WORLD super-middleweight contender ‘Saint’ George Groves has experienced firsthand the quality of reigning WBA Super world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, but insists Martin Murray is the man to test the Kazakh destroyer when they meet on Saturday (February 21) in Monte Carlo.
Groves, a two-time world title challenger, spent a week in training camp with Golovkin last summer and the pair sparred a number of rounds together. It offered the Londoner the chance to see exactly why Golovkin, 31-0 (28 KOs), is the most feared fighter on the planet right now.
“Sometimes you get a quick puncher who hits hard, like Mike Tyson, but you assume they’re not going to last that long,” said Groves. “After three or four rounds, it’s likely they’ll tire. But Golovkin has a style that allows him to set his own rhythm and get into his own groove and it’s hard to knock him out of it.
“To beat him, you can’t only be good at one thing. If you’re just fast, you won’t beat him. If you just have power, you won’t beat him. He has so much time in the pocket to work you out. He’ll find the openings.
“The most impressive thing I discovered was that he’s exceptional at setting traps. He’ll have guys thinking they’ll avoid his punch power and move around the ring, yet he cuts the ring off, feints, sets traps and quickly gets them to fight his fight.
“It doesn’t take him long. Once the ring closes on them, he goes to work and he has a great variety of shots, he works the body well, and, when he sees an opening, he has so much time. He’s a wily old cat who can really bite.
“Ultimately, you’re always on a knife edge with someone like Golovkin. You’ve got to be prepared to punch with him. You’ve got to be prepared to take a shot to land a shot at times. If you’re too concerned about getting hit, you’ll panic, make a mistake and end up getting hit and hurt. You have to try and land some shots of your own and command his respect. If he’s got nothing to worry about, he’ll be in that groove and rhythm of his all day.
“And you’re not dealing with a technically poor fighter who has incredible punch power. He has incredible punch power and elite-level technical ability. This means he’s always in the right place at the right time, with perfect balance, to land some of the most hurtful shots in boxing. That’s a scary thing for most opponents.”
Groves concedes that Murray, 29-1-1 (12 KOs), isn’t the type to get scared or overawed when placed in a daunting situation. In fact, he’s shown in previous world title tilts, against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez, that he’s the sort of fighter who rises to the occasion.
“I think Martin Murray is certainly a world-class operator and he has looked exceptional at times, usually when asked to step up,” said Groves. “He’s proven himself to be one of the best in the division.
“Golovkin has gone through every one of his opponents like a hot knife through butter, so you wouldn’t back against him or begrudge him being the favourite, but I get the impression Murray is a very tough man to beat. He’s strong, he has a good boxing brain, he has a good variety of punches and he’s very experienced.
“I also like the fact Murray has a bit of a maverick approach to boxing. He isn’t signed to a standard UK promoter, he’s got his own ideas and I understand and appreciate that. He’s his own man. In these circumstances, that’s the best way to be. And, with the hype around Golovkin, ignorance and single-mindedness could be a real blessing.
“Also, Golovkin is so busy and has been boxing so well, it could be very easy for him to take his eye off the ball or go a little easy in training because he knows he’s scheduled for another three or four fights this year.
“Murray is not the sort of opponent you can take lightly. He can change and adapt to a certain degree; we’ve seen him fight up close with a tight guard and not give much away, and we’ve seen him box at mid-range and long-range behind a good jab and straight punches. He also looks like he’s got good physical strength, so he’ll be able to stand toe-to-toe when he needs to.
“All in all, I think it will definitely be one of Golovkin’s hardest fights. I don’t think Murray will crumble or get taken out early. We’ve seen good, durable fighters like Matthew Macklin and Daniel Geale crumble early against him, but I don’t see Murray going that way.”