By Eric Raskin
"Right now, I don't see a weakness in Gennady Golovkin."
That was former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones' answer to the question of what weaknesses Daniel Geale, the next opponent of the Kazakh sensation known as "GGG," might look to exploit. And Jones' comment speaks to the general perception of Golovkin: In less than two years of fighting on American television, he has fashioned a reputation as the most ducked, most feared, most dangerous, least flawed boxer in the sport today. No man is invincible, of course. But an aura of invincibility goes a long way, and GGG has managed to cloak himself in one on par with anything since the prime of Mike Tyson.
Geale is a world-class middleweight fighter, a solid opponent in every respect. He has never been knocked out, has only lost twice -- by split decision each time -- and carries himself with a quiet confidence. Against anyone else at 160 pounds, from Peter Quillin to Martin Murray to the reigning lineal champ Miguel Cotto, the Aussie would be given a reasonable chance at victory. But against Golovkin on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, nobody is picking Geale.
It's not a sign of disrespect toward Geale. It's a measure of the remarkable rate of growth of the Golovkin myth.
We use the word "myth" not because Golovkin's talents are in any way a work of fiction, but rather because the perception has moved ahead of the proof. That's the lone knock on GGG: That his opposition thus far has been a series of B-listers. But what he's done against that opposition? It's enough to make your eyes bug out.
Golovkin's 16 straight knockouts on his record of 29-0 with 26 KOs speaks to his power, but that's only half of what makes him the most buzzed-about fighter in the game. According to CompuBox stats, his plus/minus (difference between his connect percentage and that of his opponents) is the second best in the sport behind only Floyd Mayweather; he's number one in all of boxing in jabs landed per round with more than double the CompuBox average; and he ranks fifth in opponents' connect percentage, behind only recognized defensive standouts Guillermo Rigondeaux, Mayweather, Anselmo Moreno, and Erislandy Lara. The suggestion is that Golovkin is just as skilled as a boxer as he is lethal as a puncher.
Again, his quality of opposition (largely a function of the next best middleweights not seeing the point in facing him) is the caveat to all of the statistics. But you look at the numbers and the highlight-reel knockouts and you get why nobody gives Geale a chance. Unless you're talking about the chance that he'll extend Golovkin further than anyone else has yet.
"Danny possesses the ability to go 12 rounds," acknowledged GGG's trainer Abel Sanchez, "and I think that is going to be the big issue -- to see if [Golovkin] can control a man and dominate a man that is used to going 12 rounds."
The only other time Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) fought in America, 11 months ago in Atlantic City, he went those 12 rounds and dropped a split decision to Darren Barker. Of all Golovkin's knockouts, probably the most oft-replayed has been his bodyshot stoppage of Matthew Macklin; against Barker, Geale showed that he is no slouch in the body-banging department, coming about a half-second away from a sixth-round knockout. It's a performance Geale is hoping to build on, and one he knows he needs to do better than if he's to topple the monster that is GGG.
"The Barker fight was frustrating -- knocking him down in the sixth and not getting the decision," the 33-year-old Geale said. "But you have to take it on the chin and come back from that. I didn't dwell on it too long... I want to fight the best fighters and I want to win some titles and there is only one way to do that. You have to get in there and test yourself against the best fighters in the world."
So how does Geale turn this into a test for Golovkin instead of just a test for himself?
"I'd tell him to make the fight an ugly fight," suggested HBO analyst Jones. "Don't fight him at close quarters. Try to get Golovkin disinterested in the fight. Don't let him make contact and don't make contact with him when he wants to, because if he can lure you into a slug-out, that's what he wants. Golovkin knows he's stronger, he's more powerful, he's quicker; he's just an exceptional fighter and an exceptional boxer. He has so much experience and he's so good at what he does that he doesn't mind gambling against anybody. But a guy like Geale can't afford to gamble with him because he'll hurt Geale. Geale has to be smart and make it tactical in an ugly way."
Golovkin and Geale actually fought as amateurs way back in 2001, in the finals of the East Asian Games. Golokvin won, and though Geale acknowledges the memories are a touch fuzzy, he thinks GGG dropped him in the fight.
Golovkin was asked last week where his prodigious power comes from. "It comes from hard work every day on my speed and my timing coming all together for the power," he responded. "The timing is very important. I am not a body builder—it is natural power, it's original."
GGG thought he was going to put that power to use against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on this date, but the fight couldn't be finalized and Golovkin had to settle to for something a little lower profile (even if Geale is a more proven, decorated professional than Chavez). Could Golovkin have a letdown after coming so close to signing for a major pay-per-view? Could he be at all rusty after a layoff of almost six months, his longest since 2011? Could he lose focus as a result of headlining in MSG's "big room" for the first time?
Geale had better hope the answer to at least one of those questions is yes, because a full-strength, on-point Golovkin is looking close to unbeatable these days. There's a reason so many of the best fighters from 154-168 pounds are reluctant to face him. Geale is hoping to show us there's a reason he's decided to be an exception to that rule.