Monday, March 13, 2017

GGG Vs. Jacobs: Big Fight Preview: Can Jacobs Spoil Gennady Golovkin's Garden Party?

Photo: Daily News

By Peter Silkov

On March 18, at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33koes) hopes to be one step closer to his, often mentioned, goal of becoming the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, by adding Daniel Jacob’s (32-1, 29koes) WBA belt, to his already impressive title haul. Golovkin holds the IBF, WBC, and IBO middleweight titles, in addition to being recognized by the WBA as its ‘super’ world champion, (the same WBA which sees Jacobs as its ‘regular’ world champion.) Such is the state of the sport today unfortunately, even the world boxing bodies themselves seem to be getting confused.

Photo: Sweet Science

However, aside from the muddle of boxing politics, and the seemingly never ending chain of world titles that now envelops boxing, there are few people today that follow the sport who do not recognize Gennady Golovkin as the true number one at 160 pounds. Some might produce an argument that Canelo Alvarez is the rightful linear world champion, due to his victory over Miguel Cotto, who himself had beaten Sergio Martinez, the fighter whom previously was recognized as the true world champion at 160 pounds. Yet, the Martinez, whom Cotto beat, was an injured fighter with a ruined knee, who could barely walk, let alone fight. Then Alvarez’s own point’s defeat of Cotto was a lukewarm display, rather than the kind of impressive dynamic performance that we have come to expect from Gennady Golovkin. Alvarez’s subsequent avoidance of a showdown with Golovkin, and his decision to take on welterweight Amir Khan, then move back down to light-middleweight and fight Liam Smith for the lightly regarded WBO title, has largely nullified his claims of being the real-world champion at 160 pounds. The fact that Canelo is now due to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., on May 6th, at a weight limit of 165 pounds, after his well-documented protestations that he is ‘not yet a full middleweight’ has made Canelo’s position even more absurd.

The bottom line is that Gennady Golovkin is currently the best fighter at 160 pounds, by quite a long way. Indeed, it is hard not to make an argument for him being one of the top fighters today pound-for-pound, at any weight. The big question is, can Daniel Jacobs do anything to change this on March 18? The fight takes place a day after St. Patrick’s Day, and Jacobs may well need a bit of the luck of the Irish against his Kazakhstan born opponent. 

One of the criticisms aimed at Golovkin is that he has ‘not fought anyone’ of significance during his career and title reign. While it is true that Golovkin hasn’t had the kind of defining fight which all great champions need to bring the best out of them, and to truly show their greatness, it is hard to find anyone that he has avoided.

Photo: The Sun
Golovkin’s resume as world champion includes solid contenders such as Martin Murray, Matthew Macklin, Gabriel Rosado, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio, Curtis Stevens, and David Lemieux. Of course, he is waiting on Canelo Alvarez, but of course, he’s not a true middleweight, so it might be a long wait. Also, there is WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders, but he seems to be in no hurry to meet Golovkin in the ring either. Miguel Cotto is another name absent from Golovkin’s record, but once again, Cotto made no secret about his lack of enthusiasm regarding a meeting with Golovkin between the ropes.

This will be Golovkin’s 17th defence of his world title and comes at a crucial point of his title reign. In his most recent outing, six months ago, Golovkin took on IBF welterweight title holder Kell Brook, stopping him in 5 rounds. Despite giving Brook a thorough going over, and breaking his eye socket in the process, it was not a polished performance by the champion. Furthermore, Golovkin received some strong criticism in some areas for defending his title against a ‘smaller’ man, even though the record books tell us that he was by no means the first middleweight champion to defend his title against a welterweight champion. Just four months previously Canelo Alvarez had himself demolished welterweight Amir Khan, who does not even hold a significant title at welterweight. 

Photo: Sky Sports
Despite the finality of his victory over Brook, who finished dazed and bloodied in the 5th round, Golovkin did not look his best. His defence was sloppy and even the usual sharpness of his punches was missing. There is little doubt that against Jacobs, Golovkin will need to be as sharp as he was when he fought David Lemieux. Jacobs is a good boxer, with a dangerous punch, and Golovkin, despite his reputation of having an excellent chin, would be well-advised to sharpen up his sometimes leaky defence.

If Golovkin has a weakness, it could well be his own success. He has become accustomed to being able to walk through his opponents and at times disregard defence. It is bad habits like this that could eventually lead to Golovkin’s downfall one day, if he is not careful. There is a suspicion that his long run of title defences, along with his increasing years, has perhaps taken a little of the shine from the now 34-year-old Golovkin. Despite his image, Golovkin is human after all, and at the age of 34, it would be natural if he were starting to physically slip from his peak.  Certainly, this is something which several of his possible future opponents are only too keen to see happen.

With this in mind, it is important for Gennady Golovkin to perform against Daniel Jacobs. Saturday’s fight is a chance for Gennady to show that he is still a finely tuned fighting machine. He will not want to just win, but win impressively. Especially with a possible big showdown with the elusive Canelo Alvarez, still being constantly talked about.

Photo: Bleacher Report
When looking at Jacobs’ record, one thing that becomes clear is that his opposition has largely been a lower level than that of Golovkin’s. Jacobs’ most impressive victories have come in his last two contests, beating Sergio Mora in seven rounds, and Peter Quillin in one round. The Quillin fight especially showed that Jacobs has formidable punching power. Jacobs’ lone career defeat so far has been a July 2010 defeat to Dmitry Pirog for the WBO middleweight title, when he was stopped in 5 rounds by the promising Pirog (who never fought again due to a back injury.)  It seems unlikely that Jacobs will be able to outbox Golovkin for 12 rounds. Not only is Golovkin a far better boxer than he is generally credited for, but it is doubtful that Jacobs has the mixture of durability and boxing skills to last 12 rounds with Golovkin, and win a decision. Jacobs’ best chance of victory seems to be to land one or more of his big bombs upon Golovkin’s chin and hope that he can crack GGG’s whiskers. To do this, he must try and put Golovkin under the kind of pressure that Gennady’s previous opponents have not managed to do, and try to break the GGG man that way.  No easy task against a fighter who has barely been shook up by a punch as a professional, let alone severely hurt or knocked down.

The truth is, when he wants to, Golovkin, can dodge or ride punches with ease, and can be a much harder target to hit than is generally believed.  He is far from being simply a one-dimensional brawler with a big punch. These facets about Golovkin are the real secrets of his long-running success. Unless his recent display against Kell Brook was a real indication that he is now in decline as a fighter, Gennady Golovkin will simply have too much of everything for Daniel Jacobs on the March 18th. 

Photo: Real Combat Media
Like most of Golovkin’s fights, this is a clash which should be exciting while it lasts, but with the stronger boxing skills, the better power and superior durability, Golovkin looks certain to take Jacobs apart bit by bit, before stopping him. If Jacobs tries to box Golovkin he will last into about the 6 to 8th rounds, but if he goes for the high-risk strategy of going toe-to-toe with Golovkin, then the chances are that he will be caught early himself, and stopped sometime in the first 3 rounds.

On March 18, Golovkin will once again show that he is a level or two above simply being just a ’good’ fighter. Of course, ironically, his main problem is that in truth he is too good for his own good. 

The Golovkin vs. Jacobs main event will be supported by a fight that may well steal the show, with Roman ’Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (46-0, 38koes) making the first defence of his WBC world super-flyweight title against Wisaksil Wangek (41-4-1, 38 koes), in a match which could well prove to be the fight of the night.

Photo: Boxing Scene
This will be Gonzalez’s first outing since he won the WBC super-flyweight crown from Carlos Cuadras, in what was one of the fights of the year for 2016, and undoubtedly the hardest fight of Gonzalez’s unbeaten career. Gonzalez became the first Nicaraguan to win a world title at 4 weights against Cuadras. Yet, he was also shown, by the slippery and speedy Cuadras, that life at the higher weight may perhaps be harder than he first thought. Although he prevailed in the end, and won a close decision over Cuadras, ‘Chocolatito’ ended the fight with his face bruised and battered, while the deposed champion remained largely unmarked. There were signs in this fight against that Gonzalez’s famed strength and power had perhaps not moved up with him from the lower flyweight division.

Against Wangek, Gonzalez will be facing a fighter with a much more straight- forward, aggressive, fighting style, which should suit him, in comparison to the flashy and slick boxing skills of Cuadras.  Yet the Thai challenger will be a formidable opponent in his own right. He is himself a former holder of Gonzalez’s WBC world title, having lost it in 2014 on a close technical decision to the same Carlos Cuadras whom Gonzalez beat for the title last year. Since that setback, Wangek has won 14 fights in a row to qualify for this shot at his old crown. Wangek is a battle-hardened fighter who recovered from losing three of his first five professional contests after he was thrown in the deep end at the start of his career against the likes of Akira Yaegashi, and Kenji Oba.

‘Chocolatito’ usually enjoys having fighters come straight at him, and this is what Wangek is likely to do, and the hard-punching challenger will certainly test Gonzalez’s strength at this higher weight. If the lighter punching, Cuadras, could produce moments of discomfort for Gonzalez with his punches, then can the heavier punching Wangek go a step further.  The answer to this question could make for a fascinating and exciting title fight. 

Roman Gonzalez fully deserves the plaudits, that he is finally getting at this stage of his career. He is a great all-round boxer-fighter, with the kind of skills which makes you cast your mind back to the great champions of the past. He has also earned his place at the top of the pound-for-pound tree by facing all his major challengers throughout three weight divisions, over the past eight years. It is a bitter irony, that despite all this, Gonzalez still finds himself given the short end of the purses, when compared to his larger, yet far less accomplished, fellow fighters.

With this mind Gonzalez, will want to produce an impressive performance against Wangek, and set up what would be a very interesting rematch with Carlos Cuadras, that hopefully will finally bring Gonzalez some of the big purse money, which he so richly deserves.  

Gonzalez will be attempting to show that he has now become acclimatized at his new weight division against Wangek, and that the mixture of skills and strength, which he held at the lower weights, has not been depleted. This is likely to be a tough fight with some entertaining toe-to-toe encounters, but Gonzalez if he is on form, should be able to out-slick Wangek with his superior boxing skills, and slowly break him down, on the way to scoring an impressive late rounds stoppage. This is certainly a fight that will tell us whether Gonzalez is as much a force at super-flyweight, as he was at the lower weights, or has he finally taken that one step too far. 

Also on the Madison Square Garden under card:

Carlos Cuadras (35-1-1, 27koes) faces the useful David Carmona (20-3-5, 8koes) with a win a must if he is to set up a rematch with ’Chocolatito’ for later this year.

Andy Lee (34-3-1, 24koes) returns to the ring for the first time since losing his WBO world middleweight title to Billy Joe Saunders 15 months ago.  Lee faces KeAndrae Leatherwood (19-3-1, 12koes) in what is another ’must win’ fight if Lee is to get back into serious title contention.

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