Being a victim of one’s own success is perhaps boxing’s most frustrating cliché.
And considering that the sport is mired in an era where sanctioning bodies crown fraudulent titlists, the need for genuine champions and worthy challengers has become desperate.
Enter: Gennady Golovkin.
If championship-level prizefighting is verging on becoming a cross between a perverse lottery system and backhanded “old boys” network, fighters like Golovkin (25-0, 22 KO) are a stark reminder of what the sport can be at its best.
Golovkin has genuinely earned his title and his exposure on HBO.
Now, considering all that Golovkin has earned, is it fair to suggest that he’s ready to fight lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez?
The prospect of Martinez-Golovkin is indeed an enticing one. Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO) is one of the sport’s slickest and cleverest boxers; he’s a shifty, rangy fighter who throws dizzying combinations and can explode with unexpected power. A southpaw, Martinez’s unorthodox stance and movement are as much artistic as awkward.
If Martinez is savvy and slippery, everything about Golovkin is, in a sense, heavy. Compact and powerful, Golovkin expertly cuts off the ring as he stalks forward with measured movements. Possessing frightening power, Golovkin’s punches are murderous and his bodywork is devastating. And yet despite his heavy-handedness, Golovkin’s attacks are surgical and efficient.
It is easy to make the case for why Martinez-Golovkin would be a compelling fight. One must also consider that the notion of Golovkin being ready for Martinez has nothing to do with the probability of “GGG” being victorious.
Rather, the idea of worth must first be considered when justifying a challenger for an elite, lineal champion like Martinez.
In this regard, Golovkin easily passes the viability screening process. To put it bluntly: If anyone thought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was ready to fight Martinez—and few other than his most ardent supporters did—Golovkin was born ready.
But Golovkin still remains—and try not to cringe—the proverbial victim of his own success. Most recently, Golovkin was seen bludgeoning and bloodying an incredibly brave Gabriel Rosado in a fight that remained compelling despite its utter one-sidedness.
Rosado (21-6, 13 KO), a natural junior middleweight, moved up to 160 pounds to challenge Golovkin and was certainly game, even if he was unable to muster any significant bursts of offense.
Before dissecting Rosado, Golovkin had made a strong impression on American audiences when he scored a fifth-round TKO over legitimate contender and former European champion Grzegorz Proksa, scoring knockdowns in Rounds 1, 4 and 5 in what amounted to a fearsome display.
After his victory over Proksa (28-2, 21 KO), it seemed inevitable that Golovkin would destroy the smaller Rosado at least as quickly.
That Golovkin was unable to drop Rosado can be attributed either to the Philadelphia fighter’s resilience or the fact that Golovkin was ill leading up to the fight (per ESPN.com)—or both. The fact that such rationalizing even comes to mind is somewhat disturbing; one has to wonder if Golovkin has been saddled with unrealistic expectations.
Stopping Rosado the way Golovkin did should be viewed—unequivocally—as an excellent win. But those watching Golovkin—those who know what he’s capable of—were perhaps mildly perplexed as to why he couldn’t score a knockdown or “conventional” knockout. While this is unfair, it is the reality of the standards now expected of Golovkin.
Given the assumption of Golovkin’s dominance heading into recent fights against quality opponents, of course he is ready to fight Martinez.
Golovkin, however, also finds himself in a murky area. He has scored two consecutive compelling wins on HBO, but he still finds himself seeking a genuine foothold in the North American market. Proksa and Rosado are quality fighters, but they are better known to those who closely follow the sport.
Much will depend on Martinez if this fight is ever to materialize. In a recent column, ESPN boxing scribe Dan Rafael succinctly captures the reality of this situation:
Division champion Sergio Martinez is an unlikely opponent, as much as Golovkin would love the fight. Martinez promoter Lou DiBella barely acknowledges Golovkin's existence and had downplayed the possibility of the fight. Besides, Martinez is scheduled to face Martin Murray on April 27 and then, with a win, probably will face former titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a rematch in September.
How Martinez fares in these prospective fights after tearing knee ligaments and sustaining other minor injuries in his first fight against Chavez will determine the likelihood of a Golovkin fight. Martinez-Golovkin, for now, appears to be wishful thinking.
In the meantime, Golovkin, as Rafael argues, is not short on prospective opponents and is currently slated to fight Nobuhiro Ishida on March 31. Rafael suggests that future bouts against Daniel Geale, Felix Sturm or Peter Quillin are on Golovkin’s radar.
The reality of these proposed bouts remains in flux. That said, if Golovkin can unify titles against Geale (especially), he will perhaps gain greater leverage in terms of landing a fight against Martinez.
For now, Golovkin will fight Ishida (24-8-2, 9 KO) and be expected to win spectacularly. Forging a path towards a fight with Martinez can be derailed with one false step, so here’s hoping that the standard to which fans and pundits hold Golovkin won’t ultimately work against him.