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Gennady Golovkin Really Good, Getting Better

Bernard Fernandez

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NEW YORK – The fastest-rising star in boxing has a nickname, “Triple G,” that would seem simple enough to figure out. The star’s full name is, after all, Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin. He is a 32-year-old knockout artist who would appear to be a man for all seasons, and apparently all regions, a world traveler who was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, now resides in Stuttgart, Germany, trains in Big Bear, Calif., and is becoming one of the hottest sports tickets in this international media capital since Derek Jeter was a kid shortstop for the Yankees and Madison Square Garden was still the mecca of boxing.

But to hear Golovkin’s promoter tell it, in the aftermath of GGG’s latest demolition derby, that nickname could just as well stand for Good and Galloping toward Great. Even though Golovkin stepped inside the Garden’s hallowed ring as a 4-to-1 favorite over Australia’s Daniel Geale, who came in as a reasonably well-regarded two-time former alphabet champion in the middleweight division, the comparative ease with which the WBO/IBO 160-pound titlist won – on a third-round technical knockout, the takeout shot coming on a crackling counter right hand to the jaw a split-second after Geale had landed a big right of his own – had superlatives flowing like wine at an ancient Roman bacchanal.

“We don’t think there’s anyone in the middleweight division that can stand up to Gennady’s power,” pronounced K2 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler, who suggested the fast-filling Golovkin bandwagon was reminiscent of the heady rise of another dangerous puncher from an earlier era.

“It’s kind of the Mike Tyson effect here in America that Gennady’s bringing to the middleweight division,” Loeffler said of Golovkin, who smiles a lot more than Iron Mike back did during his snarling, baddest-man-on-the-planet heyday. But regardless of his postfight disposition, it has been a rapid and remarkable transformation for Golovkin, of whom many Americans knew little, if anything, until he decided to come to this country two years ago to see if the streets really were paved with gold and dream fulfillment was indeed possible for someone who dared to think big and had the will and the wallop to back it up.

Golovkin’s exclamation-point victory, his 18th consecutive victory inside the distance, seemed all the more electrifying in comparison to the co-featured bout of the HBO-televised doubleheader, a WBC heavyweight eliminator pitting Philadelphia’s Bryant “By-By” Jennings against Cuba expatriate and Ireland-based Mike Perez. Jennings (19-0, 12 KOs) won a split decision that would have ended in a draw had not referee Harvey Dock, who had issued multiple warnings to Perez, deducted a point from him in the 12th round for hitting on the break. With the win, Jennings is guaranteed first dibs on the winner of a yet-unscheduled bout between WBC champ Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) and Deontay Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs).

“It was a very technical fight,” Jennings said. “(Perez) wouldn’t trade with me. I wanted him to stand in there and fight. I was expecting the inside pressure of Mike Perez. It didn’t happen.”

There was no such hesitancy to engage on the part of Geale (30-3, 16 KOs), who appeared to understand that Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) – who was 345-5 during a storied amateur career – was too adept at cutting off the ring for the challenger to successfully play keepaway for 12 rounds. Geale was determined to meet GGG’s fire with a few flames of his own, and may he who got there first and hardest have his hand raised at the bout’s conclusion, whenever it came.

Geale, who went down in the first round (after tripping on a camera that the photographer had extended too far onto the ring apron) and again, legitimately, in the second after being on the wrong end of a left hook to the body and a right hand upstairs, did get there first in the climactic third stanza. His right hand landed, and with some oomph behind it, to Golovkin’s left temple, which gave the Aussie a mere nanosecond of exultation before GGG’s counter right landed with the percussive force of a runaway tractor-trailer. Even though Geale beat the count, his readiness to fight on, or lack of it, did not satisfy referee Michael Ortega, who waved his arms at the 2-minute, 47-second mark.

“I fought a guy everybody said had immense power,” Geale allowed. “He caught me with a good shot. Obviously, I’m very disappointed. I had a pretty good game plan going out there. Things were going (according) to plan, to some extent, but I guess when you make a mistake you have to pay the penalty.

“He definitely is a guy that’s going to be tough to beat. I’m not sure there’s too many guys out there that are going to give him much of a run.”

Someone asked the 33-year-old Geale, who has been boxing since he was nine, if Golovkin was the most devastating hitter he’d ever faced.

“Is he the hardest puncher? He’d be up there for sure,” Geale replied. “I’ve been hit by a lot of people. It’s hard to remember every single one. But I was expecting power. He’s a strong guy. Golovkin’s the type of guy that’s pretty well-rounded. He’s got good footwork. He has great timing, which means he’s going to have great power as well.”

For his part, Golovkin seemed pleased with himself. OK, so he didn’t follow the instructions of his trainer, Abel Sanchez, as assiduously as he might have. Sanchez kept hectoring Golovkin to mix up his attack, to go to the body more, and not to head-hunt so much. But, Sanchez said, “he was hell-bent on trying to knock him out early and he wasn’t listening.”

An unmarked Golovkin, flashing those pearly whites, said he was there to give the enthusiastic and pro-GGG crowd – the announced attendance was 8,572, in an arena scaled for a capacity of 9,000 or so – what it came to see.

“Not big surprise,” Golovkin said of the deepening love affair U.S. audiences have with him. “I think my fans, and all people who understand boxing, like my style. Is like Mexican style. Just fight. Is not boxing, just fight. I think people love this style. Is very good for me. For everybody.”

That simple declaration, as much as anything, explains why Golovkin, who has yet to appear in a pay-per-view bout, is being moved at a steady pace toward that elusive nirvana known as superstardom. He is the leading man of his personal Big Bang Theory, eager to swap punches with anyone in and around his weight class who has a heavy reputation and the gumption to test himself in the crucible of the squared circle. Golvokin’s expressed desire to face all comers is a refreshing change for frustrated aficionados of the sport who have tired of the circle dance involving Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, as well as others on either side of the roped-off curtain separating HBO- and Showtime-affiliated fighters.

What Golovkin wants – and the sooner the better – is unification matchups and the sort of star turns that can turn a visitor from a far-off land into America’s adopted sweetheart. Sanchez, who is Mexican-American, has a hankering to put in GGG against high-profile Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KOs), but Loeffler’s first priority is a likely future Hall of Famer, newly crowned WBC middleweight champ Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs), who has fought in New York 11 times and is box-office certainty in the Big Apple. Also on the radar screen are the other alphabet middleweight champs, the IBF’s Sam Solimon (44-11, 18 KOs) and the WBO’s Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs). Down at 154 pounds is super welterweight Canelo Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) and up at 168 are WBA champ Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) and WBA/IBF titlist Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs). If you’re confused by Ward and Froch both holding versions of the WBA crown, well, join the club.

“Gennady wants to prove that he’s the best middleweight champion,” Loeffler said. “The only way to do that is to fight the other champions. But we can’t force anyone to get in the ring. We saw that with the (proposed) Chavez fight. We agreed to a lot of different conditions to get the Chavez fight, and it didn’t happen.

“Cotto is at the top of our list right now. Chavez is at the top of Abel’s list. I think a fight between Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin at the big arena here at Madison Square Garden is the biggest fight that can be made right now in New York City.”

And if securing desirable dates in the fall and winter isn’t possible because of the Garden’s bookings of Knicks and Rangers games, there’s always Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“It was my prediction before the fight, and I stand by it, that this will be the highest-rated boxing show of any in America,” Loeffler said. “That’s a tribute to somebody from Kazakhstan, living in Germany, training in Big Bear, who’s been here less than two years. It’s the excitement he brings to the ring and fans seeing that he’s willing to fight anyone.”

So the hype drum for Golovkin continues to be banged with increasing enthusiasm. Sanchez, throwing caution to the wind, has gone so far as to compare GGG to such legendary fighters as Sugar Ray Robinson, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. It is an audacious leap of faith on Sanchez’s part and, until Golovkin fights and defeats as many of today’s elite practitioners of the pugilistic arts as is logistically possible, such comments are at best imprudent. Golovkin hasn’t even done enough yet to be compared with many of the middleweight champions whose last name begins with G, a select group that includes the likes of Harry Greb, Rocky Graziano, Joey Giardello and Emile Griffith, although he probably rates higher than Ceferino Garcia and Otis Grant.

But excitement and hope are where you find it, and fight fans desperate to identify new stars are looking to Golovkin and WBO light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), the “Krusher from Russia” who defends his title against Australia’s Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) on Aug. 2 at the Revel in Atlantic City, as candidates to fill that void.

At the very least, Golovkin is doing much to erase the negative image of his homeland that stems from the hilarious but cruel 2006 mockumentary, “Borat: Cultural Leanings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which starred British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a hapless journalist from a third-world sty. It remains to be seen whether GGG can knock Cotto or Canelo or Chavez into the ringside seats, but the guess here is that Cohen had best stay out of this very real Kazakh’s punching range.

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Is There a “Peck’s Bad Boy” in Boxing Today?

Ted Sares

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Henry “Hennery” Peck, popularly known as Peck’s Bad Boy, is a fictional character created by George Wilbur Peck (1840–1916). “Peck’s Bad Boy” has been defined as one whose bad behavior is a source of embarrassment or annoyance, but to many it refers to a mischievous prankster. The answer probably is somewhere in the middle with the label referring to anyone whose mischievous or bad behavior leads to annoyance or embarrassment.

In boxing, no one seemed to better epitomize the expression than Muhammad Ali. When Howard Cosell asked Ali why he was being truculent during an interview. Ali fired back, “I don’t know what truculent means, but if it’s good, I’m that.”

It was high camp and anyone who took Ali or his perceived arrogance seriously missed the tongue-in-cheek quality of what was going on. To this writer, he was 98 percent mischievous and maybe 2 percent annoying.

“…“Floyd Patterson was dull, quiet, and sad … and Sonny Liston was twice as bad… The fight game was dying… promoters were crying…” — Cassius Clay

I said I was ‘The Greatest,’ I never said I was the smartest! — Muhammad Ali

Ricardo Mayorga

Later, an especially nasty Nicaraguan provocateur came along by the name of Ricardo “The Matador” Mayorga, but the nastiness was more pre-fight hype than anything else and after his fights, he could be seen hugging his opponents. Often he was seen smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer before leaving the ring and that in itself was pretty unique. He soon established an infamous reputation and used this to sell tickets. Mayorga won world titles at welterweight and junior middleweight, playing the villain to Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, and Miguel Cotto, among others.

Despite being savaged by Trinidad, Ricardo showed that he was not lacking in heart. Against De La Hoya, he said, “I hate bitches and I’m going to make you my little bitch…” He was again savaged.

He caused a stir when he slapped Shane Mosley’s girlfriend on the butt at a press conference, triggering turmoil. In the fight, Mosley avenged her butt by sending The Matador to Bullfighter Heaven with a beautiful left hook launched after a slight head fake to the right.

He told Cory Spinks, “I want to sew a pair of nuts on you so you can stand and fight in front of me next time like a man.”

As writer Jimmy Tobin put it: “Sure, he [Mayorga] was upset at the Spinks decision, but Mayorga understood public expectations of him and had to push the envelope to ensure expectations were met. However enraged he might appear, the vitriol felt fabricated, rehearsed, a gimmick. That gimmick would soon be all Mayorga had left.”

And that really says it all about the Matador. Manufactured and well-timed outrage and faux insults. No serious fan ever really bought into it. Mischievous? Hype? Absolutely.

Mayorga was good at running his mouth but he was no Peck’s Bad Boy.

Today we wish him well as he struggles with substance abuse issues.

Tyson Fury

“I haven’t seen a fighter with that much charisma since Muhammad Ali”– Bob Arum

There is at least two Tyson Furys. The first one possessed a classic Irish wit and was rarely lost for words, constantly seeking attention including impromptu singing. However, keen observers sensed he was putting everybody on half the time, and it was all a joke with him.

Heavyweight boxing hadn’t had this type in a long time—not since Ali. Heck, the Gypsy King was a showman. Many thought his temperament might be a big problem and that he should be more self-deprecating, but he couldn’t care less what others thought about him. All the rhetoric and loud mouthing was likely a load of blarney and he knew it better than anyone. While he surely could have taken himself more seriously and embraced humility, that simply wasn’t what the early Fury was all about.

Fury was more like a Peck’s Bad Boy than anyone since Ali. But much of what he said along the way was embarrassing and vicious. He denounced homosexuals and Jews, among others. This was hardly viewed as amusing, but perhaps it was a byproduct of fighting a number of different demons including severe weight gain, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

After reaching the heights, he stumbled badly off the stage. However, he made a remarkable comeback and this time around he was clean and sober and showed a great desire to help his fellow man.

“I said some things which may have hurt some people, which as a Christian man is not something I would ever want to do,” Fury said in a May 2016 interview for the BBC. “Though it is not an excuse, sometimes the heightened media scrutiny has caused me to act out in public and then my words can get taken out of context. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone and I know more is expected of me as an ambassador of British boxing and I promise in future to hold myself up to the highest possible standard.”

The 6’9” giant is currently an ambassador for the Frank Bruno Foundation, a mental health charity.

Interestingly, the title to Fury’s autobiography is “Behind the Mask and that suggests that the current Fury is the real Fury.

He has been called the UK’s answer to Ricardo Mayorga. Maybe in terms of early nastiness, but the current Tyson Fury (Batman suit and all) is more Ali than Mayorga.

Adrien Broner

“I came into town, and I got his belt and his girl.” – Adrien Broner referring to Paulie Malignaggi

A few might argue that Adrien Broner is the quintessential Peck’s Bad Boy, but frankly, “The Problem” has never really appeared amusing or mischievous. Yes, he has some substance in the ring, but Broner has in large part been seen as a hyped gimmick projecting ignorance, a man that can’t back up his foul mouth. He has now become a curiosity as fans speculate as to who will finally knock him out and shut him up.

Aside from a stupid hair combing routine before his fights, nothing Adrien does seems to conjure up even a shred of amusement. Au contraire, his boorish antics outside the ring, such as throwing cash down a toilet and performing a sexual act with a sweaty dancer at a strip club, not to mention his frequent brushes with the law and court appearances, suggest the possibility of a self-destructive bent

The “Problem” will not be solved; it’s a story that likely will not have a happy ending.

Today

Fury fits the bill but he has become more temperate and balanced. Still, he remains a promotor’s dream. Enjoy him while you can.

Can you think of any others in today’s scene? Yesterday’s?

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Debacle in Atlanta, Fedosov’s Big Upset and More

Arne K. Lang

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Last night’s “Triller” pay-per-view from Atlanta provided a wealth of material for Sunday Morning Quarterbacks. Overshadowing the actual fights was the performance, as it were, of Oscar De La Hoya.

De La Hoya joined the telecast for the 6-round bout between 39-fight veteran Steve Cunningham and boxing novice Frank Mir. Oscar was conspicuously sloshed; he was a train wreck.

Some thought that Oscar’s screeching was hilarious, the highlight of the show. Others found it hard to watch. “I don’t find humor in a man battling substance abuse,” said a person in response to the snarky comments appearing on the message board of a rival web site.

De La Hoya, 48, reiterated that he will return to the ring in July. He has targeted the date of July 3. Oscar was just a boy when he first stepped into the ring. He had more than 200 amateur fights before turning pro. Boxers that take too many punches, say the experts, are prone to developing conditions beyond what are apparent to the naked eye. A common symptom is poor choices.

—-

Also catching flack for his commentary was boxing sportscaster Ray Flores. His transgression was trying too hard to be cool. Flores, 34, was at Wembley Stadium in London in 2017, moderating the final leg of the pre-fight promotional tour for the Mayweather-McGregor megafight. He called that experience his personal Super Bowl. One wonders where he will rate last night’s sideshow in Atlanta?

Lance Pugmire, who left the LA Times to join the impressive team of writers at The Athletic, was measured in his criticism, faulting the telecast for “scattered commentary and forced swearing.” Pugmire was being diplomatic. He wasn’t about to come down hard on Triller as his friend and colleague Mike Coppinger was part of the broadcasting crew.

The only legitimate fight on the card (no disrespect to the combatants in the two early prelims) matched former WBA/IBF 140-pound world champion Regis Prograis against Ivan Redkach. From Los Angeles by way of the Ukraine, Redkach, who brought a 23-5-1 record, wasn’t expected to win but he was expected to at least make it interesting, as had been the case in his most recent bout, a 12-rounder with Danny Garcia.

Prograis was dominant from the start. The bout ended in the sixth frame after Redkach absorbed a sweeping right hook to the body and fell to the canvas clutching his groin. After initially starting his count, the referee gave Redkach, who was writhing in pain, or an imitation thereof, the benefit of the doubt and allowed him five minutes to recover. A doctor was called into the ring to examine him, he decided that Redkach was unfit to continue, and the boxer was removed the ring on a stretcher. There has been no update on his condition.

The replays showed that the punch was legal, clearly landing above the beltline. Moreover, it did not appear that the blow arrived with any significant force. Redkach was lambasted on social media on the grounds that he was faking it, thereby robbing the victorious Prograis of adding another KO to his record. There have been cries for the Georgia Commission to withhold Redkach’s purse.

We have seen boxers greatly distressed after taking a punch in the solar plexus region that did not appear to be a particularly hard punch. Micky Ward’s “electrocution” of Alfonso Sanchez comes quickly to mind. So, perhaps we should give Redkach the benefit of the doubt. However, this reporter couldn’t help but laugh when a blogger explained away the mysterious happenstance by writing that during the heat of battle, the unfortunate Redkach caught a hernia.

There was a huge upset on the Andrade-Williams card in Florida when Azerbaijan heavyweight Mahammadrasul Majidov was stopped in the opening round by Andrey Fedosov.

Majidov had only three pro fights under his belt, but he won all three inside the distance against opponents with winning records and before turning pro he had a long and productive amateur career highlighted by a win over Anthony Joshua.

The contest wasn’t quite a minute old when Fedosov nailed Majidov with a hard combination that put him on the deck. Majidov landed awkwardly and twisted or broke his right ankle. He beat the count, but was reduced to a one-legged fighter and when Fedorov put him down again, the ref moved in and stopped it.

It was all over in 84 seconds, but this was no fluke knockout. It’s uncertain whether Majidov could have survived if he hadn’t injured his ankle. Fedosov, a 35-year-old Russian, has an excellent record, now 32-3 (26), but had become the forgotten man in the heavyweight division after sitting out all of 2019 and 2020.

There have been a lot of upsets lately and there were two more on Saturday. Light-hitting James Martin (7-2, 0 KOs), saddled 18-year-old phenom Vito Mielnicki Jr with his first pro loss, winning a well-deserved majority decision in an 8-round junior middleweight contest underneath Harrison-Perrella in LA. Mielnicki entered the bout with an 8-0 record.

On the Matchroom show in Florida, in another 8-rounder, lightweight Jorge Castaneda scored an upset over former U.S. amateur standout Otha Jones III, winning a majority decision. Castaneda brought a 13-1 record, but all of his previous fights save for one  trip to Mexico were held in his hometown of  Laredo, Texas.

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Harrison and Perrella Fight to a Draw in LA: Prograis TD6 Redkach in Atlanta

Arne K. Lang

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On a day replete with upsets, Florida southpaw Bryant Perrella almost pulled off another, but at the end had to settle for a draw with former WBC 154-pound title holder Tony Harrison. The match was the headline attraction of a PBC show at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center in Los Angeles.

Perrella (17-3-1) was moving up from welterweight and making his first start for new trainer Roy Jones Jr.  Harrison (28-3-1), a third-generation boxer from Detroit, was making his first start since the death of his father/trainer Ali Salaam at age 59. Both boxers were coming off a loss. The first man to defeat Jermell Charlo, Harrison lost the rematch. In Perrella’s last fight, he was stopped with one second to go in the 10th and final round by Abel Ramos in a fight that he was winning.

Harrison fought a measured fight, but fought without a sense of urgency. Perrella fought mostly off his back foot, but was somewhat busier. The scores were 117-111 Perrella, 116-112 Harrison, and `114-114.

Other Bouts

In a cruiserweight fight that was competitive only on paper, previously undefeated Deon Nicholson had no answer for Efetobar Apochi who blew him away in a fight that was over at the 1:12 mark of round three. Nicholson was down in the waning moments of the second round and knocked down again in the third before the referee rescued him from further punishment.

The 33-year-old Apochi, who captained the Nigerian National Boxing Team before moving to Houston where is trained by Ronnie Shields, improved to 11-0 with his 11th knockout. Nicholson, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, came in undefeated with`13 knockouts in 14 opportunities, nine coming in the opening round. but his record was fashioned against very soft opposition. The victory boosts Apochi into a match with Arsen Goulamarian who holds a version of the WBA cruiserweight title.

Omar Juarez, a 21-year-old super bantamweight from Brownsville, Texas, improved to 11-0 (5) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Elias Damian Araujo (21-3), a 33-year-old Argentine now residing in Fresno. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

In an upset, Philadelphia’s James Martin scored a majority decision over Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr in an 8-round super welterweight contest. The scores were 79-73, 77-75, and 76-76.

Martin, who improved to 7-2, is the son of former light heavyweight contender Jerry Martin. It was the first pro loss for hot prospect Mielnicki, age 18, who entered the contest with an 8-0 record.

Atlanta

In the first noteworthy boxing match ever staged at Atlanta’s NFL Stadium, former WBA/WBC 140-pound champion Regis “Rougarou” Prograis (26-1, 22 KOs) was awarded a technical decision over Ivan Redkach (25-6-1) who collapsed in the sixth round complaining of a low blow and was carted from the ring on a stretcher. Replays showed that it was clearly a legal punch. The fight went to the scorecards and Prograis won comfortably: 59-54 and 60-54 twice.

The bizarre ending was somehow fitting as the entire event was bizarre, not merely the fights but the camera work and the commentary. The word sophomoric comes to mind. For the record, in the main go Jake Paul stopped Ben Askren in the opening round.

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