Last seen bludgeoning Grzegorz Proksa over five rounds last September, middleweight Gennady Golovkin returns to action on Saturday night at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. Setting hearts aflutter in confirming his reputation for rough treatment, Golovkin has become one of a handful of fighters whose fights generate enthusiasm regardless of the opposition. He has yet to fully profit from his burgeoning popularity, as the Proksa fight has discouraged a number of familiar middleweights from risking exposure to Golovkin’s brand of hurt.
This discouragement does not apply to Gabriel Rosado. Most comfortable at junior middleweight, Rosado has chosen to act like a prizefighter (no meager compliment these days) and take the biggest fight available: an uphill battle against Golovkin on HBO. Much has been made of Rosado’s decision to eschew the bout’s agreed upon catchweight of 158 pounds. This clever trick—employed to generate interest and public support—warrants a tip of the cap since those two pounds should have little impact on the fight. Golovkin, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, has expressed a willingness to face anyone between 154 and 168 pounds. He would not be hampered by the 158-pound limit, and Rosado is hardly dooming himself in rejecting the catchweight, since most expect Rosado to be pummelled by Golovkin regardless of what they weigh on Friday afternoon. This is not heroic bravery on Rosado’s part, it is not fearlessness, and it does not significantly augment the accomplishment should he beat Golovkin. A win over Golovkin at any weight would define Rosado’s career—two pounds does not meaningfully change that. But in declining the catchweight Rosado has garnered himself a fair amount of public support; support that—save for an embarrassing or disgracing performance—could persist beyond Saturday night. This calculation explains the concession.
In his last fight, Rosado, 21-5 (13), was badly hurt by unheralded Charles Whittaker before rallying to stop the 39 year-old in the tenth round. It should be mentioned that the fight with Whittaker aired on the NBC Sports Network, and Rosado, who was clipped trying to finish Whittaker after scoring a knockdown, may well have been looking for a captivating showing to springboard onto a larger platform. Understanding the value of performance and—gasp!-willing to earn his place on a larger stage, Rosado has shown commendable zeal. But while Rosado is a tough guy, galvanized by machismo, it is difficult to envision a scenario where someone staggered by a fighter of Whittaker’s pedigree endures the evil Golovkin has at his disposal.
Nor is Rosado likely to elude Golovkin’s withering interrogation of his head and liver. A slicker fighter than Rosado, Grzegorz Proksa employed evasive tactics early and often against Golovkin, but by the fifth round he had drowned in a cascade of heavy leather. How much of Golovkin’s mystique is rooted in truth is yet unclear, but his power, and the brutal efficacy with which he applies it, is the genuine article. If Alfredo Angulo was able to track down, bully, and break Rosado in two rounds, Golovkin should be able to masticate the plucky Philadelphian.
This is not to say that Golovkin, 24-0 (21), who has looked every bit the anatomist of pain in butchering mostly nondescript opposition, is invincible. He has shown a sturdy chin thus far; his ability to take a shot has been proven by the sufficient sample size of flush punches he has taken. If his chin’s availability persists, it will be his undoing. But that is unlikely to happen Saturday. Despite a recent display of power from Rosado—five stoppages in his last six fights—he is not a big puncher, and those performances must be considered in the context of the moth-eaten opposition he faced. Nor is Rosado likely to wear Golovkin down: he might extend the bout, but the offensive commitment required to bust up his bigger foe would inevitably subject Rosado to more return fire than he can endure.
It is far more likely that Golovkin tracks Rosado down early, moving like Birnam Wood toward his hapless opponent. Once in range Golovkin will look to snatch Rosado’s body, robbing the outgunned fighter of his safest mode of defense and forcing him to exchange or simply cover up and hopelessly absorb. Knowing Rosado’s fighting instinct, he will oblige Golovkin’s invitation to an all-or-nothing affair, and find himself—to borrow a phrase from Foucault—in a “liturgy of punishment” he cannot endure.
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