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WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is a punch away from stardom

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

A fascinating scene unfolded in the bowels of Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, not long after Gennady Golovkin stopped Gabriel Rosado, that speaks volumes about Golovkin's star potential.

HBO's cameras captured a bloodied and beaten Rosado in his dressing room, talking to promoter J. Russell Peltz.

"He has this power, man, that's like, whoa ," Rosado said.

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Gennady Golovkin, left, and Matthew Macklin hope to put on a show Saturday at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, …

In the next clip of the video of HBO's "2 Days: Gennady Golovkin," the camera focuses on Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez. Golovkin had fought with a terrible head cold, and Sanchez is relating how it impacted Golovkin's performance that night.

"He won every round, but he just didn't have the snap that he's had in the past," Sanchez said.

He didn't have the snap he's had in the past.

Golovkin, the WBA middleweight champion, battered Rosado, a big, strong and durable boxer, for several rounds before Rosado's corner had stopped it because they feared Rosado would be seriously injured.

And yet, here was Sanchez saying that Golovkin wasn't punching as well as normal.

That ability to punch, to change the course of a bout with a single blow, is what has made Golovkin one of the sport's most promising champions. He's superbly conditioned, he has good boxing sense, he moves well and he's a good combination puncher, but that rare power is what separates him from the pack.

It's what makes his promoter, Tom Loeffler, refer to him as the best middleweight in the world, and it's what could make him the sport's next big thing.

But all is not perfect in Golovkin's world. His HBO-televised bout on Saturday against Matthew Macklin at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., will present him with, by far, his toughest test.

Golovkin is 26-0 with 23 knockouts, giving him the highest knockout percentage among major world champions, but, to borrow a phrase from former welterweight champ Paulie Malignaggi, a lot of those opponents were no more than taxi cab drivers or Laundromat workers.

Macklin, 29-4 with 20 knockouts, represents the kind of quality, experienced opponent that Golovkin has not seen much yet in his career.

Golovkin has come under some criticism for not only fighting lower-rated middleweights, but also super welterweights. Rosado moved up to middleweight to face Golovkin.

Loeffler said he's been looking to land the big names for Golovkin, but thus far, none has been available or willing.

Sergio Martinez is the obvious choice fans want to see against Golovkin, but Martinez is injured and unavailable, with no return date in sight.

"There has been some criticism as far as [Gennady] only fighting junior middleweights or not the top-level competition," Loeffler said. "But that's certainly not from his standpoint. … There is no name we've turned down for Gennady."

Macklin unquestionably is a high-level opponent, and he knocked Martinez down during their March 17, 2012, bout in New York.

He's aggressive and likely isn't going to shy away, but the thing that makes Golovkin special is that he won't, either. Because Macklin hits hard and likes to trade, some suspect that Golovkin will incorporate more lateral movement and boxing into his game.

That will not be the case, Golovkin insisted. He'll be available and if Macklin wants a fight, he's going to get it.

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Gennady Golovkin lands a punch against Nobuhiro Ishida in his last bout in March. (AP Photo)

"I'm not thinking about making many changes," Golovkin said. "My strategy is my strategy."

Macklin is no steppingstone under ordinary circumstances. In this case, though, he's setting up to be Golovkin's steppingstone to stardom.

If Golovkin can do to Macklin what he did to Rosado and Nobuhiro Ishida, a star will be born.

Golovkin is not only powerful, but he's engaging, charismatic and well aware of what he needs to do to become a star.

Fans watch boxing for many reasons. There is a segment of the population that appreciates the subtlety of the game, the ability to slip punches and counter well, the gift of being able to walk an opponent into a shot.

But the masses love the power, and Golovkin's got what Sanchez calls "Mike Tyson power." If he shows that against a quality middleweight like Macklin, there is going to be plenty of demand for Golovkin against the likes of Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and even Andre Ward.

First, though, Golovkin needs to perform, and Sanchez has no doubt he will.

"I think Matthew's biggest asset is having Buddy [McGirt], who is such a great trainer, in his corner," Sanchez said. "We are excited about this fight because we know Matthew is going to be right there in front of us. We are expecting a tough fight, but also a short fight. It is going to be very exciting for as long as it lasts."

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