really. Golovkin's aggression had Geale off balance from the get-go. When Geale planted his feet and looked to do something different -- trade shots -- the plan backfired. As he landed a clean right hand, Golovkin landed one in return, and dropped Geale, who decided that was enough.
Martin Murray gave it a go against GGG in February of this year, meeting Golovkin in Monte Carlo. Murray, like Macklin before him, had given Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez pretty tough outings already. He drew with Sturm in Germany and was arguably the deserving winner in a loss to Martinez in Argentina. And he went 11 rounds with GGG, too. He's a tough guy. And Golovkin beat the crap out of him pretty much the entire fight.
First, here's Murray with a classic delayed reaction to a body shot. Murray takes the shot, dances a couple of steps, shouts in pain, and takes a knee.
Here's slow motion of the punching connecting to Murray's stomach:
Later in the fight, Murray was sent reeling on a right hand that landed to the top of his head:
Four months after beating Murray, Golovkin faced Willie Monroe Jr, a totally different style of fighter. GGG vs a slick southpaw went about the same as GGG vs everyone else: smash, bash, punish, finish. HBO got great camera angles on a pair of knockdowns in the fight.
Here's Monroe tumbling to the canvas thanks to a well-placed left hook from Golovkin:
Here's Monroe going down the other way, this time back-first, while trying to escape Golovkin's pressure and eating a right hand:
The way that these fighters react to the power of Golovkin (33-0, 30 KO) is wild, and part of what makes him so fun to watch. He drops people from all different sorts of positions, with all kinds of punches, in several different situations and spots in a fight. He doesn't have a single money punch. Everything GGG throws does damage, and he throws with the intent of ending fights. But he's not some one-dimensional brawler, either. With all that power, he still manages to surprise opponents because he hits them with stuff they either don't see coming or frankly cannot prepare to avoid.
David Lemieux (34-2, 31 KO) also has power, but not like Golovkin does. Lemieux's power is more straightforward -- he hits really hard. But he's not as difficult to combat or defend as Golovkin, and that's why GGG is the heavy favorite and why Lemieux has what seems to be a very tall task in front of him on Saturday.