by Kieran Mulvaney
In swift succession, Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (GGG to his friends) has moved from YouTube sensation to HBO debutant to bona fide main event star. His clash with Matthew Macklin on Saturday would be reason enough to tune into Boxing After Dark; but there are two intriguing undercard contests on the broadcast, featuring young prospects and contenders looking to make their own names in weight classes just below and above the one through which Golovkin is presently prowling menacingly.
Thomas Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs) vs Brandon Gonzales (17-0, 10 KOs), super middleweights
Ossthuizen, a 6’4” southpaw from South Africa, rarely fights tall, despite the physical advantages he brings into the ring. He is a fighter more than a boxer: his jab is tapping rather than thunderous and is used mostly to set up a strong left hand, and he gives up his height – and as a result gets hit – in his determination to land his punches. His 22 fights include matchups against solid opposition, such as fellow countryman Isaac Chilemba and tough veteran Fulgencio Zuniga.
Gonzales is in comparison relatively untested. A well-regarded amateur, he turned professional at the late age of 23, but has had just 17 fights in six years since then and has yet to go past eight rounds. Perhaps his most notable win to date was over veteran Ossie Duran in late 2011; at 29, he needs to seize the opportunity against Oosthuizen to make a meaningful move up the rankings. Conversely, Oosthuizen will feel that an impressive victory will put him in the frame for bigger bouts at world championship level. With both men likely to eschew defense in favor of aggression, it promises to be an action-packed appetizer to the main course.
Willie Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) vs Luciano Cuello (32-2, 16 KOs), junior middleweights
The opening bout of the telecast matches Ohio’s Nelson against Cuello, an Argentine with a straight-up style and a solid left hook and right hand. Cuello fought valiantly in a close decision loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2009 but was completely outgunned by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez a year later, being dropped twice early before a sixth-round stoppage. Those are his only two defeats; but they are also the only two occasions on which Cuello has truly stepped up in class.
Similarly, Nelson’s career is to this point one of potential rather than achievement. The lanky (6’3”) prospect from Youngstown was outhustled and outfought in his lone loss, an eight-round decision defeat to Vincent Arroyo two years ago; but he has rebounded strongly, with upset decision wins over Yudel Jhonson and, on the undercard of Sergio Martinez’s win over Chavez, John Jackson (son of Hall-of-Famer Julian Jackson). Most recently, he dropped Michael Medina twice – the first time with a short counter right hand off the ropes – en route to a first round stoppage win at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, the same location as Saturday’s contest. He likely will be looking to steer the come-forward Cuello onto similar punches, doubtless seeking to fire straight rights between his opponent’s generally wider blows.