Gennadiy Golovkin took care of business on Friday night in Florida, disposing of IBF mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta in seven rounds of one-way traffic, ending 2020 with a win and marching on to a new year.
Golovkin is going to turn 39 in April, and with three fights left on his contract with DAZN (at least if the number of fights stayed consistent through reported contract re-working), I think it’s fair to say that boxing fans largely would like to see him avoid any more Steve Rolls or Szeremeta fight nights. Look, we can be fair here: Rolls was a tune-up with a new trainer, and Szeremeta was a mandatory for GGG’s IBF belt. But time for Golovkin to have more significant fights may be getting short.
Szeremeta offered no real resistance to Golovkin. I did the round-by-round on Friday evening, and having done that for many years, I can tell you a couple of things for sure, a little inside baseball:
- It definitely helps you pay attention to the nuts and bolts of a fight.
- You can sometimes miss somewhat more subtle things.
I had the nagging feeling that the second thing was happening last night, something was itching at me. Looking at it again this morning, I figured out what was irking me a bit is that for all the promotional “GGG of old” bluster from DAZN or Eddie Hearn or whomever, that was not the GGG of old. The GGG of old finishes that in three. The GGG of now carried it for several rounds — which he basically admitted — and showed almost an indifference to attacking and closing the show. You can see Golovkin pretty obviously easing off the gas several times in the fight.
It’s that or GGG was looking a little tired by the latter rounds, and the latter rounds here were not deep into the 12-round distance. I opt to believe Golovkin just wasn’t finishing the way he might have done before, in part because he said so, and in part because it just seems the more likely case. (I realize “he said so” might work for most people as the full reasoning, but in the words of GGG himself: come on, guys, this is box.)
Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KO) is not going to be “the GGG of old” again for the very simple reason that he is older than he used to be. He still has some thudding power, but the speed has diminished some, and while he was never exactly darting around the ring, he seems to plod a bit more these days; not just in this fight, but against Derevyanchenko last year, even a bit against Rolls in 2019, too.
THAT SAID — and I know this all sounds kind of gloomy — he is still a terrific fighter, one of the best in the world at 160 (if Canelo stays at 168, GGG takes over the top slot again), and still a threat to anyone. He is strong, he is smart, he’s still got the offensive weapons to mix-and-match his attacks, and if he were really going for a nasty wipeout finish against Szeremeta, he’d have gotten one. The Pole couldn’t deal with Golovkin at all.
So what now for Gennadiy?
Not to go over it all again, since we just did it, but yes, a trilogy fight with Canelo is the No. 1 target. And honestly, it would be the No. 1 target no matter what happens in tonight’s Canelo-Callum Smith fight.
If Canelo wins, then he’s got belts at 160 and 168, at least for the moment. He’d probably have Golovkin come up to fight at 168, or at least a catchweight, because he can, and Canelo likes to take advantage of being Canelo — the A-side, the money man, the superstar. Golovkin and his team know this very well from prior experience.
How to Watch Canelo vs Smith
But say Callum Smith beats Canelo. Canelo would still have the WBA belt at 160, and Canelo-GGG 3 in a middleweight unification would not just remain a big fight, but a personal fight and easy to sell. It’s not a secret that the two genuinely don’t like each other, and if you want a reason to believe that, keep in mind they don’t constantly squawk and scream about one another. Their shared dislike is quiet and sincere.
Does it lose luster if Canelo loses to Smith? Of course. But it’s still a major event, sort of like when Manny Pacquiao lost a controversial decision to Tim Bradley in 2012, and went out six months later and did his fourth fight with his great rival Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao-Marquez 4 was still huge.
Bottom line: Canelo-GGG 3 is, by quite a bit, the biggest fight Golovkin can make. That’s definitely true if Canelo beats Smith, and it’s probably still true if Canelo loses to Smith.
Not worth its own section because it requires Smith winning tonight, but obviously if Callum Smith beats Canelo, he’d surely relish the chance to welcome Golovkin up to 168 in a fight for two belts and the chance to score another huge win over a big, big name.
- Demetrius Andrade: WBO titleholder Andrade (29-0, 18 KO) needs an actual big fight. He’s won belts at 154 and 160, says he’s interested in trying at 168, and that all sounds great. But “Boo Boo” is a 32-year-old, 12-year pro who still carries little name value for his level and experience, because his biggest wins in all that time have come over Jack Culcay and Maciej Sulecki and Vanes Martirosyan, and the Martirosyan fight was so long ago now (2013) that mostly it’s been forgotten. Andrade can box, he’s skilled, but we genuinely don’t really know how he fares against a true top-level opponent, because he’s never faced one. Maybe he rises to the occasion and has a late breakthrough. Maybe he melts under the pressure. It’d be good to find out, and I choose to believe Andrade truly does want a big fight, and has wanted one, but that his combination of skills and lack of brand power have kept a lot of people from wanting to fight him.
- Billy Joe Saunders: Saunders (30-0, 14 KO) has the WBO belt at 168, so he could fight GGG at that weight, or there’s still the belief that he can make 160 again if a fight is worth it, and Golovkin would be worth it. Saunders, similar to Andrade, is obviously talented but has a pretty thin record on notable accomplishments at age 31 and with 11 years as a pro. His win over David Lemieux still resonates with some because he looked so sharp doing it in 2017, but Lemieux has also lost to Marco Antonio Rubio and an aged Joachim Alcine, and while those L’s came in 2011, it’s not like he ever got notably better. The one-dimensional slugger is not that hard to out-box, in all honesty. We were excited at the time because it seemed like Saunders was ready to break out from there. But since then — and it’s been three years now — he’s basically done nothing anyone remembered two days later. GGG would be a new level for Saunders, and like Andrade, it’d be welcome.
- Daniel Jacobs: The deal that Jacobs (37-3, 30 KO) had with DAZN and Matchroom ended with his dreadfully boring and controversial win over Gabe Rosado on Nov. 27, but despite a lackluster outing in every way, Jacobs will still be in demand. There’s really never been a better time to be a credible-if-not-superstar fighter. Still, he can expect pay cuts compared to what he was getting, because what he was getting was kind of absurd, another early DAZN move where they were throwing money around like a bunch of roughnecks on payday. Jacobs will still want to cash checks, though there is some question about whether his heart is still in the fight game anymore. A rematch with Golovkin — who narrowly out-pointed Jacobs in 2017 — might get the “Miracle Man” up for a fight again.
- Jaime Munguia: This is probably unlikely because Golden Boy Promotions badly need stars with Canelo off the roster, and while they have two obvious young guns in Ryan Garcia and Vergil Ortiz Jr, don’t discount the value Munguia (36-0, 29 KO) brings, either. He’s Mexican so he has a built-in, very loyal fan base, and he’s exciting to watch. After two wins over Spike O’Sullivan and Tureano Johnson to kick off his run at 160 after winning a belt at 154, Munguia could be poised to strike as a middleweight, or at least give it his best effort. But the 24-year-old is still young, still constantly trying to get better with trainer Erik Morales, and the time just might not be right to take the gamble against Gennadiy. GGG may be slowing down, but Munguia seems tailor-made for us to maybe actually see something close to “the GGG of old.” Munguia is defensively leaky to say the least, a flawed fighter, and GGG probably wouldn’t play with his food, because Jaime can throw some real fire back, unlike Szeremeta.
- Jermall Charlo: WBC titleholder Charlo (31-0, 22 KO) deserves to be mentioned here, and I think if it were left to Jermall and the deal was right he’d absolutely take a Golovkin fight at this point, but given that he’s with PBC:
- Ryota Murata: Man, do I want to see this fight. (I would love to see GGG vs Jermall, too, for the record.) Golovkin and Murata (16-2, 13 KO) could bring forth incredibly brutal violence. Their styles and skill sets seem beautifully matched in a “two guys doing damage for however long it lasts” sort of way, and it could be a magnificent big event in Japan, which would be nice for DAZN’s global expansion. Murata is co-promoted by Top Rank, but they work fine with Matchroom, and it’d be a big fight to do, so it’s not an unrealistic pipe dream or anything. It’s not like Murata has been some major featured ESPN guy.