by Kieran Mulvaney
In some ways, the weigh-in for tomorrow's middleweight title bout between defending champion Gennady Golovkin and challenger Curtis Stevens reflected the spirit of the city in which it was taking place: somewhat hectic, taking place amid a crush of people in a confined space, and yet contriving to work out just fine.
Amid it all, of course, Golovkin, making his second appearance as a professional fighter in New York City, was the picture of calm contentment, smiling as he weighed in at 159.6 pounds – four-tenths of a pound inside the middleweight limit – and again as he made his way out of the packed room. Stevens entered and exited as the underdog, and though his demeanor carried none of the happily relaxed mien of his opponent, he exuded a composed confidence befitting a man with three first-round knockouts in his last four fights.
Retired British favorite Ricky Hatton would often dryly observe of his chosen profession that "it isn't exactly a tickling contest," and true as that it is of any matchup between professional pugilists, it is all the more so of the two boxers who will square off in The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Since returning from a two-year hiatus, Stevens has dispatched all but one of his foes – the granite-tough Derrick Findley – before the end of the opening round. Meanwhile, only three of Golovkin's 27 opponents have made it to the final bell, none of them since 2008.
Viewed at from one angle, it is possible that Sunday's headlines will look more negatively on Saturday's loser than positively on the winner: If Golovkin wins, it will be because he was expected to, because he is the sport's latest unstoppable force and Stevens was an unworthy speed bump on his road to success. If Stevens wins, it will be because those who remained unconvinced about Golovkin's path of destruction were right to be skeptical, and because the Kazakh terror was in fact a mirage that disappeared as soon as it was confronted with Stevens' patented left hook.
Looked at less cynically, it seems destined to be an explosive matchup, and an intriguing one at that – although largely, it must be admitted, for the opportunity it provides to ask further questions of Golovkin. Any time a fighter explodes onto fight fans' collective consciousness, particularly when he does so with an undefeated record and a string of knockouts, he carries with him a bushel of what-ifs. What if he meets an awkward southpaw? What if he faces a genuine world title contender? What if he takes an explosive punch from a knockout artist? Golovkin has already answered the first two by destroying Grzegorz Proksa and Matthew Macklin respectively; at some stage during Saturday night's proceedings, he'll surely be forced to respond to the third.
Still, it is not the responsibility of boxers to pay heed to or concern themselves with the endless trials invented by boxing fans and media. Their task is to enter the ring and fight. Golovkin and Stevens are two men who on Saturday will most assuredly do just that.