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GGG: The End Game for the Big Drama Show

Ted Sares

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When serious fans discuss the Fighter of the Decade, Gennadiy Golovkin (more often referenced as “GGG” or “Triple G”) must be part of the discussion as his record between 2010 and 2019 is 22-1-1, boosting his overall mark to 40-1-1.

Golovkin had a superb amateur career, reportedly finishing 345-5. He was a world amateur champion in 2003 and an Olympic silver medalist in 2004.

GGG first raised eyebrows in the pro ranks when he brutalized and stopped tough Kassim Ouma in 2011 in the first defense of his WBA middleweight title. He quickly projected like an Eastern Euro Pacquiao—humility, skills and mystique all wrapped up like a Kazakhstan dumpling. He was ready for a “Big Drama Show.” Like the great Kostya Tszyu, GGG was (and still is) a charismatic figure, revered by his cult-like fans. And, oh yes, he was very, very marketable. He had become the “New Kid on the Block.”

Watch out, middleweights. There’s a new sheriff in town. As a matter of fact, junior middleweights and super-middleweights should also be on the alert. This heavy-hitting boss man is gunning for all of you – Jackie Kallen

This post from an April 4, 2013 article in Boxing.com nails it. “GGG is the quintessential boxer/puncher–the complete package; he is marvelous to watch because he combines so many attributes including great stamina, musculature with minimal body fat, well-honed technique, numbing KO power in either hand, superb footwork and balance, and the ability to use perfectly leveraged combinations that exact tremendous punishment. His propensity to close the ring and walk his opponent down means that he goes on the stalk as soon as the bell rings. A master at keeping the right separation, GGG quickly gets comfortable in an appropriate range, and begins using his crunching jackhammer jabs that set up his heavy artillery of hooks, straights, and the occasional jarring uppercut. The entire scenario is like the work of an artist, but instead of paint, this artist uses controlled violence.”

The Streak

After the aforementioned slaughter of Ouma in 2011, Triple G continued working his way through a 23-fight KO streak utilizing numbing one-punch power. The streak has been well vetted but certain impressions remain indelible such as…

His KO of Nobuhiro Ishida with a vicious overhand right that was audible and left the Japanese fighter unconscious.

His KO of Matthew Macklin with a left hook body shot that left Macklin withering in verbal pain in the third round at Foxwoods.

Curtis Stevens’ shocked expression after being knocked down by a left hook.

His exchange of rights with Daniel Geale and the Aussie “Real Deal” then going down like he had been sapped. Another short night of boxing for the Kazakhstan bomber who went on the stalk early, opened a cut with his punishing jabs, and finally caught his prey in what had become a familiar scenario.

His strategic use of a jackhammer jab to keep David Lemieux at bay before stopping him.

His victory over a game Kell Brook (36-0 going in) who moved up two weight classes to challenge for Golovkin’s WBC and IBF middleweight titles and who gave GGG all he could handle until the Brit finally succumbed to an eye injury. It was the first time GGG had shown he could be tagged and even stunned.

The Jacobs Fight (March 2017)

The cracks that showed up for the first time in the Brook fight grew wider. Golovkin won, but he was not the normal GGG and settled for a close but unanimous decision as he retained his title for the 18th consecutive time. His then trainer Abel Sanchez said he was satisfied with how his charge performed. Judges Don Trella and Steve Weisfeld both scored the fight 115-112, and Max DeLuca had it 114-113 for Golovkin, who scored a knockdown of Danny in the fourth round. The 23-fight KO streak had ended.

(Golovkin weighed 159.6 lb. while Jacobs weighed 159.8 at the official weigh-in a day before their 2017 fight. However, by skipping a fight-day weight check and thereby declining to compete for the IBF title, Danny seemed to have gained significantly coming into the ring and looked to be around 180 pounds. Max Kellerman suggested he was utilizing a “strategic plan.” Others thought he was also manipulating the system, thus causing the playing field to become uneven. Whatever the case, GGG had gone through a grueling 12 rounds of action with the operative word being “grueling.”)

Canelo (September 2017)

Six months after outlasting Danny Jacobs, Golovkin, now 37-0, and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-1) fought to a controversial draw at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a long-awaited fight. Cenelo was coming off easy wins over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Liam Smith, and Amir Khan.

Canelo started fast and finished strong while GGG owned the middle rounds. Judge Adalaide Byrd turned in a mind-numbing scorecard, 118-110, in favor of Alvarez. Dave Moretti scored it 115-113 for Golovkin and Don Trella had it 114-114. The questionable scoring drew loud boos from the sellout crowd of 23,358. The general feeling was that GGG had won.

Again, the fight had been grueling.

Canelo (September 2018)

In the rematch, Alvarez claimed a majority decision in a thrilling fight in front of another sellout crowd of 21,965 at T-Mobile Arena to unify GGG’s WBA and WBC titles with his own lineal championship. Judge Glenn Feldman scored it 114-114, while Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for Alvarez.

Again, this one could have gone either way or could easily have been another draw. To quote Brian Campbell, “A modern classic of a middleweight title bout revealed the same truism boxing fans knew all too well coming in: Death, taxes and Canelo Alvarez getting the benefit of the doubt.”

Golovkin angrily and uncharacteristically left the ring after the decision and declined a post-fight interview. His face, however, was a pulpy mess and this may have been part of the reason.

The Rolls Fight (June 2019)

The Big Drama Show returned and Gennady delivered with a fourth-round knockout over previously undefeated (19-0) Canadian Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden. This was Golovkin’s first fight since his controversial loss to Canelo in 2018, a bout in which GGG surrendered all three of his middleweight belts.

“Everybody knows. Everybody knows,” Golovkin said. “First guys, of course, I’m ready for Canelo in September. I’m ready to come out. Just ask him. … If you want a big drama show, please tell him.”

The Derevyanchenko Fight (October 2019)

In still another grueling affair, Golovkin escaped with a unanimous decision — this time in a genuine “Big Drama Show” — by scores of 115-112, 115-112, and 114-113 to claim the IBF world middleweight title. “The Technician” gave GGG all that he could handle. Golovkin, now 37 years old, did not resemble the destroyer that he had once been.

The Future

Going the distance with Danny Jacobs in 2017 and the two fierce fights with Canelo followed by a battle with Sergey Derevyanchenko fought at a hellacious pace suggests GGG’s end game may be at play and that his best days are behind him. Four of his last six fights have put heavy mileage on his tires.

He is still very good and still has a cult-like following, but with a three-year, six-fight deal with DAZN worth $100 million, he also has risky obligations to fulfill. He also has dumped Abel Sanchez and hired Johnathon Banks to tend his corner.

Sooner or later, the stars may become aligned for a third Canelo fight, but first it appears that GGG will defend his IBF belt against Poland’s undefeated but feather-fisted Kamil Szeremeta (21-0). The fight, tentatively set for Feb. 29 in Chicago, could present Golovkin with easy work, something he badly needs.

Enjoy him while you can.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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The Fight of the Century: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

Arne K. Lang

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In professional boxing, fights can be rank-ordered as generic fights, big fights, bigger fights, mega-fights, and spectacles. The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier wasn’t merely a spectacle, but the grandest spectacle of them all. This coming Monday, March 8, is the 50th anniversary of that iconic event.

Ali-Frazier I was staged at three-year-old Madison Square Garden, the fourth arena in New York to take that name. It drew a capacity crowd: 20,455 (19,500 paid). An estimated 60 percent of all the tickets sold fell into the hands of scalpers.

The fight was closed-circuited to more than 350 locations in the United States and Canada. At some of the larger venues, it established a new record for gate receipts, and this for an attraction that wasn’t produced in-house. In Los Angeles, 15,333 saw the fight at the Forum and 11,575 at the nearby Sports Arena.

Bill Ballenger, the sports editor of the Charlotte (NC) News, saw the fight at the Charlotte Coliseum. He reported that the audio – Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow with Burt Lancaster and Archie Moore serving as color commentators – was loud enough to be heard outside the arena and that many folks, either unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket, loitered outside and followed the action in 30 degrees weather.

An estimated three hundred million people saw the fight worldwide. In England, by some estimates, half the population tuned in, watching either at home on BBC1 or at a theater where one could watch the fight unfold on a movie screen. Now keep in mind that in England the fight didn’t commence until 6:40 in the morning on a Tuesday!

Inside Madison Square Garden, the large flock of celebrities included many folks one wouldn’t expect to find at a prizefight. Marcello Mastroianni, Italy’s most famous movie star, made a special trip from Rome. Salvador Dali was there and Barbra Streisand and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, seated next to her escort, crooner Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was there working as a photographer for Life magazine. Lore has it that Sinatra wangled the assignment after failing to boat one of the coveted ringside seats.

The scene was made brighter by human “peacocks,” the label applied to Harlemites with an outrageous sense of fashion, and the electricity was palpable. When Ali appeared at the back of the arena, making his way from his dressing room to the ring, everyone had goosebumps.

The late, great New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding a big heavyweight title fight and that was never more true than on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.

Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) were both undefeated. Both had a claim to the heavyweight title, Ali because the belt had been controversially stripped away from him for his political beliefs. Opinions as to who would win were pretty evenly divided. In Las Vegas, Joe Frazier was the favorite at odds of 6 to 5. Across the pond in England, bookies were quoting odds of 11 to 8 on Ali.

Those that favored Ali were of the opinion that ‘Smokin’ Joe was too one-dimensional. That much was true. Joe was as subtle as a steam locomotive on a downhill grade. He ate Ali’s hardest punches, said Boston Globe reporter Bud Collins, as if they were movie house popcorn and he eventually wore Ali down. There was little doubt as to how the judges would see it after Joe knocked Ali down in the 15th round with a frightful left hook. When Ali arose, it appeared that he had been afflicted with a sudden case of the mumps. The decision was unanimous: 11-4, 9-6, 8-6-1.

This wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was a fight that more than lived up to the hype. And, as several people have noted, the event took on a life of its own without the benefit of modern technology to push it along. The buzz was fueled in a large part by newspapers, the “antiquated” sort of newspapers that a fellow fished from his driveway or purchased at a newsstand on the way to or from work. If twitter and facebook had been around during Muhammad Ali’s prime, Ali would have blown the doors off the internet.

A cultural touchstone is an event that remains sealed in our memory. As we slide into old age, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we may not remember what we had for breakfast in the morning, but some long-ago events are as vivid as if they had happened just yesterday.

Boxing historian Frank Lotierzo has written poignantly about how overjoyed he was when he was surprised with the news that his father would be taking him to the fight. “To this day it remains the biggest thrill of my life!” wrote Lotierzo, who was then in the seventh grade. “And it’s not even close!”

I didn’t see the fight, but I can recall the faces of people that I overheard talking about it, people whose interest in the fight struck me as odd as I knew they had little interest in the world of sports. So, when the fight is replayed in its entirety on Sunday – it airs on ABC at 2 p.m ET and again at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN – I will be watching it for the first time. And it will be bittersweet as I will be reminded that I am in the twilight of my life and my thoughts will inevitably drift to my friends and loved ones that have left this mortal world in the years since that grand night in 1971 when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked horns in the Fight of the Century.

I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Arne K. Lang

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Ring City USA, a new promotional entity, debuted on Nov. 19, 2020 with a show staged in the parking lot of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. Ring City stayed outdoors for their first offering of 2021, but the company was a long ways from California. Tonight’s card was staged on a roundabout near a municipal gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

The headline attraction was an attractive match between junior middleweights Serhii Bohachuk and Brandon Adams. The bout was originally set for Dec. 3, but had to be pushed back when Bohachuk tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bohachuk, a 25-year-old California-based Ukrainian, had stopped all 18 of his previous opponents. He had never gone past six rounds. Brandon Adams, a former world title challenger, represented a step up in class.

Bohachuk was well on his way to winning a unanimous decision when the tide turned dramatically in round eight. Fighting on a slick canvas, Adams suddenly found a new gear, unloading a series of punches climaxed by a thunderous left hook as Bohachuk retreated. The Ukrainian beat the count, but was teetering on unsteady legs and the referee properly called a halt.

Adams was without his regular trainer, 80-year-old Dub Huntley, who remained back in LA as a health precaution. In winning, he elevated his records to 23-3 (15). It was his best performance since defeating Shane Mosley Jr in the finals of Season 5 of the “Contender” series.

In the co-feature, an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Chevalier improved to 15-1-1 (12) with a third-round stoppage of Peru’s Carlos Zambrano (26-2). Chevalier scored two knockdowns, the first a sweeping left hook that appeared to land behind Zambrano’s head, and the second a punch to the liver that left Zambrano in severe distress. The referee waived the fight off in mid-count.

The official time was 2:21. Chevalier, a tall featherweight (5’11”) made a very impressive showing; he bears watching. This was Zambrano’s first fight since April of 2017 when he was knocked out in the opening round by Claudio Marrero in a bout for the WBA interim featherweight title.

The TV opener was an entertaining fight between contrasting styles that produced a weird conclusion when Danielito Zorrilla was awarded a technical decision over Ruslan Madiyev. The bout was stopped at the 1:16 mark of round eight after Zorrilla sank to his knees after absorbing a punch to the back of the head. The ringside physician examined him for evidence of a concussion, but ultimately it was Zorrilla’s choice as to whether the bout would continue. He declined and was reportedly taken to a hospital for observation.

Madiyev, a California-based Kazahk, was the aggressor. He fought the fight in Zorilla’s grill, often bullying him against the ropes. In round five, he had a point deducted for hitting behind the head, squandering what was arguably his best round.

The fight went to the scorecards with Zorrilla winning a split decision (77-74, 77-75, 73-76), thereby remaining undefeated: 15-0 (12). Ironically, Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs), suffered his previous loss in a similar fashion.

Madiyev’s new trainer Joel Diaz reportedly discouraged his charge from taking this fight for fear that he wouldn’t get a fair shake in Puerto Rico. Diaz’s apprehensions were well-founded.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Ring City USA

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