Golovkin vs. Stevens: Is GGG Really This Good?

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Golovkin vs. Stevens: Is GGG Really This Good?
Al Bello/Getty Images

As of Saturday night, the Curtis Stevens camp has been heard from.

After enduring 24 minutes of battering from IBO/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in the theater at Madison Square Garden, chances seem excellent that the 28-year-old Brooklyn native would be first in line to vouch for the skills of his latest opponent.

In fact, his promotional company, New Jersey-based Main Events, already has:

But when it comes to those who’ve not yet shared a ring with the Kazakhstan-born knockout artist—who’s now not heard a scheduled final bell in 15 straight fights since 2008—the jury on his actual worth compared to the world’s most established 160-pounder remains legitimately out.

For all its titillation value, the post-eighth-round takedown of Stevens did little to change that. Though in its aftermath, the many qualities possessed by the 31-year-old remain simple to identify.

His 89.3 percent KO rate is in the upper echelon among fighters either on or near the championship plain, and his unapologetic pursuit of violence in every appearance excites both fans and media members to a level unreached by most others, regardless of acumen.

He thoroughly dominated the capable Stevens—a former light heavyweight ranked No. 15 by the IBO and No. 13 by the WBA at middleweight—by consistently landing lefts and rights to the body and head and gradually ebbing the undeniable will the challenger had possessed upon arrival.

Given the lumps around Stevens’ eyes and the degree to which his ribcage was punished, the decision to surrender after the eighth round was a mere formality. And had trainer Andre Rozier been unwilling to concede the fray, referee Harvey Dock would have humanely done it for him.

Such was the comprehensive nature of the beating delivered by the favorite.

Golovkin boldly called the names of his most recognizable belted colleague—38-year-old WBC titleholder Sergio Martinez—after the fight on HBO’s air, saying “I am champion. I am open for everybody. Sergio Martinez. Please.”

Al Bello/Getty Images

But while his dominance of a prohibitive thrice-beaten underdog like Stevens was inarguable, the degree to which it translates to the division’s longtime elite isn’t quite as easily diagnosed.

In spite of limited exposure on the championship level and a resume which included losses to the likes of Jesse Brinkley, Andre Dirrell and Marcos Primera, Stevens was able to tag Golovkin repeatedly with counter shots in the early and middle rounds and did some of his best work upon rising from a second-round knockdown that came via two left hooks.

And while Golovkin never wobbled and insisted he wasn’t bothered by the 97 punches his foe landed, it’s no stretch to think that shots from a quicker, fleeter and more powerful foil like Martinez—who’s beaten five former champs since his last loss—would present strategic questions that foes like Stevens, Matthew Macklin and Nobuhiro Ishida simply haven’t asked.

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Though his body has shown signs of wear—he sustained hand and knee injuries in 2012 and had another hand issue following his last fight in April—Martinez controlled all but a sliver of 12 rounds against a bigger foe in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last summer and reduced action slugger Paul Williams to a semi-consciousness heap with a single left hand less than two years prior.

Both those opponents, while surely flawed, represent greater challenges that anything Golovkin had seen since capturing the vacant IBO title in 2011 and defending it five times before Saturday against challengers whose average placement in that organization’s computerized rankings was No. 13.

If nothing else, those numbers warrant hesitation before hyperbole.

Lest anyone forget, it wasn’t long ago that another brawny slugger with prolonged KO momentum and intense media infatuation seemed destined to plow through anything fool enough to linger in his path. His name was Lucas Matthysse, and his career arc changed dramatically upon being matched with a foe—Danny Garcia—with an actual track record to back up his title belts.

If and when the two finally meet, the chance exists that Golovkin will prove his point as brutally as his supporters suggest. But at least until that day arrives, Martinez deserves the respect Garcia never got.

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