The venue may have changed, but the outcome did not. Last night, marauding middleweight Gennady Golovkin used his first appearance in the big room in Madison Square Garden, New York, to run his consecutive knockout streak to 17, wiping out Daniel Geale in three rounds.
Those are the facts, and if you choose to deal strictly in the truth, such tidy details—names, places, results—should satisfy your needs. But within the context of boxing, Golovkin has become so much more than simply the sum total of his biography and professional ledger. Through a combination of HBO’s concerted branding, public enthusiasm and scrutiny, the reticence of his peers, his own concussive ways, and, predictably, backlash to all of the above, assaying Golovkin has become a challenge ripped straight from the pages of Michael Williams’ “Problems of Knowledge.”
This complexity can only help Golovkin, born in Kazakhstan but now living in Stuttgart, Germany. It keeps him on the public’s tongues and thumbs, spawning arguments on social media that rage far longer than the ten or so minutes it took for him to dispatch Geale. Golovkin is quickly becoming the type of sports figure who validates worldviews, whose victories and defeats will be presented as evidence that a particular perspective on him, and any other attendant opinion tenuously attached to that perspective, is correct—and that those who disagree have faulty cognitive wiring.
For an example of this complexity there is Geale. Highly ranked by those who undertake such tasks, Geale from Mt. Annan, Australia, had lost only twice before, both by split decision, and represented the type of active and mobile fighter who might trouble Golovkin (if only because those in the inactive, immobile mode of, say, Curtis Stevens, did little more than teeter about while getting pulverized). Geale defeated Felix Sturm in Germany, which, at the time, was the boxing equivalent of finding a three-sided square; and while he had hit the deck before, Geale had always gotten up to win. If nothing else, Geale, on the strength of his win over Sturm, was Golovkin’s most accomplished opponent.
But those looking to pare down Geale’s credentials had plenty of ammunition. A high ranking means very little in a weak division; nor do rankings speak to the quality of the fighters or the disparity in ability between them. Grzegorz Proksa was touted as a top-ten middleweight when Golovkin beat his brakes off, if only because such a list requires ten names. And while Geale, 159, had beaten Sturm, he also lost a decision to Anthony Mundine, and was dropped by such luminaries as Gary Comer and Lee Oti. Moreover, it was difficult to find anyone, save those who relish being contrarian, who figured Geale had a legitimate shot at winning. That Geale was expected to be crushed, at the very least, speaks to how much better Golovkin is than the rest of the division.
What is not up for debate, is that Geale, 30-3 (16), indeed showed that lateral movement, hand speed, a willingness to work inside, decent power, and a sturdy chin are part of the recipe for defeating Golovkin. And thankfully for Golovkin’s skeptics, fighters with that arsenal grow on trees. In all seriousness, Geale did trouble Golovkin with lateral movement, he was able to leap in with uppercuts, and his upper body movement made Golovkin whiff with a number of punches. Moreover, Geale managed to accomplish all of the above in a first round that was four minutes long.
Then the second round started, and Golovkin, 160, began cutting off the ring. Backing Geale to the ropes, Golovkin unloaded, and dropped Geale with a right hand behind the ear. Geale beat the count, but showed a dangerous willingness to back straight up from that point on. Golovkin sunk in a signature left hook to the body before the round was through, and absorbed most of Geale’s retaliatory blows on his guard.
The fight ended with a microcosm of the challenge facing Golovkin’s opponents. Backing Geale to the ropes with a right hand, Golovkin brought his left back low after jabbing and loaded up on a looping right. Seeing his opening, Geale sprung forward with a right hand. The punch bounced forcefully off Golovkin’s cheek, but neither hurt Golovkin nor altered the trajectory of the bomb he detonated on Geale’s chin. You can hit Golovkin, that much has been established. Taking what he offers in return, however? Thus far, that has proven too much to ask. Geale dropped, held his head, and despite beating the count, made his intentions to retire clear. Referee Mike Ortega stopped the fight at 2:47 of the third round.
Pressed for future plans, Golovkin, 30-0 (27), stated his goal to unify the division, mentioning fellow alphabet soupers Sam Soliman, Peter Quillin, and Miguel Cotto by name. Quillin, insulated from any semblance of competition through advisor Al Haymon, is keeping his IEP title on ice for whatever Golden Boy Promotions fighter is manoeuvred toward it; Cotto is probably targeting fellow human mint Saul Alvarez. That leaves Soliman, another largely unknown, humdrum opponent in a second-rate division. For now however, in the aftermath of another unmaking, Golovkin’s opposition is only marginally more important than how they fall; victims to what Golovkin—wisely resonating with the largest, most devoted demographic still supporting this niche sport—fashioned his “Mexican style.”
“This is big drama show,” Golovkin told the crowd in his post-fight interview, a nod to the value of entertainment in his vocation. Not at middleweight, Golovkin. And to your credit, that is largely your fault.