Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
In the end, it wasn’t quite the Hagler-Hearns redux that many had anticipated. Despite carrying a total of 61 career KOs from 67 wins as professionals, Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux did not engage in a brief but brutal slugfest; instead, the technical dominance of Golovkin, as much as his heavy hands, carried him to a one-sided win over a game Lemieux, who never stopped attempting to land the powerful punch that might have turned the contest in his favor, but was ultimately rescued from himself by referee Steve Willis in the eighth round.
For all the talk of both men’s power, it was clear from the opening seconds that the Golovkin jab would be the key to the fight, as he speared Lemieux with it from the very beginning of the bout, snapping back his opponent’s head and teeing up punishing overhand rights to the temple. Always efficient and effective with his jab, Golovkin tonight landed 170 of 359 thrown according to CompuBox, a connect percentage of 47 percent, and an average of 21 jabs landed per round – four times that of the typical middleweight.
Whereas Lemieux was a man in constant motion, a blur of upper-body activity culminating in right hands flung in his foe’s direction, Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs) was calmness personified, stalking his prey methodically and stepping subtly out of range of those increasingly desperate rights. The first sign of the trouble that lay ahead for Lemieux came in the second, when a Golovkin hook lifted the Canadian’s foot off the floor and a follow-up right hand knocked him into the ropes.
To his credit, Lemieux (34-3, 31 KOs) chose to fight fire with fire, but even as his aggression increased, the effectiveness of it did not. As if in the Matrix, Golovkin seemed largely able to slip and parry Lemieux’s punches, and even those that did land rarely did so flush. Forced to launch power punches from a distance, Lemieux seldom had his feet fully under him and accordingly failed to generate the power that had proven so effective his previous foes. Golovkin, in contrast, rarely seemed out of position, always appeared balanced and set, always staring at Lemieux and hunting and breaking him down.
It is one of Golovkin’s great qualities that he is able to switch up his punches without warning, and after thudding Lemieux’s face and head with jabs and overhand rights, he dug a left to the body in the fifth that froze his foe before the man from Montreal, on a delayed reaction, took a step back and dropped to his knee.
Golovkin, dialed in on his attack, landed a punch to Lemieux’s head before Willis could interfere and the horrified thought occurred that if Lemieux were to collapse to the canvas, the result could be a controversial disqualification. But Golovkin immediately apologized profusely and Lemieux, to his credit, chose continued combat over a Purple Heart and a ticket home; but it was a battle he looked decreasingly likely to win.
Lemieux nonetheless perhaps fought his hardest in the sixth and seventh, flinging right hands as best he could, but it was to no avail. Another body shot hurt Lemieux again in the eighth, another flurry of punches backed him to the ropes, yet one more body shot had him wincing and retreating and glancing at Willis, and then the referee stepped in to bring it all to an end at 1:32 of the round. Out of context, the stoppage may have seemed slightly strange, but Lemieux’s hopes of victory had all but been extinguished and there was no need for him to take further punishment.
Despite the one-sided nature of his loss, Lemieux remained defiant at the end.
“I'll meet him in the near future,” he said. “I'll keep my mouth shut tonight. But I'll see him in the future.”
Golovkin, however, having added Lemieux’s middleweight belt to his own, has his eyes focused elsewhere.
“My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division,” he said, and then turned his attention to the 20,548 fans who had packed Madison Square Garden. “I told you this was a very important fight. I give my fans and friends a big show. Thank you my fans. Thank you my people.”