Over the last decade, Gennady Golovkin has gone from an unbeaten top contender, who earned interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Middleweight ratings in October 2010 to a recognized and unified Middleweight world champion and is currently regarded as the number one fighter in the talent deep Middleweight division. Along the way, Golovkin compiled an impressive streak of consecutive knockouts stopping at twenty-three straight knockouts from November 2008 to March 2017.
Perhaps more impressive than what this observer has called Golovkin’s “Path Of Destruction” through the Middleweight division has been his quiet, yet steady march toward history in tying future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins for most successful title defenses in the history of the division. As many Boxing fans know, Hopkins set the record for successful Middleweight world championship defenses from 1995-2005 defending the crown an incredible twenty times. During his reign Hopkins also became the first fighter to successfully unify the world championships of the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO to become widely regarded as the first fighter in history to earn “Undisputed World Champion” status by unifying the recognized four major crowns.
Missing from Hopkins’ reign as Middleweight world champion was the crown of the International Boxing Organization (IBO). The IBO, established in 1993 has been an organization that has struggled for recognition over the years in the mainstream due to the notoriety of organizations like the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Association (WBA), and the World Boxing Organization (WBO).
The IBO however, has been in a position similar to those of the IBF and the WBO with the inception of each organization in 1983 and 1989 respectively. Over time the organizations were able to gain more notoriety and recognition due largely to marquee fighters, fighting for their respective world championships throughout the entire sport. Similarly, the IBO has risen in prestige over the years due to it’s recognizing world championships held by fighters who are considered stars of the sport. What can at times be overlooked if not outright acknowledged is there are also times when a fighter holding a world title can establish themselves as a star by fighting and defending the crown against the best a division has to offer.
Gennady Golovkin has been one fighter that it can be said established both his credibility as well as grew a significant fan base after becoming a world champion. As is sometimes the case while a fighter can rise as a star as a world champion, achieving “Superstar” status, the type of status that most would consider to be a marquee “Pay-Per-View” draw is something that often comes with facing a fighter many consider to have such status.
Much as was the case with Hopkins, Golovkin established his reign at the top of the Middleweight division as a fighter who was largely under the radar. Some might contend that Hopkins did not get an opportunity to face a “Superstar” of the sport until he faced Felix Trinidad in a unification bout in September 2001, and despite scoring a knockout of Trinidad in that fight, did not garner the benefits of most “Superstar” fighters in financial terms until he scored a knockout of Oscar De La Hoya in September 2004 in a fight where he successfully unified the IBF, WBC, WBA, and WBO crowns.
For Gennady Golovkin, his opportunity to face a “Superstar” of the sport came in September of last year when he defended his unified Middleweight crown against former two-division world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas, NV. A highly anticipated encounter that lived up to the hype of being what most would call a “Super Fight” where the best fighters face each other.
Although Golovkin appeared to outwork Alvarez in this observer’s eyes as I scored the fight nine rounds to three in his favor or 117-111 in points, the official decision was a split decision draw with the scorecard of judge Adalaide Byrd being the source of controversy as she scored the fight ten rounds to two or 118-110 in favor of Alvarez. As I said in my coverage of that fight, I scored the fight for Golovkin based on his greater activity and effective aggression. Despite my not agreeing with the scorecard of Adalaide Byrd as I felt it was simply not an accurate illustration of what took place in the fight, there were rounds particularly in the first half of the fight that were “Swing Rounds” where opinion as to who got the upper hand in a round can depend on moments in a round as opposed to one fighter clearly standing out from the other during a round.
Golovkin is now coming off two consecutive decisions, a close, but unanimous twelve round decision over Daniel Jacobs in March of last year and the draw with Alvarez. Having retained his title nineteen consecutive times, it seemed natural that a rematch with Alvarez for title defense number twenty and a chance to tie Bernard Hopkins would have been the preferred option both for Golovkin himself, as well as Boxing fans worldwide.
If the controversial decision in that fight were not enough to incite the anger of fans as well as criticism from experts as many, including this observer felt Golovkin deserved the decision, there was yet more controversy that ultimately caused the scheduled rematch with Alvarez to be cancelled. As some Boxing fans know Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol during randomized testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
While Alvarez has maintained that the positive test result, where trace amounts of the substance were present came as a result of eating contaminated meat in his native Mexico, he withdrew from the rematch with Golovkin and was suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) in April. Golovkin however, rather than sit out and wait for the potential rematch to be re-made has chosen to keep the scheduled May 5th date and will make the twentieth defense of his unified Middleweight crown on Saturday night against top Jr. Middleweight contender and former world title challenger Vanes Martirosyan at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA.
There are a couple of interesting subplots to this fight. First, despite going the distance in his last two title defenses and there being a difference of opinion as to who got the upper hand in those fights, Gennady Golovkin is still an undefeated world champion who will enter the fight with a record of 37-0-1, with 33 Knockouts and still has a career knockout percentage of 87%. One should question however, whether all the attention focused on what ultimately resulted in the scheduled rematch with Alvarez falling through as well as facing an opponent on short notice will have any effect on Golovkin as this fight approaches.
The second subplot is an obvious one. Vanes Martirosyan is a fighter who has fought for a world title twice in his career losing twelve round decisions to Demetrius Andrade and Erislandy Lara. As it is difficult for a fighter in Golovkin’s position to adjust to a change of opponent on short notice, the fighter taking the fight with limited time to prepare also faces the same challenge.
Martirosyan will enter the fight with a record of 36-3-1, with 21 Knockouts and will be fighting in the 160lb. Middleweight division for the first time after spending his entire thirteen-year professional career as a 154lb. Jr. Middleweight. The challenger will also come into the bout almost two years removed from his last bout against Erislandy Lara in May 2016.
What Martirosyan does have going for him heading into this fight despite being at a theoretical disadvantage is he has not been stopped in his forty professional bouts, is a boxer/puncher, and has shown that he is capable of going the twelve round world championship distance. In terms of a potential fight plan for the challenger going into this fight, this observer believes the best option for him will be to attempt to establish himself as an elusive target and look to outbox Golovkin.
This is a task that has proven to be difficult to accomplish for previous Golovkin opponents due to his ability to cut off the ring and apply consistent pressure. Martirosyan must keep Golovkin at distance and unable to apply the type of gradual pressure that has often broken down many of his opponents. The champion is the type of fighter who is as dangerous in the last round of a fight as he is in the first round. If Martirosyan does find success in this fight and can offset Golovkin’s pressure attack, he must not let up as the fight progresses.
As has been the case throughout his career, Golovkin will likely look to back Martirosyan up from the outset and trap him where he cannot use his lateral movement to evade his pressure. The question of how Martirosyan will respond to a Middleweight’s punch will probably be answered early in the fight and given what one can assume had to be a training camp with it’s share of distractions due to the circumstances of the situation with Saul Alvarez that Golovkin will look to end this fight early should the opportunity present itself.
One may question what will be ahead for Golovkin assuming he is successful and does indeed tie the record of Bernard Hopkins. The reality is no one knows, and it is natural for both Boxing fans and experts to discuss and speculate the subject. If the circumstances that have surrounded the recent times of Gennady Golovkin have had a negative impact on him however, it could provide the opening for a fighter who is viewed as under the radar and dismissed by some to score what would be a major upset. The next chapter in the Middleweight championship reign of Gennady Golovkin will be written on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Golovkin vs. Martirosyan takes place on Tonight (Saturday, May 5th) at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The fight can be seen in the United States on HBO beginning at 11PM ET/PT. Check your cable/satellite listings for time and channel in your area. For more information about HBO, HBO Sports, and HBO Boxing please visit: www.hbo.com. Check your listings internationally.
The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.
Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison