Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Return Of Gennady Golovkin

Boxing is a sport that has many stories throughout its history. These stories can at times revolve around the dominance of a fighter throughout their career. The history of the sport is full of stories of such fighters. Among them is the story of Gennady Golovkin, a fighter known simply by his initials GGG.

Golovkin reigned supreme over the 160lb. Middleweight division for several years becoming a unified world champion and establishing a reputation as a feared “Knockout Artist.” As has been the case for fighters who earn that reputation/label came a problem in securing fights against fighters that are thought of as stars in the sport. The dominance Golovkin was able to establish eventually paid off as he faced Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September 2017.

A highly competitive fight that many including this observer felt Golovkin did enough to win, ended in a disputed draw. The highly anticipated rematch in September of last year produced similar feelings. Unlike the first encounter however, the rematch saw Alvarez declared the winner in a disputed decision.

In chronicling Golovkin’s career, readers became accustomed to yours truly referencing the Middleweight championship reigns of Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. Two legends that each had lengthy reigns atop the division and in the case of Hopkins, set the all-time record for consecutive Middleweight world championship defenses with twenty defenses. If Golovkin were successful in his rematch with Alvarez, he would have tied Hopkins’ record. In an ironic way, Alvarez victory over Golovkin controversial as it might be depending on one’s perspective made another parallel between Golovkin, Hagler, and Hopkins.

All three Hagler, Hopkins’ and Golovkin each saw their respective reigns as Middleweight world champion come to an end by way of coming out on the short end of a disputed decision. While Hagler’s loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in April 1987 signaled the end of his career, Hopkins attempted to avenge his July 2005 loss to Jermain Taylor in December of that year, but again came up short in another close and disputed decision loss.

While a third encounter between Alvarez and Golovkin remains on the horizon for the future, Golovkin will make his return to the ring on June 8th against relative unknown, but undefeated contender Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The bout, which will be televised in the United States and several international countries around the world by digital sports streaming network DAZN, will be fought in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division in what will be Golovkin’s first fight at 168lbs.

This fight features a couple of interesting storylines. Firstly Golovkin’s return to the ring after a near year lay-off in the first of a multi-fight agreement between the former Middleweight world champion and DAZN after fighting most of the last several years under the now inactive HBO Boxing banner. A surprising twist emerged shortly after Golovkin’s signing with DAZN was announced and that was his split with longtime trainer Abel Sanchez.

At thirty-six years old, Golovkin will now have a new voice in his corner in the form of former IBO world Cruiserweight champion, longtime Heavyweight contender, and trainer Johnathon Banks. Banks, as some may recall, emerged as a respected trainer in the sport when following the passing of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward in 2012, he took over as the trainer of then unified Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko.

The main question that faces any fighter who splits from a longtime trainer and particularly a trainer who led said fighter to great success is what can the new trainer bring to the table that could benefit the fighter. In thinking of this question and the scenario Golovkin now finds himself in, thoughts began to come to mind regarding potential tactical and technical adjustments that Banks may be able to implement into Golovkin’s arsenal.

It is important to remember the credentials Banks has. Not only did he take over for Emanuel Steward as a trainer for Klitschko shortly before Steward’s death, but more importantly he also fought under Steward’s tutelage. Emanuel Steward was and will always remain one of the best trainers the sport of Boxing has ever known. A man who knew how to combat many styles of Boxing and had an emphasis on technique that he taught his stable of fighters. Such a Boxing education has benefited Banks as a trainer and despite loss of Steward, Wladimir Klitschko was able to enjoy continued success for several more years with Banks in his corner.

One aspect that did work against Golovkin in his rematch with Saul Alvarez was he did not go to the body enough throughout that fight. Despite the opinions of many including yours truly that Golovkin won that fight as well as the first encounter, by his not focusing a portion of his offense on Alvarez’ body one might argue that it allowed some rounds that were thought to be close to be scored in Alvarez’ favor. If Banks can add to what was already a dangerous offensive arsenal and improve Golovkin’s skill set perhaps a third encounter with Alvarez might go his way in terms of winning rounds that are deemed close by the official judges.

Before Golovkin can set his sights on the third fight that not only he, but most of the Boxing world wants to see between himself and Alvarez, he must contend with Steve Rolls. Rolls, a relative unknown outside of his native Canada, but is a fighter that will enter this fight with an unbeaten record of 19-0, with 10 Knockouts.

Despite being under the radar of most Boxing fans, Rolls has won both the United States Boxing Association (USBA) Middleweight and North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Jr. Middleweight championships in his career and fighters who are able to win titles on a regional level are usually about to step up against world level opposition. There is no disputing however, that this is a significant step up in caliber of opposition for Rolls and it will be interesting to see how he responds to not only fighting someone of Golovkin’s reputation and stature in the sport, but also fighting in Madison Square Garden for the first time and in a main event.

How can Rolls find success in this fight? It is crucial in this observer’s view that Rolls get the respect of Golovkin early in this fight. Rolls has shown that he has the ability to get an opponent out of there if the opportunity presents itself, but he is a boxer/puncher and must establish himself as an elusive target and theoretically also establish the tempo of the combat in the process.

At his core, Gennady Golovkin is a devastating puncher with either hand, and has shown the ability to be systematic in his approach throughout his career. Logic suggests that Golovkin will look to take a similar approach in this fight by looking to cut the ring off from Rolls and break him down as the bout progresses.

There is no dispute that the fight that has been on the collective minds of both the public as well as those inside the sport has been what is viewed as the eventual third encounter between Golovkin and Alvarez. While there is no doubt that there remains unfinished business between the two and that Golovkin’s bout against Steve Rolls is likely seen as a “Safe” way for Golovkin to test the waters of the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division before returning to the 160lb. Middleweight division to resume his rivalry with Alvarez, it is worth reminding the public/reader that nothing is a sure thing in the sport of Boxing. You need not look further than last weekend’s upset in Madison Square Garden, the same venue where this fight will take place, where top contender Andy Ruiz, who was virtually dismissed as a challenger to undefeated unified Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua in what was thought to be a showcase for the champion in his much anticipated U.S. debut, scored four knockdowns of the champion to ultimately win the Heavyweight crown. Ruiz showed the public, who at times do not understand the sport and who did not regard him highly, despite his impressive record and status as a former world title challenger entering that fight that you can never dismiss an opponent, especially when that opponent has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Andy Ruiz now sits as one of two fighters in the Heavyweight division that hold claim to the World Heavyweight championship having seized the opportunity that was placed before him in defeating Anthony Joshua by stoppage.

While the circumstances of Ruiz’ getting the opportunity to fight Joshua is completely different than the Golovkin-Rolls bout, and even though there is no world championship on the line in this fight, if Rolls can seize the opportunity before him in the biggest fight of his career against a star in the sport, the opportunities that would be ahead for him could be significant. Golovkin, who attended the Joshua-Ruiz fight has one objective. He must focus on the task at hand and face the fighter in front of him on Saturday night. If for whatever reason he is focused on a third encounter with Saul Alvarez and is not focused on Steve Rolls, what may be seen as an eventual showdown between himself and Alvarez may have a monkey wrench thrown into the equation.

As we saw with Joshua-Ruiz, sometimes all a fighter needs is an opportunity. An opportunity to face a fighter held in a higher regard and if said fighter can take advantage, an opportunity to turn a division upside down and generate significant buzz within the Boxing world. One upset has already occurred. We will see if Steve Rolls can create another memorable moment in “The Mecca of Boxing” Madison Square Garden.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Golovkin vs. Rolls takes place Saturday, June 8th at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen in the United States and several international countries on digital sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 7PM ET/4PM PT (U.S. Time) For more information about DAZN, schedules, list of available streaming devices, availability around the world, and to subscribe, please visit:

Check your local listings internationally.

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