It’s the chicken vs. egg argument…boxing style.
And when Gennady Golovkin took the ring on Saturday amid pomp and circumstance in the Mediterranean-rimmed playpen of Monte Carlo, the old quarrel was once again renewed.
But in notching his 16th straight stoppage and 26th in 29 pro wins, a bruising seventh-round TKO of challenger Osumanu Adama, Golovkin not only defended his IBO and WBA shares of the middleweight kingdom, he stripped another layer of logic from those still begrudging him the status as a legit commodity.
The debate that existed entering the fight with Adama—a thrice-beaten Ghanaian now living in suburban Chicago—focused on the relative anonymity of Golovkin’s previous opposition and whether it was enough to lift the Kazakhstan native from hard-charging novelty to world-class operator.
He won the vacant IBO belt against Lajuan Simon in 2011 and had risked it against the likes of Makoto Fuchigami, Gregorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens, but only one of them—Macklin—had gone in having ever faced opposition resembling the best at 160.
The WBA deemed Golovkin its preeminent titleholder in 2012, after "super" champion Felix Sturm was beaten in a unification bout by IBF kingpin, Daniel Geale, and Geale elected to drop the WBA crown.
Heading into Saturday, the smattering of lingering cynics claimed Golovkin's motley crew of victims—Adama included—was not on par with those of middleweight top dog Sergio Martinez, and it would leave "Triple-G" in troublingly deep water when and if he stepped up the level of those he punched.
Meanwhile, his allies insist it’s precisely that class of foe who’s avoided him, pointing in particular to promoter Lou DiBella. According to Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, DiBella labeled Golovkin an "animal" after his KO of Macklin and conceded he was in no particular hurry to engineer a showdown involving Martinez, who'll turn 39 on Feb. 21.
After Saturday, it’s a little harder to deny the latter rationale as the correct one.
The breakdown of Adama was as comprehensive as 19 minutes of ring time would allow, featuring the aggressive, yet technically sound approach Golovkin honed during a 350-fight amateur career that was highlighted by a 2003 world championship and a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
He dropped his 33-year-old challenger with an overhand right at the end of the first round and appeared primed for another quick ending, but instead was content to land intermittently thudding shots to the head over the subsequent four sessions while largely abandoning his signature body work.
"He's patient. He stalks you," said Steve Bunce, an analyst on the British-based BoxNation broadcast. "He's not there to decapitate you in one round, because he knows it’s going to come. He's almost plotting what the next move is going to be. He's really like a chess player in there."
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The downstairs shots returned in the fifth and Golovkin bared his teeth to begin the sixth, flooring Adama with a left hook and setting the stage for the climax, which occurred when Adama went down again from a jab and was rescued by referee Luis Pabon after another hook at one minute, 20 seconds of the seventh.
He didn't lose a round. He barely lost a minute. And as a result, those who lauded him coming in had no reason to feel less breathy about him going out.
"With 16 KOs in a row," manager Tom Loeffler said in a post-fight interview on BoxNation, "he's really the biggest thing in boxing right now."
As for those who doubted him...funny, they weren't saying nearly as much.