Gennady Golovkin is making a bid for recognition as boxing's all-around best

Kevin Iole
Boxing
Gennady Golovkin needs to face the best opposition to prove he's one of boxing's finest fighters. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Gennady Golovkin needs to face the best opposition to prove he's one of boxing's finest fighters. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

It's difficult to place a significance on Gennady Golovkin's two-round decimation of a disinterested Marco Antonio Rubio on Saturday in Golovkin's West Coast debut.

It was a rousing success in all regards. Golovkin attracted an overflow crowd of 9,323 to the StubHub Center, the largest attendance in the venue's history. He scored his 18th consecutive knockout and added the interim WBC middleweight title to the WBA belt he already owned.

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With all due respect to the rest of the division, there is no question that Golovkin is, by far, the finest 160-pound fighter in the world. 

The question is how good Golovkin is in terms of the overall sport.

He's 31-0 with 28 knockouts and one of the sport's fastest rising stars. He hasn't gone to a decision since winning an eight-rounder over Amar Amari on June 21, 2008.

The largely Mexican-American crowd in Carson, Calif., on Saturday clearly revered Golovkin, a native of Kazakhstan. It gave him the kind of ovation that usually only the biggest Mexican stars get. As he walked to the ring, the fans stood and roared, many of them chanting, "Triple G! Triple G! Triple G!" 

They love him for his power-based, attack-oriented style, and he delivered what they wanted in impressive fashion. Rubio entered the fight with 59 wins and 51 knockouts, impressive figures, to be sure. But no one was comparing Rubio to Kelly Pavlik, let alone a Carlos Monzon or a Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Given that Golovkin has come along at a time when there aren't many very good, let alone great, middleweights complicates the situation when assessing him.

Could he beat the Bernard Hopkins of 2001 who destroyed a similarly dominant Felix Trinidad? Very tough to say right now, but I wouldn't bet a ton of money on it.

Could he beat the 1985 version of Hagler who stopped Tommy Hearns in one of the greatest fights ever? Again, it's very hard to see that happening, at least based upon the evidence we have so far.

Heck, could he have dealt with the Pavlik of 2007, who used good range and heavy hands to stop Jermain Taylor to win the title? Most likely yes, but again, it's no sure thing. 

I think Golovkin is not only good, but great. I think he deserves to be talked about as one of the best middleweights of his era. I think he should be considered in the pound-for-pound standings.

Is it outlandish to suggest that Golovkin has surpassed either or both Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward at the top of those mythical pound-for-pound lists? No, it is not. But nor is it a slam dunk.

In 2000, months before he fought Diego Corrales, I believed that Mayweather and not then-consensus choice Roy Jones Jr. was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And except for a brief period when he retired, I've felt that way ever since.

Ward is a brilliant boxer who doesn't have the showy kind of power that Golovkin does, but he does hit harder than most give him credit for. But Ward is highly inactive and has lost a great deal of momentum since blowing out Chad Dawson in 2012.

He's fought only once since and shows no sign of returning to the ring.

I'd put Golovkin third on my pound-for-pound list, behind Mayweather and Ward, but I couldn't argue with those who would put him higher or those who feel he hasn't proven enough to earn such lofty status. Pound-for-pound lists are mythical and mean nothing, just one person's opinion, and are just for conversation more than anything else.

But if you're among those who think it's outrageous to put Golovkin high up on this list, imagine the troulbe his pressure would give Mayweather. Marcos Maidana gave Mayweather a lot of problems with his pressure, which is nothing like the kind of pressure that Golovkin brings.

I'm not suggesting that Mayweather should fight Golovkin or should be ridiculed if he declines to do so if such a bout is offered, because he is a welterweight and Golovkin is a middleweight. That said, it's not outrageous to suggest that they fight, because Mayweather does hold a 154-pound belt and Golovkin has repeatedly said he could make 154 pounds easily. If you're a 154-pound champion, then you should be ready, willing and able to fight anyone who can make the 154-pound limit.

There was ample evidence presented just last week that proves Golovkin could make it. On the Monday before the fight, he weighed 161 pounds, just one over the middleweight limit and only seven away from the super welterweight limit.

Super middleweight champion Andre Ward is a great fighter but far too inactive. (Getty Images)
Super middleweight champion Andre Ward is a great fighter but far too inactive. (Getty Images)

Given that Golovkin weighed in Firday at 159, it's easy to see him being able to shave off an additional five pounds and make super welterweight.

Golovkin hasn't faced anyone even as remotely talented as Mayweather; most of Golovkin's victims have been B-leaguers, not the A+ kind of fighter he'd face in Mayweather. That being said, Mayweather hasn't fought anyone remotely as strong as Golovkin or one who punches as accurately.

Ward is a very big super middleweight who can no longer make 160 pounds. If he ever does come back to fight – and at this point, people are ceasing to care whether he ever settles his legal issues and returns – he'll probably move to light heavyweight before long.

So if Golovkin is to fight Ward, it would have to be sooner rather than later before Ward is legitimately too big  for him.

There are those who wouldn't move Mayweather and Ward from the top two slots on the pound-for-pound lists because they haven't lost. I get that line of thinking, but to me, since boxers don't fight often, it has to be more fluid. It's more of a snapshot in time, rating a fighter at a specific moment. In that regard, it's very possible that Golovkin has surpassed those two.

But given his level of opposition is low, there are several things we don't know about Golovkin: How can he take a punch? He really hasn't been hit all that often (which, of course, is a good thing). How will Golovkin fare if he gets into a long dog-fight? He's blowing guys out now, but if there were a top fighter who could withstand his power and didn't wilt at the first serious blow landed, could Golovkin keep up the pressure into the second half of the bout and then down the stretch?

Guys like Mayweather and Ward have proven themselves against other top fighters. Golovkin has not yet because he hasn't faced that type of opposition.

Golovkin is 32 and hardly a youngster, so hopefully those big fights against the likes of Ward, Carl Froch, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto materialize soon. Alvarez and Cotto are expected to fight in May, and Golovkin would be in line to face the winner.

I believe Alvarez would beat Cotto, making a fascinating match with Golovkin. I'd favor Golovkin to take that, but he's going to need to do it to ultimately prove the hype is legitimate.

Gololvkin is without doubt an exceptional boxer and one of the most fun fighters to watch. In my mind, he's right up there with Roman "Chocalitito" Gonzalez as my favorite fighters to see.

But Golovkin needs to get, and then defeat, one of the big names before he can finally be fairly and accurately assessed.

Gennady Golovkin's punching power makes him a threat in every fight he takes (Tom Hogan/K2 Promotions)
Gennady Golovkin's punching power makes him a threat in every fight he takes (Tom Hogan/K2 Promotions)

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