Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin walks through fellow middleweights like a wrecking ball dismantles a building. That is to say, his destructiveness isn’t uninhibited but the product of deliberate, systematic targeting. On Saturday he’ll have another opportunity to lengthen his list of victims when he fights Mexican veteran Marco Antonio “El Veneno” Rubio at the Stubhub Center. California’s best boxing venue is renowned for staging action fights. Since Golovkin and Rubio are both committed punchers, their bout should strengthen the arena’s reputation as a pitbull pit.
Golovkin (30-0) has never fought on America’s West Coast. The embryonic phase of his pro career occurred mostly in Germany, with stops in Denmark, Panama, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine. In the United States, its brightest moment came this July with his ruin of Daniel Geale in Madison Square Garden’s main arena. Golovkin had previously fought twice at the MSG Theatre, but that’s a stage fit for a medium-tier draw, which ‘GGG’ handlers knew he was too exciting to remain. Showcasing him in a main event at the Garden, regardless of whether it only sold seats in the lower bowl, was their declaration of his star.
In the immigrant tradition of going west to realize one’s dreams, “GGG” is set to conquer a new frontier in California. His Santa Monica-based promoter, Tom Loeffler, wants to give West Coast fans a firsthand glimpse of boxing’s new idol. You rarely hear dissenting opinions where Gennady Golovkin is concerned. Fans and analysts are bound in their admiration of his punching power and acumen. That he’s so genial outside of the ring has endeared him to people who are tired of bad attitudes. His fighting style, though, is his most attractive trait. Golovkin has mallets for hands, and while he’s not reckless he isn’t overly cautious, either. His comfort with getting hit has created some memorable sequences, like in July when he knocked out Daniel Geale while simultaneously getting punched in the face. That isn’t supposed to happen.
If there has been a criticism of Golovkin, it’s that he’s easily reachable. He seems content to eat a punch if it means landing one of his accurate, thudding shots. The main reason “GGG” is comfortable fighting in this fashion is because his chin is so reliable. Against the hard-punching Curtis Stevens last November, Golovkin absorbed hard shots but fought through them as though unaffected. As we have seen so often in boxing, no one is impervious to getting hurt, and nature dictates that Golovkin isn’t either. But it’s doubtful that veteran Marco Antonio Rubio will out-manoeuvre “GGG” or fully test the rigidity of his jaw.
Rubio (59-6-1) has won six straight fights, his last defeat coming against Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. by unanimous decision over two years ago. The Mexican veteran of 317 professional rounds is an action-oriented puncher with a propensity to knock people out. He hasn’t beaten anyone of note recently, however. Rubio’s last big victory came against Quebec’s then-undefeated David Lemieux in 2011, when a seventh-round assault prompted Lemieux’s corner to wave the white towel. In his last defeat, against Chavez Jr., Rubio was rendered ineffective by the younger man’s pressure and, it must be noted, significant size advantage. Boxing off of his back foot Rubio simply couldn’t put his combinations together. In his previous loss against Kelly Pavlik in 2009, Rubio again succumbed to an aggressive puncher. His corner stopped the fight between the ninth and tenth rounds after Pavlik began to dominate and land power shots at will. Pressure evidently sucks “El Veneno” of his venom.
It seems that Rubio’s style is perfectly suited to “GGG’s” calculating attack as Golovkin is consistently adept at walking his opponents down. He takes away swathes of the ring by tracking his opponents into the corner or against the ropes. It’s methodical predation, and fosters the sense that Golovkin’s success is inexorable. Put another way, a feeling of doom always sets in when he claims the ring as his own, because an opponent can only hide for so long. One anticipates that, sooner or later, Rubio will have no option but to cover up or stand and fight.
For such a fearsome puncher, one of Golovkin’s most impressive attributes is his restraint. When he senses the knockout and has someone backed against the ropes, rather than throw without reserve he targets their most vulnerable areas. There is little wasted energy or sloppiness, as “GGG” will land and then step back to re-assess where to place his next punch. It underscores how controlled he is at all times. Golovkin does not fight with rage or abandon, but calculated wrath, and can just as easily knock someone out with a liver shot, as he did Matthew Macklin, as he can with a head shot, as he did Daniel Geale and a slew of others.
Saturday’s fight will not want for entertainment. Rubio knows he’ll be in with someone more dangerous than any of his past opponents. But in all probability, he and trainer Robert Garcia are aware that Rubio’s offensive style is ripe for exploitation, given Golovkin’s attacking nature. Garcia will devise an intelligent fight plan but there is only so much a strategy can do when one’s opponent is equally prepared and superior in every physical aspect of fighting. Rubio can box with discretion, but Golovkin’s skills and power should prevail.
All of this foreshadows a violent spectacle. Despite Rubio’s pedigree he will likely find himself on the wrong side of the worst blows. Golovkin is unyielding, but unlike Mike Tyson, who “GGG” gets compared to because of their knockout streaks, he can be counted upon to step into the ring in fine physical and mental shape. He might lose eventually, when he meets a fighter talented and smart enough to take advantage of his fallibilities, but it shouldn’t happen Saturday. The skies of Kazakhstan are stalked by golden eagles, an awe-inspiring bird of prey that kills with cunning. Gennady Golovkin hunts with equal precision. It will take a fighter who’s fresher than Marco Antonio Rubio to reduce the altitude at which “GGG” soars above his fellow middleweights.
— Eliott McCormick