It was Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s chance to breakout, his moment to shine brighter than ever before, an opportunity to catapult his career to unrealized heights. But did he do all he needed to?
Golovkin absolutely dominated his opponent. The Kazakhstan KO machine taxed Canadian-born David Lemieux in front of a 20,000-plus crowd at the Mecca in New York – Madison Square Garden. Although Golovkin had been on American Pay Per View a few years prior, it was only as a co-feature on one of those “can’t find U.S. TV rights” type of cards against a very uninspired opponent.
But this, tonight?
It was different tonight as Golovkin faced what was perceived to be the biggest test of his career, a fighter with proven power and heavy enough hands that he could at least be within the realm of Golovkin’s power perceptions, although not nearly by full comparison. Lemieux represented a legitimate (enough) challenge and possessed an exciting enough style combined with a can-do spirit as big as Triple G’s smile.
Golovkin was the headliner, he was the reason so many acknowledged boxing on a non-Mayweather/Pacquiao night like tonight – and no Hispanic fighters, either. As the main attraction, Golovkin could finally perform without a single shred of his impressive prowess going to waste, not that Golovkin’s previous gems have been for nothing, nor would I refer to them as a waste. However, I would note that this stage was much bigger and even half of a power display would do things for Triple G’s career that no other knockout had done up to this point. In other words, this wasn’t just a fight to add to the very impressive and expensive highlight reel.
Lemieux did not seem intimidated coming into the fight. At all of the press events and promotional proceedings, Lemieux sized up Golovkin like he was any other fighter while still recognizing the size of the moment he was in – this was, after all, the biggest moment in Lemieux’s career, too, which is a point many people overlooked throughout the lead-up.
The fight was no different as Lemieux came out with so much confidence that it actually seemed like he was winging it at times in the fight. I might even suggest that he never bothered to figure out a realistic and working game plan for the fight, but instead chose to let his superior – to fighters not named Golovkin—instincts take over for him.
Golovkin worked fast to the fan that was watching him for the first time just to get his snobby hardcore boxing fan friend, who had been telling him “you got to watch this guy” all month long, off of his back. To the regular Golovkin fan, it was clearly a feel out round, which is a magical display of offense for any other fighter in boxing not named Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Golovkin did some very impressive things and made an impact on Lemieux. However, he did Lemieux no favors because at the end of the first 3minutes Lemieux did not have a fully accurate depiction of the night or the fight he was in for.
Golovkin turned things up as the fight proceeded and Lemieux showed plenty of heart by staying in the fight, literally – as in opposed to running – and focused on working his offense.
It was by no means a Mexican style “take two to get one” type of offense, but he was blatantly neglecting his own safety in an effort to keep the fight winnable. This was a very valiant move by Lemieux and one that was probably lost on the casual fan watching in the crowd or at home (those damn casuals **cough cough** Michael J. Fox’s kid **cough cough**).
The thing is Lemieux could’ve started to move and retreat. It isn’t a coward move. Imagine that, casual fans, you can avoid a fight in boxing because it is a tactical defense when done right as opposed to the sign of weakness it is conceived to be at the bars, malls, and flea market, or wherever you casuals are street fighting each other and learning all about the sport I love.
But another reason Lemieux probably didn’t retreat is because he wouldn’t have known how against a ring cutting genius like Triple G. Even the best boxers would have a hard time preventing the ring from being cut into 3/4s against Golovkin, let alone a fighter with very little ring generalship, a fighter not so light of foot, and an athlete without the necessary athleticism (strong footed?).
Golovkin opened up his offense and tore Lemieux apart with every passing round. The punches GGG landed were as brutal as they were beautiful, but I doubt some of the casuals noticed the punishment being absorbed, nor did they appreciate just how defeating the landed shots were on Lemieux.
Golovkin managed to land a body shot that sent Lemieux to a knee after the typical delayed reaction, although that reaction is becoming more instinctive with Golovkin opponents. While on a knee, Golovkin landed a hard right hand, an illegal right hand on Lemieux, who ended up beating the count.
Lemieux took more damaged, but he attempted to stay as close to his one shot hope as he could and even did some fine work of his own, especially a couple beauties to the body of Golovkin. The punches were felt by Golovkin, which he admitted to in the post-fight interview.
Golovkin continued to batter the bloodied Lemieux and referee Steve Willis was close to stopping the fight. Instead, he allowed it to continue for the remainder of the round before seeing the bruised and beaten Lemieux take a couple of practically free power shots and stepping in to wave off the fight in the 8th.
Golovkin looked incredible. He was physically dominating. He was offensively compelling. He was dramatically dynamic. But he wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before, which is impressive.
I mentioned the casual fan a number of times thus far and I’ve been doing so for a specific reason. The casual fan is the fan that mattered tonight. HBO PPV is a vehicle designed for the casual fan. It only works if they hop aboard and it will only be driven as far as they are willing to travel.
The nostalgia of the night will remain and they will undoubtedly remember Golovkin’s ability to produce entertainment, but to what degree are they willing to commit after this performance?
Boxing will always be a two fighter sport despite massive success by only a handful of single attraction fighters. Even Floyd Mayweather Jr., the most solo of all attractions, recognized his lack of marketability when he doesn’t have a live enough body next to him on the fight poster, evident by his lackluster by comparisons PPV numbers with Andre Berto as his foe.
Golovkin had a big night, a successful night, but it wasn’t the kind of night that will have fans coming back for more without a slightly more than reasonable dance partner.
Listen, I’m not trying to find the negative because I don’t believe it truly is a negative considering the standards across the board. The only real reason for making this clarification is because Golovkin is probably the last fighter on earth that is capable of winning over the casual fans with a single performance, the kind of performance that stands on his own skills alone.
If any fighter can be a solo act it is Golovkin.
When Manny Pacquiao was still building his own legacy, he stepped in the ring with Ricky Hatton and made fans realize that he is never to be missed, regardless of how little they know about the future opponent he faces. With the numbers Manny did against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito, it was clear that he was a solo act built on the premise of must-see.
Now, obviously Pacquiao-Hatton was much different than Golovkin-Lemieux, but it was still one of his biggest stages and an opportunity to fully display his entertainment value despite lacking a compelling competitive angle in the ring.
Golovkin said after the fight that he came into the ring with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he wanted to prove that he wasn’t just a heavy-handed puncher, that he was more than a knockout machine and that he could actually box from a sophisticatedly brutal manner. He proved it.
But it was probably not a good time to take a stand against the Tyson comparisons. I understand Golovkin’s desire to separate himself from being placed in the Tyson box, especially when he possesses boxing abilities that Iron Mike never had, but he needed to be aware of the full magnitude of those comparisons.
Tyson was a cash cow in America. He resonated with casual fans on a largely commercial basis. And yes, Tyson was not seen as a completely artful pugilist, but he sold tickets and PPV buys.
Golovkin will get another crack at this, and maybe he’ll do it against an opponent that forces Triple G to be the B-side, but regardless of who it is he needs to remember the stage he’s on and the one he hopes to get to.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, if you’re Golovkin then it is by hitting a guy’s head into the 3rd row, or possibly making him do a backflip outside the ring, hitting Donald Trump’s lap so hard that his toupee pops up and lands backward on The Donald’s head.