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Can Golovkin Be a Superstar?

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Gennady Golovkin is the best pound-for-pound puncher in boxing and he’s officially too strong for his own good. From a power and precision standpoint, he layers body blows underneath head shots and disguises both with feints and shifty footwork like a well-engineered cyborg. When he finishes guys off, he grins to his corner and shrugs, as if to say, “I guess that’s all.”

Is this guy for real?

Distilled from a Mike Tyson or Wilfredo Gomez vintage, he’s now 30-0 with 17 straight stoppage victories, but we’re still waiting for the answer.

After another sensational knockout signed, sealed and delivered to the doorstep of Daniel Geale in three rounds, we’re no closer than we were before, though we may be better off for having witnessing him dismantle an otherwise sturdy and courageous man. The most recent knockout came when GGG set a trap on his chin and got off a lethal right cross as his face absorbed the impact of what was Geale’s best punch of the fight. If it wasn’t for the freakish athletic phenomenon that ended the fight, we’re at the point with Golovkin where we admire the guts of the cannon fodder set before his oversized hands almost more than we admire the work of the master: the master of the mediocre middleweights.

It’s not the Kazakh’s fault no A-level fighter wants a piece of him. Although the thousands of flag-bearing supporters among the 8,500 or so in attendance last Saturday in Madison Square Garden might squawk, he lacks the kind of natural fan base that would keep promoters and networks seeing green. Simply put, the man has offered too much risk and too little reward for his possible suitors to come calling. They’ve all prudently decided to fight for bigger money and not risk having their brand battered by the 32-year-old Gennady-come-lately.

Of Golovkin’s possible opponents, the 168 pound champion Andre Ward poses the greatest threat. He’s naturally bigger, just as athletic and extremely skilled in the arts of the ring. Eighteen months ago, this is what Ward had to say about fighting GGG:

As for me and Golovkin, look at my body of work. I’ll fight anyone out there. But look at his body of work and look at mine. There is no comparison. I fought the last three years with no break. I’ve been in grind mode. Let him build up his resume, get a body of work first, then we can talk.

It might not be fan-friendly, but it’s a perfectly reasonable stance to assume. Ward is saying he would think about giving Golovkin the biggest fight of his career if the money was there. Since the quote, GGG has gone hammer and tongs on six fighters and has seen his stature slowly rise. It’s time for Ward, and other top fighters, to realize that being the first guy to truly test Golovkin’s defense and chin would also result in the biggest fight of their own careers. Smart money’s on another B-level middleweight meekly raising their hand for a pay day. But given the guy’s meteoric late-career rise and his willingness to fight anyone between 154 and 168 pounds, it feels inevitable that someone named Cotto, Froch,Ward, or Alvarez will answer the call of ¿Quien es mas macho?

As perfect as Golovkin has looked against over-matched opposition, he of has flaws. He’s never been knocked down and he’s never been tested by a punch his own hand’s equal. Boxing writer Jay Caspian Kang indulged in a brief phrenological study, examining the size of Golovkin’s head. It’s tiny. Maybe having a small target has helped, but eventually he’ll be in against a bigger man who can thump. I doubt a guy like Andre Ward would be worried about GGG’s head size long enough to keep him from testing the fight game’s leading philosophy on small heads and narrow necks. The Kazakh’s head and torso don’t slip or weave the way better defensive boxers’ bodies do, he’ll get caught eventually.

And when he does, we’ll finally see beyond Golovkin’s speed, power, and footwork and into the heart of a champion. Moments like those make superstars out of boxers.

Interest in the sport’s two biggest draws is waning commensurate to the fading careers of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The Fancy could really use a gifted champion of Golovkin’s ilk to pick up the slack. Sure he’s 32, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of wear on his tires and his years may lend him a certain maturity that could protect him from the pitfalls of a younger fighter. Who knows?

Way back when, Golovkin chose Abel Sanchez’s camp at Big Bear over the Freddie Roach’s celebrity-laden gym in LA because it was quieter and offered fewer distractions. Yet he doesn’t seem shy of the lights as much as focused on destroying whoever is set before him. Eventually, we’ll see him end a fight with an exhausted embrace of a man closer his equal instead of innocent shrug, and then we’ll have a better idea of what kind of fighter he is.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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