There’s no doubt in my mind that Gennady Golovkin is the future of the middleweight division; his solid skills and knockout power likely mean that he will continue to steamroll his way through the ranks until he has unified the 160-pound titles or moved on to claim a belt at a higher weight class.
Last weekend saw Golovkin retain is WBA middleweight title after a eighth-round stoppage of Curtis Stevens. It was an excellent contest, made all the better by Stevens’ tenacity which allowed him to stay in the fight until the eighth session; only one fighter in the last five years has done the same. The question now, of course, is who GGG will move on to next.
Clearly the fight everyone wants to see is Golovkin against WBC and The Ring belt-holder Sergio Martinez. Both men are hard hitters and come-forward fighters, and both men have legitimate claims to be the king of the middleweight division. However, Sergio Martinez has undoubtedly aged over the last few years, and it is likely that the Maravilla of today is not the same man as the one who almost decapitated Paul Williams. Martinez was almost knocked out by an overblown Chavez Jr., whose inability to be disciplined during his training camps is almost as legendary as his father’s record; in his next contest, he defeated Britain’s Martin Murray on points, but many pundits and fans (including myself) are of the opinion that Martinez had been gifted the decision, and that the Englishman had done enough to be awarded the victory.
Martinez has a deserved reputation for being iron chinned, but the image one has of Chavez Jr. being replaced by Gennady Golovkin in the last round of their fight last year would not be an attractive one for Maravilla; Golovkin is far more technically skilled than Chavez Jr., and undoubtedly hits harder. Martinez also prefers to adopt a low guard, a tactic that would likely be suicide against the Kazakh-born Russian…whatever punch-resistance Martinez has shown in the past, it is debatable whether he has retained this trait after so many hard battles, and even if he has, whether he can still stand up to Golovkin’s devastatingly hard attacks. Besides, Martinez remains a small middleweight, since he began his career in the lower weight classes.
This, however, is still the most desirable fight in the middleweight division. The other belt holders, Peter Quillin of the United States (WBO) and Darren Barker (IBF), are unlikely to give Golovkin much trouble. Barker has been hurt before (most notably in his 2011 KO loss to Sergio Martinez, and again during his ultimate victory over Daniel Geale), and Quillin has arguably not done enough to deserve a unification bout with Triple G; the opposition he has fought have not been well-known or talented enough to really warrant making the fight happen. In addition, Quillin himself does not boast an army of fans who would purchase pay-per-view or tickets. The other key contenders (Daniel Geale, Felix Sturm, Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray) are also unlikely to provide Golovkin with much of a challenge.
Aside from Martinez, then, the most logical thing for Golovkin to do is to move up to super-middleweight (it is unlikely either GGG or Floyd Mayweather will attempt a catchweight fight), wherein the No. 1 and 2 fighters, Andre Ward and Carl Froch, would surely provide challenges to the Russian. Froch would be the far more exciting fight; Ward would provide the first real risk of Golovkin losing.
Carl Froch could claim to have one of the greatest chins in modern boxing, though he is seemingly easy to hit and has been hurt before. Froch’s high knockout ratio stems from a host of TKO victories, usually awarded after he unleashes a barrage of heavy shots (see Froch vs Bute, perfect example). He struggles against boxers who move well and use the ring (such as his contentious points win over Andre Dirrell and his later defeat against Andre Ward), and Golovkin has displayed a high ring IQ. Carl has also been stunned in the past, even by punchers such as Andre Ward who are not notorious heavy-hitters…I can see a Froch/Golovkin fight playing out like Froch/Abraham, except when Froch opens up against GGG, the Russian would fire back from a tight guard while Carl is exposed mid-swing. I hope not, though. I like Carl Froch.
I do not, however, like Andre Ward. I agree that he is the most pound-for-pound pugilist in the game right now, sitting behind Floyd Mayweather, and only a fool would decry his achievements. He has never been visibly troubled by anyone; Carl Froch is the best fighter Ward has faced, and he made the Englishman look decidedly average during their 2011 contest. His technique is flawless, his defence is tight and his record impeccable.
But I don’t like the man’s smug tone, or the way in which he whines whenever he is criticised. The man even blocked me from following him on Twitter because I said that I didn’t like the way he was being disrespectful to Carl Froch and recommended he be the bigger man and not engage him in trash-talk. The man is supposed to be a prize-fighter, and there he was being as sensitive as a small child. He complains that people criticise him for not leaving his home town to fight, although I understand him in that regard; even within the sport of boxing, he is not a big draw. His style, while effective, is boring to watch, and his whiny (yet apparently Christian) personality does not make him a compelling character to draw fans from in or outside the sport. He would not come close to filling Madison Square Garden or the MGM Grand, unless he was fighting someone compelling like Gennady Golovkin.
I think GGG would struggle to penetrate Ward’s defence, but if he did then it is nowhere near certain that the American would be able to withstand a barrage of Golovkin’s punches. But would Gennady get tired chasing Ward around the ring, all the while being subjected to withering jabs and straight right hands? Who knows? There’s only one way to find out.
Despite the recent enmity between Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, I think the latter is equally as protective of his undefeated record as the former, if not more so. For a long time, Ward has been saying he intends to go up to 175 pounds and clean out the light-heavyweight division in the same way he did the super-middleweights, but it doesn’t look that close to happening as he takes on Edwin Rodriguez, a man no-one has ever heard of, defending his WBA and The Ring titles (he was stripped of the WBC belt due to inactivity). I think Ward is deservedly worried about moving up to 175…I know I would be if I were him. Bernard Hopkins, despite approaching fifty, is almost as awkward a fighter as Ward himself is, but he has ten times the experience; beyond B-Hop is Sergey Kovalev, Golovkin’s equivalent at light-heavyweight, and Adonis Stevenson, Tony Bellew and Jean Pascal are all worthy challengers.
Personally, I’d like to see Golovkin and Ward both move up and take on the best in the respective divisions. But with the politics of boxing being equally as complicated as the politics of running nations, it will likely not even come close to happening.