“Then it was over, gone like a furious gust of black wind, leaving a peaceful vacuum in which they moved about.” William Faulkner, Sanctuary
Some time after Gennady Golovkin scored a third-round knockout of Matthew Macklin, giving those in attendance at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, the awful conclusion they paid for, Macklin remained in Child’s Pose on the canvas. Gasping, his face contorted in agony, Macklin went through a ritual of pain. It is a strange thing, pain; stranger still is the body’s responses. The reflexive writhing and clawing for distraction in movement—like a prisoner throwing himself against the bars of his cell—all that squirming in a futile bid to escape.
Macklin was expected to ask of Golovkin what fighters like Nobuhiro Ishida could not; instead, he went as Ishida did: dominated for two-and-a-half rounds and ruined by a single punch. Despite having vowed to bring the fight to Golovkin, Macklin, Birmingham, England, began by offering little more than feints and flicking jabs. Undeterred, Golovkin, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, immediately went on the offensive, forcing Macklin to the ropes and banging home a right hand. With his first taste of Golovkin’s evil, Macklin seemed distressed, and retreat—rather than the promised retaliation—was his first instinct. A defiant punch or two was lobbed Golovkin’s way, but for most of the round, Macklin skirted the ropes, eyes bulging, burning energy like a fly in a spider web. Golovkin continued to cut the ring off masterfully, neither overcommitting on his strides nor compromising the footing a puncher needs. As the round drew to a close, Golovkin, 159, slammed a right hand and a left hook into “Mack the Knife” that sent him reeling against the ropes. He had landed only a handful of punches, but with those few blows, Golovkin had robbed Macklin of his confidence and whatever game plan he had prepared.
Macklin, 159, saw his prospects continue to deteriorate in the second, as Golovkin dug ferociously to his body. Now in full retreat, Macklin’s last stand came in the form of a left hook and an uppercut that Golovkin slipped without blinking. At one point in the round, Macklin slipped on some water in the corner. Golovkin stepped away until Macklin had found surer footing, then nodded to confirm that both fair play and punishment would resume. It was a gesture that revealed Golovkin’s supreme confidence: his belief that his hands alone will adjudicate any trial. In the third round, they delivered a verdict.
Trapped along the ropes, now bleeding and bruised, Macklin brought his hands to his head to insulate his brain from further abuse. Recognizing the opening, Golovkin ripped a left hook into Macklin’s body that crumpled him like plastic in a campfire. Eddie Cotton administered a perfunctory count, and the first legitimate test of Gennady Golovkin’s career was now in the care of a physician. The official time of the stoppage was 1:22 of the third round.
There may be an urge to temper the collective enthusiasm surrounding Golovkin, 27-0 (24), as he only did what was expected of him. And the question of how Golovkin responds to adversity and the punches of a legitimate middleweight remains unanswered. But he is moving the bar. That he is one of the best fighters in the division is no longer up for debate. He covets a fight with Sergio Martinez, a fight he said would be good for the fans, for the sport, and for television, but he is unlikely to get it. Martinez’ promoter, Lou DiBella, dismissed the idea in a discussion with Steve Kim of Maxboxing.com. Responding to the question of when DiBella puts together Martinez-Golovkin, DiBella said: “We don’t. This guy’s an animal.”
While a fight with Peter Quillin is impossible due to network allegiances, Daniel Geale and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., would both make for entertaining fights with Golovkin. A matchup with the rugged and bruising Chavez Jr., in particular, would best be staged in the Roman Coliseum or the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan. Golovkin may continue to be avoided by the best fighters in the division, but with his popularity and credibility never higher, and with the support of HBO, that avoidance becomes less and less defensible. While he expressed a desire to fight, “[a]ny top fighter, any champion, any belt holder….anywhere,” Golovkin should not wait by the phone.
Macklin, 29-5 (20), was the picture of class and graciousness in defeat. Having come up short in three middleweight title fights, Macklin will continue to find work as a capable gatekeeper. He is unlikely to face anyone like Golovkin any time soon.
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