Is Gennady Golovkin on His Way to Becoming an All-Time Great?

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Is Gennady Golovkin on His Way to Becoming an All-Time Great?
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Is Golovkin the real deal?

Gennady Golovkin laid the smackdown on former titleholder Daniel Geale on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. Golovkin dominated the action from the opening bell and scored an impressive Round 3 technical knockout to move his record to 30-0.

Before the fight, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden hailed Golovkin as the world’s scariest man. After facing him in the ring, Geale might have to agree.

Golovkin is one bad dude. But is he already toward all-time great status?

What is Golovkin's ceiling as a fighter?

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Golovkin is a rare breed. He’s a ruthless and precise stalker who throws every punch with concussive force. Moreover, the WBA middleweight titleholder is supremely skilled at getting his opponent exactly where he wants him.

Of equal importance, Golovkin knows what to do once he gets him there: He lets his hands go.

Geale found out quickly that there was simply no way to keep Golovkin off him. A good fighter himself, Geale used upper body movement and volume punching to try to keep Golovkin from mowing him down like he had done to just about everyone else.

But nothing Geale did mattered. The knockout blow stood as a testament to the hopelessness of the situation. Just after landing a clean right hand to Golovkin’s face, Geale found himself on the canvas after getting whacked silly by a counter right from Golovkin.  

Already a legend in some boxing circles, the fighter known as “GGG” drew high praise from the opposite corner’s camp after the fight.

According to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw, was simply flabbergasted at how good Golovkin looked on Saturday.

I walked over to Golovkin after the fight and I said, 'Whatever anyone said about you, you are better than that. In all my years in boxing, he's the best 160-pounder I've ever seen. He has all the tools and all the moves. I thought Geale could take him to a decision. The better man won tonight.

Let that sink in a minute. Noted boxing promoter Shaw, who has been around the fight game as long as anyone, thinks Golovkin is the best middleweight he’s ever seen.

But Golovkin has a long way to go if he hopes to accomplish enough at 160 pounds to earn his place among history’s best. Despite scoring his 17th straight knockout, Golovkin’s win over Geale was really the first time he’d been in the ring with a legitimate middleweight contender.

It’s not all Golovkin’s fault. In fact, one could only fault Golovkin for perhaps looking too good at this point in his professional prizefighting career for better fighters to take the chance.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
GGG was just too strong for Geale.

According to Rafael, Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, maintained what has been Team GGG’s mantra over the past couple of years already. They want to face the best fighters available.

Right now, that discussion starts and ends with Miguel Cotto, the lineal middleweight champion of the world.

But Cotto has just one fight under his belt at the weight, the 10-round drubbing he gave former champion Sergio Martinez in June.

Would Cotto do the unthinkable and grant Golovkin a chance at his title so soon after acquiring it from the longtime champion who seemed to go out of his way to avoid taking on Golovkin himself? It seems unlikely, at least in the near future, to think so.

ESPN.com’s Brian Campbell believes the idea of Cotto-Golovkin is just wishful thinking at this point.

While Cotto-Golovkin would be one of the biggest fights you could make in the sport, and in some ways, a crossroads meeting between MSG’s highest-profile tenants, logic would likely lead Cotto toward more lucrative -- and less dangerous -- options.

Still, Golovkin needs big fights against top-level competition to prove he’s as good as people like Shaw thinks he is. While Geale was a step in the right direction, Golovkin needs bouts against boxing’s elite to stay on the course to greatness.

There’s a bit of urgency to it. While Golovkin’s aura is still a rising tide, the Kazakhstan-born fighter is already 32 years old. While that’s nothing to be alarmed about at this point, Golovkin isn’t a mid-20s phenom with plenty of time to spare.

He needs big fights, and he needs them now.

Golovkin’s best bet might be moving up in weight to 168 pounds. Taking on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Carl Froch or lineal champion Andre Ward might be a risk worth taking at this point for Golovkin, assuming he can find willing dance partners.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
How about Golovkin-Ward at 168?

Or if he can’t find something there, Golovkin might need to consider taking a gamble and heading up to 175 pounds, where it seems likely that naturally larger fighters like Jean Pascal or Sergey Kovalev would be willing to step up to the challenge.

No matter what happens next, Golovkin needs big fights against fighters who will make him work. Fans turn on a fighter quickly if he doesn’t step on the gas and take his chances against more elite competition, even if it’s not really his fault.

Boxing demands the best from its stars and even more so from those who hope one day to be considered one of the all-time greats. Golovkin has the talent, skill and ability to warrant discussion as to whether he’s headed toward that lofty status, but he needs the right fights to help make it happen.

Kelsey McCarson is a boxing writer from Texas. He does not ride horses or dodge tumbleweeds, but like all Texans he has the innate ability to do so.

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