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Meet Gennady Golovkin

Thomas Hauser

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Gennady-GolovkinEarlier this month, The Sweet Science posted the results of a poll that asked the question, “What would happen if the best thirteen middleweights in the world fought a round-robin tournament against one another? Ten matchmakers and three expert analysts participated in the deliberations. When the polling was done, 1,014 fight predictions were entered into the data base.

As expected, Sergio Martinez finished first. Two other middleweights separated themselves from the rest of the field. One of them (the second-place finisher) was Gennady Golovkin.

Golovkin had more than three hundred amateur fights in his native Kazakhstan and lost only a handful. He says that he has never been knocked down as an amateur or pro and is willing to fight at any weight from 154 to 168 pounds. He won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and a World Amateur Boxing Championship the year before. His victims in the amateur ranks included Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Andy Lee, Daniel Geale, and Matt Korobov.

Gennady now lives in Germany and has compiled a professional record of 22-and-0 with 19 knockouts. In the convoluted world of professional boxing, he is one of several WBA middleweight champions.

It’s unclear how good Golovkin is, or might become, because his record is devoid of world-class opponents. But the manner in which he has performed to date has given rise to great expectations.

Abel Sanchez (Golovkin’s trainer) says, “Gennady is very patient. He’s like a sniper. He waits for the right moment to go for the kill; and when it comes, he’s deadly. I’ve been around a lot of fighters who were motivated by anger. Gennady is motivated by the pursuit of excellence. He’s the whole package. Power, patience, conditioning, a cerebral approach. Fighters call out other fighters all the time. But you don’t hear anyone saying ‘I want Golovkin.’”

Gennady has a soft voice, easy-going manner, and warm welcoming smile. He looks younger than his thirty years and speaks with a rapid cadence. Among the thoughts he offered in a recent interview were:

* “My father was a coal miner. My mother worked as an assistant in a chemical laboratory. I have a twin brother named Max. We started boxing when I was ten. Almost always, we were in the same weight division. Max was technically better than I was. I was more aggressive and the harder puncher. We decided from the beginning that we would never fight each other. Three times, we were in the finals of the same important tournament; and each time, one of us stepped aside. At the 2004 Olympic trials, Max stepped aside so I could go to the Olympics. After that, I took the risk to leave Kazakhstan and turn professional. Max stayed in Kazakhstan to take care of our parents and look after my financial interests.”

* “I was nine years old when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Kazakhstan became an independent country. It was depressing at first. The economic and social condition of the country went into crisis. We lacked things that people take for granted and lived our lives within a limited framework. There was a lot of worry about what would happen next. We didn’t know what the future would hold. Now things are better. There is more for the people to enjoy and life is good.”

* “The best thing about being a fighter is taking everything I’ve learned and applying it to real life. In the ring, that is hard. You can’t always do what you want to do. I know that perfection will never come to me as a boxer, but I keep striving to achieve it.”

* “Courage is the responsibility of every boxer. When a boxer is in the ring, he cannot feel fear. But I don’t think that being a boxer requires cruelty. For me, boxing is a sport. It isn’t about cruelty. Does a soldier have to be cruel to do his job?”

* “Sergio Martinez is a very good boxer. Right now, he deserves to be called the middleweight champion of the world. I think I am better, but I do not know that for sure. I would like to fight him to find out.”

Last week, Golovkin came to New York to attend the championship bout between Martinez and Matthew Macklin. On his first night in the Big Apple, he went to a restaurant, where the doorman looked at him and asked, “Do you remember me?”

“No,” Golovkin answered honestly.

“Well, my chin remembers you very well.”

Gennady looked more closely. Then the two men embraced.

The doorman was Ramadan Nasser, who Golovkin defeated in the second round of the 2004 Olympics.

“He is from Egypt,” Gennady said afterward. “Now he lives in New York. The restaurant is his sponsor. He is part-owner of a gym and is a professional fighter [with a 7-and-0 record]. We never know what life holds for us. But so far, that is not a bad result.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Lomachenko – Pedraza and More

Thomas Hauser

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Lomachenko - Pedraza

Boxing returned to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on December 1. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jose Pedraza in the main event drew a sellout crowd of 5,312. The non-televised undercard was respectable. And the three-fight telecast that followed the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN had moments of drama.

The first televised bout of the evening showcased Teofimo Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs), a 21-year-old lightweight who’s rapidly moving from prospect to contender status. Mason Menard (34-3, 24 KOs) was Lopez’s designated victim. All three of Menard’s losses had been by knockout and this was expected to be the fourth “KO by” on his record.

Lopez has all the confidence and arrogance of a young fighter with a big punch who’s on the rise. It took him all of 44 seconds to blast Menard into oblivion.

Next up, 24-year-old Isaac Dogboe (20-0, 14 KOs) sought to defend his WBO 122-pound title against Emanuel Navarrete (25-1, 22 KOs) of Mexico. Dogboe was born in Ghana but grew up in England. He claimed his belt with an eleventh-round stoppage of Jessie Magdaleno in April of this year and was considered a fighter who doesn’t need protecting.

Navarrete was fighting outside of Mexico for the first time, which is often a sign of a padded record.

Dogboe entered the bout as a 7-to-1 betting favorite and mounted a two-fisted assault to the head and body in the first stanza. But Navarrete had come to fight and began landing shots of his own in round two, at which point Issaac’s chin seemed a bit suspect. As the bout wore on, Dogboe did his best work on the inside. When he gave Navarrete room to punch, Emanuel obliged him.

It was a spirited, back-and forth, action encounter that was even after eight rounds. Then Navarrete picked up the pace and won the final four frames going away. By the end, Dogboe’s face was badly swollen; his left eye was almost shut; and he was trying simply to survive. He made it to the final bell but was dethroned by a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 margin.

Good fight, good decision.

Lomachenko (11, 9 KOs) vs. Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) was promoted on the basis of both men having titles, which is a little like promoting a title-unification football game between the Big Ten and Ivy League champions.

Lomachenko’s ring prowess has been amply catalogued. Twelve of his professional bouts have been contested for world titles. He’s an elite fighter while Pedraza is a good one. In match ups like that, the elite fighter almost always wins.

Top Rank had planned to match Lomachenko (the WBO 135-pound champion) against Raymundo Beltran (the WBA beltholder) as part of an “immigrant-from-Mexico-gets-citizenship” feel-good story. But Pedraza upset the apple cart in August of this year by winning a unanimous-decision over Beltran.

Lomachenko was returning to the ring after surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered in his right shoulder during a May 12 victory over Jorge Linares. Still, Vasyl was an early 12-to-1 favorite over Pedraza and the odds moved as high as 20-to-1 reflecting the fighters’ respective ring skills.

The crowd was highly-partisan in favor of Lomachenko. Fighters from Puerto Rico are rarely booed in New York during pre-fight introductions, but it happened here.

It was an interesting exercise for boxing purists. The early rounds were tactically fought. Then Lomachenko figured out what he had to do to beat Pedraza down and did it. Many of the early rounds were close enough that the judges could have given them to whichever fighter they wanted to. But Lomachenko pulled away late, putting an exclamation mark on his performance with two eleventh-round knockdowns that came close to ending matters short of the 119-107, 117-112, 117-112 judges’ verdict in his favor.

Lomachenko looked a bit less “high tech” against Pedraza than he has in the past. He didn’t exploit angles as effectively and control the range as well as in some of his earlier fights. Part of that was because Pedraza is fast on his feet and spent long portions of the evening jabbing and moving away. Another reason might be that Lomachenko’s best fighting weight by his own evaluation is 130 pounds. There were times when he had trouble with Jorge Linares’s height and reach when he fought Linares seven months ago. And that was true for stretches of time against the taller Pedraza. Mikey Garcia might be a bit too big for Lomachenko.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Thomas Hauser’s new email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times– was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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Cecilia Braekhus, Claressa Shields Win at the StubHub plus Undercard Results

David A. Avila

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Braekhus

LOS ANGELES-A farewell show by boxing network HBO showcased two dominant women in the boxing world as Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields mowed through their respective opponents with little resistance on Saturday.

Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs) tried hard to put another knockout on her ledger but Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes showed enough resistance to go the distance in front of a sparse and cold crowd numbering less than 1,000 at the StubHub Center.

The Norwegian fighter Braekhus won by unanimous decision after 10 rounds and retains her hold on the undisputed welterweight championship that includes the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and IBO world titles.

Braekhus started slowly and patiently in the first two rounds but was able to rifle right hands and left hooks through the slower Lopes guard. But she never could put that finishing touch.

In the fifth round a counter right cross staggered Lopes but she remained upright though visibly hurt. A follow up attack proved unsuccessful by the welterweight champion.

“I wanted to knock out the girl who also beat Kali Reis,” said Braekhus “I might have pushed it too much. I got a little bit eager. That normally shouldn’t happen but this is a historical night.”

It was the final show of HBO’s 45 year reign as one of boxing’s premier networks.

“I’m just so honored to be on HBO,” said Braekhus

El Gallo

Mexico’s Juan “El Gallo” Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26 KOs) won by stoppage at the end of round seven against fellow hometown fighter Victor Mendez (28-4-2, 20 KOs) at the end of the seventh round in their super flyweight clash.

Both fighters hail from Hermosillo, Mexico but there was no hometown comradery as Estrada broke down Mendez more and more each round. Each round seemed to incite more blows from Estrada who fired five and six-punch combinations with ease to the body and head.

Mendez tried to fight his way out of the onslaught but his blows did not seem to have the effect desired. Instead, Estrada would open up even more with left hook to the body and left uppercut to the chin.

Finally, after one particularly rough one-sided round, Mendez’s corner stopped the fight.

Claressa

In less than a month Claressa Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) wiped out another middleweight contender, this time Belgium’s Femke Hermans (9-2, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 one-side rounds.

Three weeks ago Shields had dominated Scotland’s Hannah Rankin in similar fashion and had few problems with either European fighter. But sitting front row in the audience was Christina Hammer who holds the WBO version. She will be next.

Shields powered through Hermans with her amped up aggressive style and was especially effective with the check left hook. She also rocked the Belgian fighter with over hand rights but could not drop the European fighter who holds a super middleweight world title.

Hermans learned in the first two rounds she couldn’t match the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s speed, so she settled into a defensive counter punching style. It did not work.

Though Shields tried luring the European fighter into some traps, the Belgian boxer refused to lead. The fight was Shields to take. She began pummeling the body especially in the fourth and fifth rounds. In one volley she unloaded seven consecutive body shots and easily slipped a counter right.

Shields wobbled Hermans in the ninth round with a left hook and staggered her with a pair of shots in the 10th round. But the Belgian fighter stayed on her feet. All three judges scored the fight 100-90 for Shields who retains the WBA, WBC and IBF world titles.

Now Shields is set to face Hammer who has the WBO middleweight title in the early spring. Showtime will televise.

Hammer spoke to the media before the Shields-Hermans fight.

“I move around very well, I have better movement,” said Hammer whose fight with Shields was postponed in November due to a stomach illness suffered by the tall German boxer. “I want to be the undisputed world champion.”

Bang Bang

Australia’s Louisa “Bang Bang” Hawton (9-2, 3 KOs) stopped Lorraine Villalobos (2-2-1) of Los Angeles at the end of fifth round in an atomweight fight set for 10 rounds.

Hawton and Villalobos exchanged furiously for three rounds with each connecting with big blows. But by the fourth round Villalobos slowed considerably and Hawton took over the fight.

The Aussie fighter was supposed to meet interim WBC atomweight titlist Brenda Flores who won a split decision last September. But Flores was forced to pull out.

Other Bouts

Serhii Bohachuk (12-0, 12 KOs) won by KO in the fifth round of a middleweight bout over Puerto Rico’s Carlos Garcia Hernandez (15-19-1)

Mario Ramos (7-0, 7 KOs) knocked out Elliott Brown in the fifth round of a 6-round lightweight fight.

Light flyweight Shukichi Iwata won his pro debut with a fourth round KO of Joel Bermudez (0-2)

Lightweight Reno Moreno floored David Courtney with a body shot to win by KO in round four of a lightweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results From Madison Square Garden: Lomachenko UD 12; Dogboe Upset

Arne K. Lang

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Lomachenko vs Pedraza

Vasiliy Lomachenko successfully defended his WBA lightweight title and added Jose Pedraza’s WBO 135-pound belt with a unanimous decision. The scores were 119-107 and 117-109 twice.

Through the first 10 rounds, the bout was somewhat monotonous. Lomachenko landed the cleaner punches and was clearly ahead on the scorecards. The fight was redounding well to Gervonta Davis who handled Pedraza more handily than what Loma was doing. But then in the 11th, the Ukrainian solidified his reputation as an elite fighter, perhaps worthy of being considered #1 P4P. He strafed Pedraza with combinations to the head and body, landing 42 power punches according to CompuBox, and twice knocked Pedraza to his knees.

Pedraza weathered the storm and made it through the 12th, but when the final bell sounded there wasn’t a shred of doubt that Lomachenko had won his 11th consecutive fight, improving to 12-1. Pedraza fell to 25-2.

DOGBOE-NAVARRETE

In a big upset, Mexico’s unheralded Emanuel Navarrete, in his U.S. debut, wrested the WBO 122-pound title from previously undefeated Isaac Dogboe with a unanimous decision. The scores (116-112, 115-113 twice) did not reflect Navarrete’s dominance. At the end of the fight, both of Dogboe’s eyes were swollen and he was bleeding from his nose. In the late stages, the fight became so one-sided that referee Benjy Estevez would have been justified in stopping it. However, Estevez will be faulted in some quarters for missing a knockdown. In round nine, Navarrete went down hard from a punch that glanced off his shoulder and hit him in the face. Estevez ruled it a slip.

Navarrete was somewhat awkward, but he was bigger and stronger, four inches taller with an eight inch longer reach. With the victory, his twenty-first straight, he improved his ledger to 26-1. Dogboe lost for the first time in 25 starts.

LOPEZ-MENARD

In the first TV bout, Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a spectacular one-punch knockout of Mason Menard (34-4). It was all over in 44 seconds.

Lopez, born in Brooklyn and raised in south Florida, tagged Menard on the jaw with a looping overhand right. The fighter from Cajunland fell face first to the canvas and was unconscious before he hit the floor. He was still woozy as he was helped from the ring.

OFF TV

Welterweight Alexander Besputin stepped up in class and made a very strong showing. Besputin (12-0, 9 KOs) took tough Juan Carlos Abreu of the Dominican Republic to school, knocking him down twice en route to winning a lopsided decision. Besputin won every round on all three cards. His showing was far better than that of the more ballyhooed Egidijus Kavaliauskas, the Lithuanian knockout artist who won a hard-fought 10-round decision over Abreu in Abreu’s previous bout.

Italian heavyweight Guido Vianello, a policeman in Rome, won his pro debut with a second round stoppage of Luke Lyons. A 2016 Olympian who was 7-5 as a pro-am in the World Series of Boxing, Vianello has been training at Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear where he sparred with Tyson Fury. Lyons brought a 5-1-1 record but it was compiled on the disreputable West Virginia circuit.

Twenty-year-old Bronx junior welterweight Josue Vargas, in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, stopped Panama’s John Renteria (16-6-1) at the 32 second mark of round five. It was no contest as Vargas, who improved to 12-1 (8), knocked Renteria to the canvas three times before the bout was halted.

In the opening bout, slated for eight rounds in the junior welterweight class, Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez (24-3-1, 22 KOs) scored a mild upset with a 7th round stoppage of Newark’s Michael Perez. There were three knockdowns in all with Perez hitting the deck in rounds one and seven. Ramirez was ahead on the cards at the time of the stoppage.

Check back tomorrow for Thomas Hauser’s ringside report.

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