LAS VEGAS — As he entered the ring on Saturday night, Gennadiy Golovkin appeared like a man who had nothing more to prove. For the first eight rounds, that seemed to be the case until the old warrior sought to make a comeback for the ages.
Unlike his first two bouts with Canelo Alvarez, his chief rival, Golovkin seemed to be in a hurry to get in the ring. No Abel Sanchez holding his arm. No family or friends by his side. Even security had trouble keeping up with Golovkin's perturbed pace. This time just seemed different.
Perhaps after a combined 395 amateur/professional bouts, including a 2004 Olympic silver medal and a multitude of world championships in the middleweight division, the 40-year-old Gennadiy Golovkin has come to the realization that his storied career has entered its final chapter.
“His legacy is solidified,” said Johnathon Banks, Golovkin's trainer, prior to his pupil's undisputed super middleweight contest against Alvarez. “He's got nothing else to prove or anything. The man did everything.”
Golovkin (42-2-2, 37 KOs) failed to get his typically world-class jab into gear for much of the fight. Perhaps the career-long 160-pounder found it troublesome to move up in weight late in his career. But whether that was an issue or not, the common denominator was clearly age. It's undeniable that Gennadiy Golovkin has lost a step and has been regressing for several years.
Banks was brought in to improve Golovkin's defense. However, GGG has never been a defensive thaumaturge.
As a result, Golovkin got hit with alarming regularity, his head snapping back to a degree never before seen in his career. While Alvarez wasn't particularly impressive either, Golovkin had trouble avoiding a majority of his punches.
Alvarez backed up Golovkin with one-two combinations and blunt left and right hands to the liver and left hooks upstairs that came behind it early on.
Alvarez continued to rip Golovkin's body with right hands in round five before following up with his most significant connect of the fight, an overhand right that snapped the challenger's head back.
Still, reminiscent of the first two clashes, Alvarez could not put his man down. But this is Gennadiy Golovkin, after all. An in-depth medical examination would probably reveal shards of granite in Golovkin's chin, yet even one of boxing's most deleterious punchers couldn't splinter his dome.
It was probably the only thing that kept Golovkin in the fight. Had it been any other fighter, they would have likely been staring at the endless variation of lights hovering over T-Mobile Arena, with the added bonus of a full mariachi band somewhere in the distance.
But luckily for Gennadiy Golovkin, he found a wind. We can't really call it a second wind since the first one was hardly a waft—but the two-time unified middleweight champion of the world came alive as Alvarez's dwindling gas tank, as is customary in the later rounds, had him sputtering some, thus Golovkin of old returned for a final dash to the finish.
He put his punches together and became the aggressor, shocking Alvarez with a stiff jab that caused his legs to tremble. Moments later, Golovkin connected with a sharp left hook to the head and followed up with a vintage left hook downstairs that woke the heavily pro-Alvarez crowd of 19,519 from their prolonged dormancy.
Finally, fans were treated to some drama from the ‘Big Drama Show.' Even when the moment eventually receded, it brought back memories that permeated HBO Boxing's highlight reel during Golovkin's rise to stardom and his first two bouts with Alvarez. Ultimately, the comeback fell short as Alvarez won a unanimous decision (115-113, 115-113, and 116-112).
The final battle between the two greats turned out to be the least compelling of the ternion.
But despite taking a clear defeat—arguably the first of his surefire Hall of Fame career—Gennadiy Golovkin (42-2-1, 37 KOs) was able to dig deep and provide fans a glimpse of the man that was largely ducked and feared by a multifarious amount of fighters during his prime.
One day, Golovkin will have the honor of being enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. And most importantly, GGG would be the first Kazakhstan-born fighter to complete the culmination.
After the fight, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told Golovkin over the phone, “For the fans, you have been and will remain the nation's champion and the best in the world. We are proud of you!”
This may or may not be the end, but thank you, Gennadiy Golovkin. You've made this decade of boxing fun and inspiring.