December 21, 2016
December 21, 2016
Gennady Golovkin

Naoki Fukuda

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WHILE struggling to coax the middleweight big guns into the ring, Kazakh wrecking ball Gennady Golovkin has steadily made himself the man to beat at 160lbs.

The 34-year-old now holds the WBA, WBC and IBF world titles – he needs just one more to complete his goal of owning ‘all the belts.’ Nobody has done that since Bernard Hopkins managed to keep the four governing bodies happy for a short period between 2004 and 2005. The legendary Philadelphian bowed out from the sport this past weekend.

‘GGG’ – the most exciting fighter on the planet – has amassed an army of fans with his split personality. Outside the ropes he is affable, charming. Once the bell rings, he morphs into a calculating assassin who has not required the judges’ scorecards since 2008.

However he has his detractors, and their main qualm is over Golovkin’s level of opposition. Through no real fault of his own, Gennady has not faced an elite middleweight. In his last outing he stopped Kell Brook, one of the world’s best welterweights who made a courageous – but ill-advised – leap to 160lbs. Prior to that his best wins were over the likes of Martin Murray, David Lemieux and Matthew Macklin – all quality fighters in their own right, but not world-beaters.

But Golovkin’s matchmaking quandary looks to be over as hard-hitting American Danny Jacobs has stepped up to the plate and will meet ‘GGG’ at Madison Square Garden on March 18. At this stage, Golovkin is undoubtedly the best middleweight in the world but in Jacobs, a cancer survivor and standout amateur, he has his toughest test (on paper) to date.

After a blip to Dmitry Pirog in 2010, Jacobs has bounced back to prominence and holds the WBA’s secondary title, but in December 2015 decimated Peter Quillin inside a round in what seemed to many a 50-50 fight. It was an emphatic coming out party.

“I’m excited about facing Gennady and proving I’m the best middleweight in the world. On March 18th I’m bringing all the belts back to Brooklyn with me,” he recently said.

They are the No 1 and No 2 in the division and they’re clashing in a terrific trade fight. It must be noted that Golovkin is a significant betting favourite – he would be over any active middleweight – but, at last, he is facing someone universally ranked just one place below him.

“I love fighting at Madison Square Garden, it feels like my second home”, said Golovkin. “Danny is a great fighter, one of the best middleweights and a big test for me. I look forward to another ‘Big Drama Show’ in New York City.”

At the gate, Golovkin is a star having sold out venues in numerous countries with his gladitorial bludegoning of opponents that pampers to the bloodthirsty crowds. His American pay-per-view debut against Lemieux did not sell particularly well, but to become a big name pay-per-view star you need to fight another big name pay-per-view star.

If only there were a flame-haired Mexican superstar operating near 160lbs who people were dying to see Golovin face.

That being said, Golovkin’s last outing – in London – generated enormous interest and huge crowds. The more casual fans are enthralled by his destructive mitts while the more hardcore followers cannot deny the Olympic silver medallists extraordinary talent. Even if he’s not fighting a Canelo Alvarez or Billy Joe Saunders, he’s must-see TV.

But that’s a debate for another time – for now, Golovkin has the chance to legitimately enhance his standing as the middleweight kingpin, while Jacobs could potentially spring another upset and unseat ‘GGG’.

Between them, Golovkin and Jacobs have 35 consecutive stoppage wins and the two highest KO percentages (92 and 88 respectively) in the current middleweight top 10. Their meeting all but guarantees excitement and there’s plenty of substance behind the style.