***I mean, he’s alright, but he’s not steel. He’s still that deal. Top seed in the field. Never fears for war or flees what’s real.***
I remember critics of Julio Cesar Chavez in January 1994. I even remember where I was when Frankie Randall knocked him down in the 11th round and wound up getting a clear cut UD over the truly great Chavez. A loss I knew he deserved, deep down inside, a few months prior in September 1993 at The Alamodome against Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. I was high up in the Marriott overlooking Times Square accepting a form of poetic justice from this window of truth, accompanied only by my shadow it produced amid the rain. The great warrior from Culiacan, Mexico was officially no longer unbeaten. He was what many of us had known for sometime unofficially: He was no longer the best fighter in the world. “He was… good, but there wasn’t enough to make you go, “He’s great,” The Critics would say.
This is where the separation would start. That kind of reflection, in any form about a fighter, produces thoughts of “What is Vs What was”; and if this person is accustomed to greatness, but hasn’t universally produced it and we’re telling ourselves why this fighter is still great, then that means he isn’t great anymore.
All of this applies to Gennadiy Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KOs), the fighter no longer trained by Abel Sanchez but still capable of breaking Canelo Alvarez under Jonathan Banks.
On top of that, I’m not sure Gennady Gennadyvich Golovkin, “GGG” or Triple G” ever really lost to Canelo. I don’t have to review the first fight to figure out what happened there. Adelaide Byrd happened, along with a Don Trella apparently bird watching for significant stretches of that bout. I was there live and I know Golovkin won. Period.
Prior to the rematch, he didn’t look so good in stopping Vanes Martirosyan in two rounds. A stay busy, glorified sparring session to satisfy the suits at HBO before it turned into DAZN. I gave him such a hard time about how he looked in that performance– while vociferously defending what I thought were Trump’d up allegations of Clenbuteral against Canelo, that Gennady unfriended me on Facebook. Abel Sanchez had been gotten rid of my ass for doing what he does: telling it like it is.
Being ringside for a bout can and does offer a definitive view in determining an outcome. So when I watched Canelo Vs GGG II from a movie theater in Manhattan, I could understand the judges awarding the fight to Alvarez— he’d certainly challenged for the middleweight championship much more valiantly in the rematch, and I told him as much in a backstage interview at Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square at the NYC press tour stop for Canelo Vs Jacobs. But that doesn’t mean Golovkin didn’t defend his titles better in the rematch either. Upon another review, with the annoyingly biased call of Jim Lampley (in particular), Max Kellerman and Roy Jones muted for objectivity, my scorecard of that fight registered a 115-113 verdict for Golovkin. Rounds I’d previously given to Canelo were based on an emotional reaction to the style in which he resisted, while ignoring the scoring logic behind Golovkin’s response over the last half of the fight; particularly, as a 36 year-old fighter who had Canelo in deep trouble in the 10th.
His jab, which has long been a staple of force and timing, was as impeccable on this night as it was for David Lemieux in October 2015. His conditioning was what I would deem special (as was Canelo’s) and his power was no different than that used to eventually bludgeon Martin Murray via 11th round TKO in February 2015. But after watching him shotgun blast Steve Rolls this past Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the 4th round, Gennady Gennadyvich Golovkin is no more. GGG and Triple G also went with him.
He’s now Gennadiy Golovkin, former unified middleweight world champion under the tutelage of Jonathan Banks. The best of his former self beats Hagler and Monzon. I don’t know about Robinson, but he’d at least make him Sweet n’ Sour. He’d be “The Executioner” to B-Hop’s identified “Alien”.
He’s absolutely gone from special to ordinary, with speed and reflexes diminished throughout his frame. His legs have become heavier as a gradual rigidity is now setting in and his upper body mobility is all but shot. He is now a middleweight version of Chavez from January 1994– still a damn good fighter, just not “great” in the quintessential sense. A man who can still produce the sparks of magic greatness has bestowed upon him with an occasional ferocious grace. He’s now “GGGeez.. Really?” meets “Triple G!”
Rolls landed things in round two that would have at least lead to kill shots in rounds 3 or 4 against the likes of Canelo Alvarez. He was getting hit way too cleanly, as there’s this tightness in defensive reaction that has set in, one that his chin has to now compensate for. Under Abel Sanchez, this deficiency became more pronounced in a one-dimensional attack built behind a blunt force jab, incredible timing, subtle footwork and the ability to impose his will on the round and his opponent. He seemed to throw away whatever gameplan Sanchez devised during the second stanza of their rematch and went for broke.
I believe Rolls was– from a sheer fighting vantage point in terms of an honest self-assessment, a look at what he’d need to do to stop Canelo short of the judges in a third bout. Just as Canelo went up to 168 to challenge and take Rocky Fielding’s WBA super middleweight title and then quickly relinquish it; Golovkin trusted Lou DiBella when he said Steve Rolls was a durable, super tough, 164 lb stubborn competitor from Canada who’d come to win. By getting a big approximation of Canelo in front of the best conditioned Golovkin I’d seen since his bout with Lemieux, this was a way to test run this “Gennadiy”; a fighter not so reliant on his jab and more of a combination striker.
I have to believe he viewed this as a sparring session in front of a professional audience, and allowed himself to get struck with shots (this happens often in sparring) he’d otherwise avoid to an extent. But his defense was so glaringly porous that it offsets this argument; and when we consider how well Rolls was able to absorb Gennadiy’s power shots up close, it doesn’t bode well for his chances against Canelo in a trilogy.
The Mexican superstar is now a full-fledged middleweight who emptied the toolbox of Daniel Jacobs in a way Gennady probably would not have been “Abel” to. That said, under Banks, “Gennadiy” probably KO’s Jacobs or absolutely forces him to do the same. The Golovkin we’re looking at now is being molded into the defiant bastard who defied the odds in a February 1989 iteration of Roberto Duran against Iran Barkley. Seeing this, Oscar De La Hoya decided to axe a few tires on the Triple G bandwagon and take control of the third promotion from Jumpstreet with a cold-blooded tweet.
Presented with “The Golden Boy” tweets during the post fight press conference, a bewildered and all red emblazoned Gennadiy, dipped in a pool of testosterone laden masculinity responded in disgust, “He talks so much, he bad talks… I don’t think he’s about what he talks.” In between speaking his native language alongside an interpreter, Gennadiy was asked if he was going to tweet back. Only accustomed to fighting back, the all-time great fired, “What do you want me to write back? You’re a smart guy. C’mon. He doesn’t know me. Forget it.”
And that’s what separates the former great fighter from the legend, one now of more grit than granite; the one we’ve most likely taken for granted against quite possibly the best fighter on the planet in Canelo Alvarez. We haven’t really seen anything like this in context since Juan Manuel Marquez became obsessed with Manny Pacquiao.
For Gennadiy, I’m guessing his biggest need is to get what he wants, closely followed by knowing what he wants: a kill or be killed knockout victory over Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya be damned.