Gennady Golovkin put on a master class performance last night in his defeat of David Lemieux, dominating but not with sheer force, as he picked Lemieux apart, broke his confidence early, and cruised to a punishing victory inside of eight rounds, extending his stoppage streak to 21 fights.
After so many HBO fights where Golovkin has straight up brutalized opponents and overwhelmed them with powerful combinations and a high work rate, watching the Kazakh destroyer take a more calculated approach was pretty fun. In a few fights, we've seen him sort of hold something back to extend a bout; for instance, to get in extra rounds against Martin Murray, and to extend a beating against Curtis Stevens. This was different. Golovkin clearly did respect the ability of Lemieux to hurt him, and he boxed his way into position for the power work that would finish things, never pressing for a knockout, but letting come what may.
Golovkin (34-0, 31 KO) never allowed Lemieux (34-3, 31 KO) to get into this fight at all, starting with an efficient, effective jab in round one, creating the space necessary to neutralize Lemieux's power, and keep the Montreal slugger from getting in close enough to do any damage.
The jab was Golovkin's weapon as soon as the fight started, as he stuck it into Lemieux's face repeatedly and established the punch immediately.
Not only did this disrupt Lemieux's timing and impact whether or not he could really get anything off before eating another left in the mush, it kept Lemieux well at bay, making any attempts to get inside on GGG easy for Gennady to avoid. Here, you can see Lemieux try to work his way closer and target the body, but getting nowhere close.
Late in round one, a graphic on the screen showed Golovkin landing 22 jabs to Lemieux's 1, a dominant jab-only effort from Golovkin, who did throw a couple of rights as the round wore on, but didn't land any power shots flush. He also didn't take a single meaningful shot from Lemieux over the three minutes. (Golovkin would land 26 jabs in the first round, by CompuBox tracking.)
To start round two, Golovkin showed some aggression, throwing the jab fast and with a lot of snap, mixing in a left hook and a couple of right hands to go along with it, putting Lemieux on notice.
Lemieux, to his credit, continued to look for ways to get inside. The first time he managed to get in there, Golovkin tied him up. "That jab is killing (Lemieux's) confidence by the second," Roy Jones Jr said on commentary. With the jab continuing to dominate, Golovkin began to throw some serious power shots, including his first meaningful left hook to the body, one of his money punches. That started a flurry that knocked Lemieux back to the ropes.
Between the second and third rounds, Lemieux looked rattled in the corner, a bit mentally beaten by a fighter who wasn't exactly doing anything difficult to figure out, just difficult to combat. And with Golovkin landing 43 punches in round two, up from 33 in round one, how could he not be? CompuBox had GGG landing at a 55% clip overall through the two rounds, with Lemieux struggling to even get out of the starting blocks. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Lemieux, but he figured to have the power to rely upon, at least. GGG had taken that away already.
In that vein, Jim Lampley had a question to ask in the first minute of round three: "How many jabs can you eat before you begin to make bad decisions?" The patient Golovkin continued his jab fest, adding in an uppercut to the solar plexus. Lemieux, standing up to the hard peppering, tried to work his way in behind his own jab, but it didn't go anywhere, and he wound up clipped with a left hook moments later, with his back against the ropes, followed by another two-punch combo, body and then head, the second shot almost poked in just because he could land it, so why not?
"What's bothering me about this fight is, I don't think David Lemieux's got a game plan," HBO's Harold Lederman said as Golovkin continued to jab Lemieux relentlessly. "Maybe Lemieux had a plan coming in," Lampley countered, "and maybe that plan was disrupted by the fact that Golovkin has thrown jabs at five times the middleweight division average."
Just after everyone was done discussing the plan (or lack thereof) of Lemieux, Golovkin really rocked him back with a hard left hook -- blocking one of Lemieux's own left hooks at the exact same time -- then burst forth with a flurry of offense. It was the first time in the fight that Lemieux had really been shaken, but he managed to avoid the follow-up shots pretty nicely and get his legs back.
The fourth round, statistically, had been Lemieux's best in the fight. He landed 12 of 24 power punches, but Golovkin did even better, connecting on 19 of 35 and continuing to pump his piston jab into the Canadian's face.
Halfway into the fifth round, Lemieux finally was able to land a significant, clean power shot, scoring with a right hand to the jaw of Golovkin, who ate it as if hadn't even gotten there, and started firing back.
Golovkin, seemingly taking offense to Lemieux daring to hit him flush in his face, began to take back the round before David could do much else, targeting the body a few times. That paid off with just over 20 seconds left in the round, as he ripped Lemieux with a left hook to the body that caused a delayed reaction knockdown.
After the knockdown, Golovkin also landed a right hand while Lemieux was on his knees, but Lemieux didn't really react to it or make any issue of the foul. Golovkin also landed a shot after the bell to end the round. The sixth round started with Golovkin's aggression on full display, perhaps feeling that any shot could end the fight. Lemieux ripped Golovkin with a clean left hook, but again, GGG just marched right through it as if nothing had even happened.
Showing great resolve and heart, Lemieux uncorked several power shots, and really seemed to build some momentum. A body shot got in. Again, Golovkin just kept coming forward, as Max Kellerman noted that Golovkin has shown a habit of being more defensively vulnerable after scoring a knockdown. Lemieux's effort in round six was certainly admirable, and again may have been his best round. But here's how it ended, with Golovkin landing a single shot right at the bell and then stepping away with pure swagger.
That afterthought uppercut bloodied Lemieux's nose and sent him back to the corner dejected yet again, even though he'd had a decent showing in the round. A minute into round seven, with Golovkin calmly continuing the assault, referee Steve Willis stopped the action to have the doctor take a look at the nose, but the fight continued on.
After that, Golovkin pounced again, landing a hook, a right hand, and then going right back to the jab, smacking Lemieux in the nose. But Lemieux refused to give up on himself, and landed a right hand body shot followed by a pair of left hooks.
Once again, however, this seemed only to annoy Golovkin, who came right back with a right hand that caught Lemieux wide open, turning him sideways and knocking him back to the ropes again. With Lemieux fighting the best he could, it wasn't enough. Golovkin, simply, was better.
Going into round eight, referee Steve Willis may have been ready to stop the fight at first sign of danger, after doctors checked on Lemieux's corner between the rounds again. That moment came halfway into the eighth round, when Golovkin hurt Lemieux again. Even in the midst of this final flurry from GGG, Lemieux lands a good right hand that Golovkin once again just ignores, and it was probably the stutter step of Lemieux after another hard body shot where Willis saw a fighter who didn't need to go on further.
It's hard to say that this was Golovkin's best fight to date. As a total boxing effort, maybe it was. His jab was a true weapon, and set up every bit of damage that came over the eight rounds. He may not have physically dismantled and destroyed Lemieux the way he's done so against guys like Matthew Macklin, Willie Monroe Jr, Daniel Geale, Grzegorz Proksa, Martin Murray, or Curtis Stevens, but it was really no less dominant, as he vastly outworked and outlanded Lemieux, did damage over the course of the fight, and hurt his man repeatedly.
If this was a mercy stoppage, then the mercy was deserved, because David Lemieux showed a great deal of toughness and grit in this fight, and referee Steve Willis almost certainly saved him from himself. Lemieux clearly was not going to quit -- he was still throwing punches right until the end -- but he wasn't going to win this fight. There was, in other words, nothing good that could come of this fight continuing on for up to four and a half more rounds. The only thing that could have happened, really, was for Lemieux to take further damage. There was no point, and that's what the referee saw.