Gennady "Good Guy" Golovkin (27-0, 24 KO) has every right to have his sights set high. He's undefeated and tearing through the competition and thus looking to take on the biggest names in his division.
On Saturday night from Madison Square Garden in New York, Golovkin will defend his WBA middleweight title against Curtis "Showtime" Stevens (25-3, 18 KO).
The 31-year-old Golovkin is hoping to use this bout as a springboard into a megafight. WBC champion Sergio Martinez or popular Mexican contender Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are on his wish list, per Kelsey McCarson of the Sweet Science. Both of those fights would bring him the type of exposure he's yet to receive.
His opponent on Saturday won't go away easily, though. Stevens is a hard-punching and hungry 28-year-old contender who is getting his first shot at a world title. He'll have something to say about what Golovkin's next fight will be.
Stevens is from Brooklyn, so he will have a home-field advantage over the champion from Kazakhstan, but will it matter?
Here's how you can watch this middleweight championship clash.
When: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden in N.Y.
Live Stream: Replay on HBOGO
Hunting the Champions
No one can accuse Golovkin of taking the easy route to prominence in the sport. Ever since he won the title in 2010, he has steadily raised the level of competition. As the quality of the opposition has increased, the results have remained the same.
He has demolished everyone who has opposed him. Most recently, he finished tough and respected contender Matthew Macklin with an anvil-like left hook to the body. The punch lands around the 15:45 mark in the video below.
Golovkin has called out Martinez, WBO champion Peter Quillin, Daniel Geale and Felix Sturm, per Dan Ambrose of Boxing News 24. Golovkin's vicious style and moderate-to-high popularity make him a risky proposition for the best middleweights.
Those who know the sport realize how good he is, but he's not a household name just yet. That means opponents may very well take a loss in a fight that wouldn't pay them as much as they might want to make.
If Golovkin keeps winning, his legend will continue to grow, which will make him impossible to ignore.
The Monkey Wrench
Stevens has designs on ruining Golovkin's big plans. If he can prove to be GGG's kryptonite (another one of Stevens' nicknames), he'll pull off one of the biggest upsets of the year.
He has the punching power to get Golovkin's attention. Stevens has captured 18 of his 25 wins by KO in his career. In his most recent bout, he viciously knocked out Saul Roman in the first round.
Take a look at the nasty left hook that did the trick.
Needless to say, Golovkin is no Saul Roman.
The only time that Stevens has faced an opponent even arguably in Golovkin's class, he lost. In 2007, Stevens lost a unanimous decision to super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell. Since then, he's won eight of nine fights to earn this shot at a world title.
As he states in the video below, he is not intimidated by Golovkin. With a left hook like Stevens, he at least has a puncher's chance to make the fight interesting.
Stevens' squat build and explosive punches are reminiscent of Mike Tyson, but he's obviously not as dynamic as "Iron Mike" was in his prime. The things missing are head movement and sudden, quick-twitch movements.
Beyond the power, those were Tyson's best qualities.
Stevens has some of the same attributes, which is what makes him dangerous. His left hook could test the chin of Golovkin, which is something we've yet to see happen.
Unless Stevens lands something night-changing early, the key to the fight will lie in how well he takes or protects himself from the body shots. Golovkin is possibly the best body puncher in the sport today. His assault on the midsection is his best attack.
The longer the fight goes, the more it'll be in Golovkin's favor. His pursuit wears opponents down, and Stevens isn't the type of fighter who is looking to go 12 rounds. He hasn't won a fight of 10 or 12 rounds by decision since 2007.
His only chance is to catch and hurt Golovkin within the first four rounds. If Golovkin takes his punch or avoids the left hand and keeps coming, he will walk Stevens down and stop him.
Though underestimating Stevens' power would be unwise, the latter scenario is the most likely.
Prediction: Golovkin wins by sixth-round TKO.
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