“The ring is my job.” – Gennady Golovkin
It is as refreshing as it is rare to hear a fighter speak so plainly about his bloody business, and rarer still to hear these words from a fighter who has captured the imagination of even the most skeptical observers. Fans of the “manly art” are as quick to embrace fighters whose language reflects boxing’s high stakes as they are to smell weakness in perspective. Yet, without platitudes middleweight headsman Gennady Golovkin continues to spellbind with little more than his professionalism and the violence it begets.
Golovkin returned to his violent ways on Saturday at the Salle des Etoiles, in Monte Carlo, Monaco, suppressing a little uprising from unheralded Osumanu Adama before scoring a seventh-round TKO. Golovkin registered his sixteenth consecutive stoppage, but there was little of the magic typically conjured by the fighter known as “GGG.”
Which is not to say it was anything but a dominant performance from Golovkin, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, who became the first man to stop Adama. But the memorable moments of the fight were produced by Adama, who went kicking and screaming to the gallows, and, in refusing to resign himself to his fate, taught us a little more about the fighter tasked with expediting it.
There was nothing much to glean from the first round, which ended with Adama decked by a jab and a glancing right hand. But in the second, Adama, Joliet, Illinois, via Ghana, tried to punch his way, if not to victory, then at least to safety. None of his blows were particularly sharp, hard, or fast; yet, this middling aggression prevented Golovkin from steamrolling his outmatched foe. Rather than step inside Adama’s gangly limbs and chop away, Golovkin waited for him to stop punching before attacking. Nor was Golovkin interested in exchanging. Golovkin is at his most devastating when his opponents are in retreat, a time when their courage to retaliate escapes like women and children on a sinking ship. Adama however, exchanged with Golovkin, and even when backing up let his hands go. In refusing to await the abuse, Adama, 159, often averted it. Future opponents would be wise to note the effect of sporadically standing up to Golovkin (with, of course, a healthy respect for all the consequences of such pluckiness).
Nor was Golovkin’s typically vicious body punching on display. It could be that the pressure of the performance is getting to Golovkin; that he has become preoccupied with the knockout because his reputation hinges on destruction like his prospects hinge on his reputation. But in his biggest fights, Golovkin pulverized the torsos of Grzegorz Proksa, Matthew Macklin, and Curtis Stevens. It seems more likely that the awkward and defiant Adama discouraged Golovkin from investing in the punches that have become his calling card.
Golovkin, 159, is no hype job however, and while Adama’s corner drummed up optimistic illusions whenever their man returned to his corner and submitted his swelling face to their care, Golovkin was taking Adama apart. Early in the sixth, he ripped Adama with two right uppercuts, setting up an unholy left hook to the body that seemed to linger in Adama like fear. And this time there was no waiting. Golovkin lathered the teetering Adama in hooks and crosses. Adama, 22-4 (16), was dropped by a left hook in the sixth and by a jab in the seventh; when he stumbled after trading hooks with Golovkin moments later, referee Luis Pabon stopped the fight. The official stoppage was 1:20 of the seventh round.
It was another workmanlike performance for a man who views the ring as his job, but there was a perfunctory feel to Golovkin’s efforts. The professionalism was there, as was the dominance, but the joy was missing from his work. Yes, this was a stay busy fight, but how many of us could find fulfillment in a job that, regardless of our success, merely kept us occupied? Golovkin, 29-0 (26), longs for a big fight: you can hear it in his voice. When he says that he is ready for anyone, it is not only confidence but desperation that prompts his open invitations. But big fights require glamorous opponents, and pinning down one of those elusive fellows has proven difficult. Despite Golovkin being the first of the troika to reach the bright lights and big stage, his fellow Eastern Europeans, Ruslan Provodnikov and Sergey Kovalev, have greater momentum and prospects.
There is talk of Golovkin facing James Kirkland, who is again harnessing his hooligan spirit under Ann Wolfe. Kirkland, for as long as he sees more than the rafters, will make Golovkin work. And Golovkin will do his job, as always, while getting no closer to the big fight he craves. The same goes for Daniel Geale, who has passed on Golovkin before, but claims to have warmed to the idea. No, if it is bigger fights Golovkin craves, it is bigger men he needs; men with names like Ward, Chavez Jr., and Froch—dangerous men who will make the ring more than just a place of work.