It doesn’t take long to get a vibe on Gennady Golovkin.
Whether you’ve just seen him in a few recent HBO appearances or you’ve been compiling a career highlight reel on YouTube, chances are good the reactions run pretty similar:
“The dude’s a wrecking machine,” some say. “He reminds me of a middleweight Tyson,” others claim. “There’s not a fighter in the world that could last 12 rounds against him,” still more contend.
The passion is understandable, if not entirely level-headed.
While what Triple-G has typically done over 27 career fights—and, more specifically, his last 14 in a row—is interesting and worthy of heavy-handed respect, it’s probably a tad premature to start casting his fists in bronze for permanent display at the hall of fame in Canastota.
First of all, he’s by no means the clear No. 1 man—or even 2 or 3—in his own weight class.
When it comes to middleweight title claimants and a tangible trail of success littered with high-end victims, only Sergio Martinez has a leg to stand on to justify recognition as the top man at 160.
Beyond that, Golovkin’s claim is cluttered further by the presence of IBF champ Daniel Geale and WBO kingpin Peter Quillin, each of whom has handled at least as solid a grade of opponent—albeit not with train-wreck results—as the Kazakh has managed since joining the belted class.
An Aussie who’s admittedly known more for style than trauma, Geale has lost just once in 30 pro tries and has beaten four former world champions—Roman Karmazin, Sebastian Sylvester, Felix Sturm and Anthony Mundine, to be exact—in his last six fights.
Quillin has retired Winky Wright, out-gutted Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and brutalized Fernando Guerrero in three outings over the last 13 months, adding some actual substance to the breathy “Kid Chocolate” publicity machine he’s been riding alongside since turning pro eight years ago.
Meanwhile, until Golovkin rejected Matthew Macklin’s challenge a few weeks back at Foxwoods, the closest things to name foes he’d seen was the shopworn carcass of Kassim Ouma and the bloated figure of Gabriel Rosado, who’d won precisely zero fights above 155 pounds since 2009.
Who knows, he might actually be able to handle Geale, Quillin and Martinez on the same night without breaking a sweat. But until the evidence he’s presenting consistently rises above the level of Makato Fuchigami, Grzegorz Proksa and Nobuhiro Ishida, enough reasonable doubt exists to hang a jury.
Even the IBO, whose 160-pound belt Golovkin holds, slots him behind Martinez and Geale in its computerized rankings, which are based on several factors including quality of opposition.
But in judging his offense alone, I’ll concede he’s a lot closer to top of the charts.
Among active sluggers near the tops of their divisions, only three fighters hold a candle to Golovkin’s 88.9 percent when it comes to KO regularity—namely welterweight Marcos Maidana (91.1 percent in 34 wins), heavyweight Vitali Klitschko (91.1 percent in 45 wins) and junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse (94.1 percent in 34 wins). Still, because many of Klitschko’s recent wins have resembled a mouse being batted around before succumbing to a 245-pound cat, it feels more like a three-man race.
And in spite of his higher KO rate, Maidana probably deserves no better than bronze, primarily because the level of opposition he’s stopped—outside of Victor Ortiz—hasn’t exactly been stellar. Not to mention that his stoppages are often of a grinding variety rather than a concussive one.
It’s for the former reason, though—the level of opposition—that the overall nod goes to Matthysse.
Entering this year, neither he nor Golovkin had handled any real high-end names, but the ease with which he dispatched a sturdy and in-shape Lamont Peterson—a reigning, albeit not defending, champion at 140—was enough to make me think he’s right at home anywhere on the top level.
Instead of a one-shot toppling that could be dismissed as good luck or good timing, his three-round job was a master’s level class in the sort of aggressive, perpetual and impactful violence that makes for short fights and big ratings and could ultimately propel the Argentine into a full-fledged Showtime main event date with the sport’s top cash cow.
Until Golovkin does a number like that on a higher grade of beef than Macklin, he’s a runner-up.