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Gennady Golovkin’s Legacy: Five defining fights

Gennady Golovkin’s legacy isn’t complete yet, but here’s where it stands heading into his mega rematch with Canelo Alvarez.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

“Legacy” is a term often debated in boxing. Looking back at the career of a fighter can often be misleading due to hindsight implications as well as alterations and dilutions of the truth. Golovkin’s legacy arguably rests on a victory this Saturday against Canelo.

His resume has often been picked over, scrutinized and criticised due to the lack of stand-out victims, however, in a career where the Kazakh has trotted the globe with a reluctance to dodge, dive and duck, it’s important to gauge what more, if anything, could have been done when assessing his career as a whole.

He couldn’t nail down a fight with Sergio Martinez on account of being “too dangerous” for the Argentinean; he couldn’t get Miguel Cotto in the ring; he couldn’t get Canelo earlier, with fights against Khan, Smith and Chavez Jr preferred by the Mexican. By all accounts, GGG deserves to retire undefeated, and if he does, his legacy shouldn’t be caveated with the mythical matchups of fighters who chose to avoid the Kazakh.

Prior to Saturday’s rematch with Canelo, here are my five defining nights in the career of Gennady Golovkin.

5. Daniel Geale - July 2014

Gennady Golovkin v Daniel Geale Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

July 2014, in his debut at Madison Square Garden, GGG added Daniel Geale to the list of “nice guys finishing last.”

Priding himself on his counterpunching ability and movement inside the squared circle, Golovkin passed another major test in his climb up the middleweight ranks in defeating “Real Deal.”

After tasting his opponent’s power — or lack thereof — in the opening two rounds, GGG went head-hunting in the third, pressuring the Australian to retreat and move awkwardly around the ring. Golovkin stalked his man onto the ropes before unleashing a ferocious combo of left and right hands to the body and temple, before Geale’s guard dropped and a right hand landed flush on the money-maker.

Geale sprung to his feet instinctively, however, the fight was called off with 16 seconds left of round three.

The composure and timing shown by Golovkin against an experienced and seasoned former world champion sparked further interest in the path that he would take, with early KO power becoming a trademark of the Kazakh world champion.

4. Matthew Macklin - June 2013

Golovkin’s destruction of Matthew Macklin inside three rounds in 2013 showcased the crippling power and body punching precision of the then WBA and IBO middleweight champion.

The opening five minutes of this bout were uneventful. Macklin fell short with his jab, and with Golovkin keeping the Irishman in range he measured up his prey waiting for the perfect time to strike like a coiled python.

GGG then slowly began to unload his hands in the third as Macklin made failed attempts at attacking the Kazakh’s body. A couple of right hooks and jabs were thrown to keep Macklin at bay, and then a left hook to the body completely crippled the challenger, sending him to the canvas writhing in pain.

It was immediately evident that Macklin was going to fail to make the 10-count, and it was immediately evident that Golovkin’s power at middleweight was frightening.

3. Kell Brook - September 2016

Boxing at O2 Arena Photo by Leigh Dawney/Getty Images

Gennady Golovkin made his UK debut in September 2016, and by decimating a game Kell Brook inside five rounds, the Kazakh showed a real taste for blood in a punishing defence of his middleweight straps.

Brook came up two weight classes to accept the challenge of Golovkin, with the size and power of the champion proving the difference inside the O2 Arena in London, Golovkin was at his come-forward best as he went toe-to-toe with the “Special One’s” power.

With one scorecard having Brook ahead at the time of the stoppage, and the other two having it level, Golovkin showed his chin could withstand flurries and combinations from the British welterweight, with the away fighter walking through anything that was thrown at him inside the ring.

The scorecards were never an issue for a blood-thirsty Golovkin, who always knew he had the power to stop Brook, and in doing so fractured the Sheffield-born fighter’s eye socket with a ferocious right hand.

This fight has altered Brook’s career going forward and blunted his hunger inside the squared circle; a feat that the middleweight champion can mark down as one of his most important victories to a global audience, despite the disparity in weight.

2. Daniel Jacobs - March 2017

The big, skilled and awkward Daniel Jacobs came to Madison Square Garden in March last year, looking to rip Golovkin’s WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and IBO titles away from him; and boy did he come close.

Golovkin was dragged a full 12 rounds for the first time in his career and barely stayed undefeated, edging Daniel Jacobs by scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 115-112 — with many onlookers feeling two of these scorecards were wide.

Jacobs, then 31-1, fought intelligently, frustrating Golovkin at times in ending his 23-fight knockout win streak. With Golovkin’s jab proving more damaging and powerful than Jacobs, the judges were no doubt swayed by power punches in the fight, with GGG reaping the rewards of dropping the American in the fourth round.

Despite a contentious decision, Golovkin showed maturity and adaptability in defending his titles against Jacobs; a strong and powerful middleweight that GGG was yet to encounter.

After showing a small vulnerability against Kell Brook in his previous fight, Golovkin continued to show the reliable numbers of strings to his bow in negating the challenge of the “Miracle Man.”

1. David Lemieux - October 2015

Gennady Golovkin v David Lemieux Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Becoming the 21st in GGGs unbelievable string of knockout victories, Canadian middleweight David Lemieux was dissected, tamed and picked apart by the Kazakh at Madison Square Garden in October of 2015.

From the opening bell, Golovkin’s jab was in sublime form, with the Kazakh throwing his left hand with subtle variations of rhythm and power which kept the Canadian on the back foot struggling to dictate or cope with the pace.

Reverting to plan B, Lemieux started trying to walk down Golovkin in the middle rounds which led to a similar lack of success in finding the gaps in Golovkin’s defence. The Kazakh worked the head and the body with sharp bursts, putting on a clinic in stopping his dance partner in the eighth round with Steve Willis jumping in confirming the TKO.

In unifying the WBA (Super) and IBF world titles against a puncher in Lemieux, Golovkin brushed aside a challenger many thought would give him the biggest test of his professional career. Despite Lemieux earning props for taking a fight he didn’t necessarily need to, the former IBF champion was dismantled in the Big Apple, with GGG’s star rising to new levels, and calls for the Canelo fight to happen next reverberating around the Garden.

In terms of the size of the challenge and the performance, many will look back at this fight as one of the defining nights in the career of GGG.

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