Gennady Golovkin vs Daniel Jacobs
Record: 36-0 (33 KO) ... Streak: W36 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10½" / 70" ... Age: 34
Thoughts: Gennady Golovkin has won all 36 of his professional fights. 33 of them by knockout, including the last 23 in a row. The last time he didn’t stop his opponent was June 21, 2008, when he went the full eight rounds against Amar Amari in Denmark.
Do you think Amar Amari tells people about that to this day? I would. Amari retired with a career record of 14-12-1, and he was stopped in two by Robert Roselia before he fought GGG, but he went eight rounds with Gennady Golovkin. That’s something that Kell Brook, David Lemieux, Daniel Geale, and Matthew Macklin can’t claim. Those are all world champions.
Anyway, if you’re a fan of boxing in 2017, you know GGG by now. If you’re very, very new to the sport, meet Gennady Golovkin, arguably the most exciting fighter in the world. He’s got charm and charisma, he’s got power and skill, he’s warm yet icy, and he lives to inflict damage on his opponents and finish them off. He never, ever comes to go 12 rounds. He never leaves it up to the judges. He never decides that a fight is well enough in hand that he can cruise. He is, in many ways, exactly what fans want from a pro boxer.
Jacobs represents a step back up in competition from Golovkin’s last two opponents, overmatched mandatory challenger Dominic Wade and welterweight titleholder Kell Brook. But GGG has met this sort of opponent before, too. David Lemieux was also a dangerous puncher that, hey, if he caught Golovkin, all bets were off. So GGG put the fear into him early, and dominated Lemieux for seven rounds before stopping him in the eighth. Expect the same approach here.
Record: 32-1 (29 KO) ... Streak: W12 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'0" / 73" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: Daniel Jacobs is probably the biggest threat to Gennady Golovkin in the middleweight division. Canelo Alvarez doesn’t count, because he’ll fight at any weight that isn’t middleweight, whether it’s 5-6 pounds lower or 4.5 pounds higher. Anything but middleweight.
So that leaves us with Jacobs, a power punching, exciting fighter from Brooklyn, whose story of beating cancer and saving his career is as inspiring as it gets. This is also a legitimately necessary fight. Jacobs has been walking around claiming to be “the middleweight champion” since 2014, albeit somewhat quietly, but what he’s been holding is a pure paper title, the WBA “world” middleweight title, while Golovkin has held the WBA “super world” middleweight title, outranking him even within the same stupid sanctioning body.
With this matchup, which is a lot more dangerous than Sergio Mora or Peter Quillin (remember him?), Jacobs is facing the true lion of the division. And it’s hard not to think back to July 31, 2010, when Jacobs was featured on the Marquez-Diaz II undercard on HBO pay-per-view, against a Russian middleweight named Dmitry Pirog, for the vacant WBO middleweight title.
Jacobs was winning that fight through four rounds, leading 39-37 on each card. Then Pirog caught him. Then Pirog finished him, in the fifth round. Golovkin was already emerging as a top fighter by that point, but for U.S. mainstream (or whatever you’d call it here) interest, Pirog was a sort of proto-GGG. Pirog was the New York Dolls, and Golovkin is the Ramones. If not for back injuries forcing him to retire after a win over Nobuhiro Ishida in 2012, who knows what Pirog might have done?
That said, Golovkin is a better fighter than Pirog was. But just as important, Daniel Jacobs is a better, smarter fighter than he was almost seven years ago. He’s grown a lot as a person, not just through trials and tribulations, but because anyone of merit grows over a seven year period. And Jacobs is a person of merit. He’s going to be game here, and he’s going to be dangerous. He’s one of the few fighters at 160 who poses a legitimate threat to Golovkin.
Matchup Grade: A-. There’s nothing about this I don’t like. Listen, it could wind up a blowout. Golovkin could do what he always does and make this look easy. But that’s because GGG is a destructive force, not because Jacobs is some bum. If Jacobs winds up “overmatched,” it’s because Golovkin is that good. And if we get an upset, the boxing world will be spinning.
Roman Gonzalez vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Record: 46-0 (38 KO) ... Streak: W46 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'3" / 64" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Like many, I consider Chocolatito the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in this post-Mayweather era. And in all honesty, he was creeping with a legitimate argument before Floyd retired, too. It’s not like Mayweather hadn’t declined any, but it was hard to vote against him, as he’d held the title for a long time and just kept dominating.
Gonzalez’s claim didn’t come so much from a Mayweather decline, however real it may have been, as it did from the fact Gonzalez is a great fighter who has owned divisions at 105, 108, and 112, by the time Mayweather fought Andre Berto, and now holds the WBC 115-pound title. He’s a legitimate four division champion who has been the best fighter in every one of those weight classes. He came to 115 last September, and gunned for Carlos Cuadras and the WBC title immediately, picking up a clear decision win over a terrific opponent. If Mayweather had stuck around and had fought, I don’t know, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in the last year and a half, Gonzalez would still have a legitimate claim to being the best P4P in the world. We’d all still probably vote Mayweather out of habit, like a Congressman who just keeps winning his seat because he’s been there for as long as anyone can remember, but there would be reasons to look another way.
All that said, Floyd’s retired and the Nicaraguan super flyweight is the best we have in boxing today. The question for Gonzalez now is if he can go any higher. Would bantamweight be a bridge too far, or is he so good that he could win a title there, too? Five division titles is nearly impossible. You have to be really special to do it, even in a diluted title era. Gonzalez might be good enough. But he has a fight ahead of him on Saturday that can’t be overlooked, and he likely isn’t going to look past it, either.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Record: 41-4-1 (38 KO) ... Streak: W14 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'3" / 63½" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: Srisaket, the former WBC super flyweight titleholder, is on a 14-fight winning streak, but like many records from Thailand, that’s a bit of a mirage. One of those fights has any real merit to it, a TKO-4 win over Jose Salgado in May 2015. The rest are junk.
The last time Srisaket was in with a true top-flight opponent came in May 2014, when he went to Mexico to face Carlos Cuadras, in his lone title defense after beating Hirofumi Mukai for the belt in November 2013. Srisaket lost a technical decision in eight rounds, but he was competitive. So while it’s easy to dog Srisaket’s record just on what’s there and what isn’t, it’s not like he can’t fight, and his other three losses and the draw all came within his first five fights, including a defeat against Akira Yaegashi in Srisaket’s pro debut in 2009.
If Srisaket is going to win this fight, it’ll be by knockout. He doesn’t have the skill to outbox Gonzalez, a master offensive fighter whose defense is tough to break through, too. Srisaket does have power, as evidenced by his KO percentage, but it’s probably not quite as great as his KO percentage makes it seem. If he catches Gonzalez, he can stop him, but that’s easier said than done. He’s the underdog for a reason. He’s fighting the pound-for-pound best in the world.
Matchup Grade: B-. This might be a hair generous, in all honesty, but Gonzalez fighting any kind of contender is at least a notable fight, and he doesn’t have bad fights, so how low can I really go? C+? At worst? So let’s say B-, and live our lives in a positive way.
- Carlos Cuadras vs Daniel Carmona: Carmona (20-3-5, 8 KO) is a tune-up opponent for Cuadras (35-1-1, 27 KO), who has a mandatory title shot rematch against Roman Gonzalez so long as he wins. He will win. Grade: C-.
- Ryan Martin vs Bryant Cruz: Martin (17-0, 10 KO) and Cruz (17-1, 8 KO) are lightweight prospects, with Martin the obvious favorite to win here. Originally from Chattanooga and now fighting out of Cleveland, Martin is a tall (5’11”), 24-year-old lightweight with some OK wins for his level thus far. Cruz, who was stopped two fights ago in December 2015, may or may not be an actual step up, but he’s fought about the same level of competition. This is designed to be a showcase for the unbeaten Martin. Grade: C.
- Andy Lee vs KeAndrae Leatherwood: Lee (34-3-1, 24 KO) is finally back in action, as he’ll be facing Leatherwood (19-3-1, 12 KO) in a fight obviously meant to give GGG a next New York opponent if the Canelo fight doesn’t come together. This is set for eight rounds. Lee, 32, hasn’t fought since his December 2015 loss to Billy Joe Saunders, and hasn’t won a fight since December 2014, when he rallied to stop Matt Korobov after a slow start, winning the WBO middleweight title. He should win here, but there’s going to be rust, and he’s been known to fight in spurts and giving rounds away, too. That said, if Lee wins as anticipated — and he really should, even if it takes him a bit to get going — he’ll be there as a safety net. Golovkin-Lee would draw in New York, even as a predictable sort of fight. Grade: C-.