“No, I called the tune, and now I’m going to pay the piper.” – Carl Stephenson, Leiningen Versus the Ants
It was not the apocalyptic display of destruction that white-knuckled enthusiasts of the next big thing anticipated. The protracted and gory assault middleweight Gennady Golovkin subjected Gabriel Rosado to on Saturday night at The Theater in Madison Square Garden was almost understated. Expectations of decapitation, of stiff limbs and heaving chests, silent crowds, and chilling recumbence went unfulfilled. Indeed Rosado, a heavy underdog, never even suffered a knockdown. And yet, despite the absence of such drama, the fight—which Golovkin won by TKO in the seventh round—spoke loudly to the very real danger he represents.
This danger was on display in the opening seconds of the first round, as Rosado, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, allowed Golovkin to move him to the ropes, and bury home a left hook to the body. Feeling a bit like Ivan Ilych, and perhaps recognizing that further exposure to Golovkin’s body assault would seal his fate, Rosado spent the remainder of the round on his bike. That desperate ride would last until Golovkin punctured Rosado’s tires in the sixth round. While hardly a devastating three minutes, Golovkin, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, meted out enough punishment in the first round to dictate how the remainder of the fight would unfold.
Over the next five rounds, Rosado, 159, continued to try and slip and evade the incoming fire. A strategy rooted in self-preservation, it also handcuffed his offense, and he was reduced to jumping in with single shots or trying to counter from long range. This is not to say that Rosado was utterly ineffective. He landed a sharp right hand in the third round that produced a mouse under Golovkin’s right eye. And while limiting Rosado’s offense, this four-corner flight seemed to discourage Golovkin, 160, from committing to the body, effectively nullifying one of the more potent weapons in his arsenal. Rosado even managed to back Golovkin up in the fifth round, discoloring the area around his eyes. Still, a thudding jab from Golovkin had torn the skin over Rosado’s left eye in the second round, and even in missing the force of his blows moved Rosado around the ring like a wide-eyed marionette.
Before the start of the sixth round, trainer Abel Sanchez implored Golovkin to throw the right uppercut at a 45 degree angle, promising his frustrated charge that this punch would be Rosado’s undoing. Heeding Sanchez’ counsel, Golovkin cracked Rosado with an uppercut that sent him staggering into the corner. Golovkin would whack Rosado about for the remainder of the round; a kid playing a malicious game of tetherball.
“The gibbet does not lose its prey,” goes the old adage. With Rosado suffering the residual effects of the previous round, Golovkin went for the finish, strafing whatever surface his opponent conceded with crunching blows. Rivulets of blood running from his eye, nose, and mouth, ground up by a reinvigorated assault, Rosado was rescued from his tormentor when his corner threw in the towel. The official time of the stoppage 2:46 of the seventh round.
There may be an impulse to question Golovkin’s virulence given Rosado’s ability to remain upright, but one must not mistake being game for being competitive. Rosado was game—but he was never competitive. And while Golovkin struggled to corral the fleet-footed Philadelphian, Rosado fought not to lose during long stretches of the fight and still succumbed to Golovkin’s brickwork. The mystique may transcend the deed in Golovkin’s case, but after watching him trounce Rosado it is unlikely that any of the fighters who turned him down are more willing to dispel the myth.
In the post-fight interview, Golovkin, 25-0 (22), admitted his fixation on landing the perfect punch impacted his performance, but downplayed the role a “malady” he was suffering during the week had on his performance. Turning his thoughts to the future, he then uttered, in his best English, a desperate—almost hopeless—plea for a name opponent. Even the apex predators scavenge when they can, and unless he can force someone’s hand, Golovkin will probably remain persona non grata until the risk/reward ratio he represents levels out.
Rosado, who had the guts to see the glory beyond that ratio, should return to the junior middleweight division. In negotiations for this fight, Rosado, 21-6 (13), declined a catchweight, saying that he wanted Golovkin at his best. Whether he faced the best version of Golovkin is debatable; that he got more than he bargained for is not. That is likely to be the story whenever Rosado faces a more accomplished opponent, though there is little doubt he would accept the offer.
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