HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down recent victories for Gennady Golovkin and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and place the fighters on their top 10 pound-for-pound lists.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
The Gennady Golovkin Big Drama Show rolls on. Saturday night’s crowd of 12,372 at the Fabulous Forum was the latest to exult in a powerful performance from the Kazakh-born California resident; and Willie Monroe Jr. is the most recent pretender to be swatted aside by Triple G’s sledgehammer blows and torqued combinations. But despite taking a fearful battering early in the contest, Monroe refused to yield and even staged a determined rally before Golovkin’s power ultimately overcame his dogged determination.
What makes Monroe’s performance all the more impressive is that it manifested itself in a manner that was the polar opposite of what was expected. The self-styled mongoose likes to deploy the Cuban style that was taught to him by his grandfather, great-uncle and father, all of them boxers: using footwork and silky boxing style to hit without being hit. But, forced to throw out that plan, he instead stood and fought Golovkin in the trenches, falling short because he lacked firepower to go along with his undoubted heart.
Monroe began the contest the way he was expected to: circling his foe and pumping out a fast southpaw jab. But from the outset, Golovkin was stalking, cutting off the ring, showing no respect for Monroe’s punches, sending stiff jabs to the body to slow down his opponent and looking to land hard hooks and right hands to grind him to a halt. Already, by the end of that first round, Monroe appeared to be less mobile than he would like to be as Golovkin’s early punches took their toll; and in the second, it appeared as if the crowd would be in for an early night as the champion’s slow burning offense burst into furious flame.
Golovkin backed Monroe into a corner, walked through a right hand, feinted to throw a right of his own and then uncorked a sensational left hook that caused Monroe to pitch forward and crash on to the canvas. Somehow, the American beat the count, but the end seemed in sight as a Golovkin assault put him down again. The champion was battering his challenger against the ropes as the round closed, and the bell to end that round was met with palpable relief on Monroe’s face.
Monroe (19-2, 6 KOs), would have been forgiven had he chosen to fold up his tent and go home, but instead he fought back in the only way that was open to him. No longer able to use his weakened legs to move his winded torso around the ring, he stood in front of Golovkin, landing combinations to his pursuer’s body. In fact, he nearly won that third round, and he certainly won the fourth, stepping up his efforts by bouncing punches off the champion’s face, a declaration of resistance that was met by Golovkin waving him in for more.
Asked what was going through his mind as he staged his revival, Monroe said that he was “thinking of his grandfather,” but as impressive as his resolve was, there was always the sense that Golovkin was a big cat toying with his prey. In the fifth, Monroe’s momentum began to ebb, as Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) stepped forward with greater intent. An uppercut/hook/right hand sequence caused Monroe’s legs to buckle; somehow he was able to avoid touching the canvas, but another combination wobbled him again.
The end was now a formality, and it came in the sixth. Another hook hurt Monroe again, followed by another uppercut and another right. A sequence of four straight hooks found their target and once again Monroe’s legs bent as he forced himself through sheer will to remain upright. But he was almost finished, and another barrage put him down one more time. And although he rose once more, he did not look enamored of the idea of returning to combat and indeed, under questioning by referee Jack Reiss, admitted that, “I’m done.”
“I’m very happy with my performance,” Golovkin said afterward. “I thought it was another big drama show. Willie is a good fighter, but I know I had him hurt.”
“What the fans saw tonight was 70-80 percent of how good he really is,” stated Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez. “We’re not going to show him at 100 percent until we absolutely have to.”
As for which opponents might be the ones who would merit a display of Golovkin at his best, the fighter himself left no doubt who would like to face, and when.
“I want Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto,” he proclaimed. “Not in the future. Now.”
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
For some years now, the most hardcore of hardcore boxing fans have been screaming for the world to pay attention to a tiny package of boxing talent from Nicaragua. On Saturday, the broader boxing public finally had a chance to see Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in action, and the flyweight champion of the world didn’t disappoint, obliterating veteran former title holder Edgar Sosa inside of two exciting, fast-paced rounds.
This was the kind of performance of which fighters dream, and over which TV network executives salivate, a massively-touted champion not only living up to the hype, but knocking it out with a barrage of blows.
The first 30 seconds of the contest were relatively slow and quiet. The remaining five or so minutes were anything but. As Sosa circled, Gonzalez stalked, cutting off the ring and not allowing his rival a moment of rest. Once he found his punching range, it was just a matter of time, Chocolatito signaling his intent with a pair of wicked left hooks, the second of which caused Sosa to lift his right foot off the canvas. A right hand followed, landing cleanly and brutally. Then a furious flurry as Sosa retreated across the ring and into the ropes. The Mexican dropped to his knees under the onslaught, but only after a Gonzalez push down on his shoulders. Somehow, Sosa found the resolve to fight back, but the Gonzalez offense in full flight is a beautiful thing, and the Nicaraguan time and again reset his feet into the perfect position from which to launch exceptional combinations, wasting barely a solitary punch as he laid waste to Sosa’s body and head.
Sosa survived the first round; he would not make it out of the second. From the outset, Gonzalez targeted Sosa’s head and body without mercy until a crunching right hand caused Sosa to stagger sideways and down for the first official knockdown. He beat the count, and Gonzalez pursued him into a corner, where he unleashed another savage combination, punctuated by another right that put Sosa down again. One more time, Sosa hauled himself to his feet, but Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) would not be denied. He pinned Sosa to the ropes, assaulted him brutally with a blistering flurry, and when Sosa fell for the third time, referee Raul Caiz Sr waved it off without a count.
“With the grace of God and through my training with [late compatriot and Hall-of-Famer] Alexis Arguello, I was able to put on a performance like this,” Gonzalez said. “I am so happy to be here on HBO. I’m very happy with my performance. He was a tough fighter, but my power made the difference.”
“He's good,” Sosa acknowledged. “He surprised me, but he’s a very good fighter. I can’t tell if he’s the best because it only went two rounds. If the fight had gone longer, I would know more.”
The fact that it didn’t underlines just how good Gonzalez is. So good, in fact, that his first HBO fight surely won’t be his last.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Ask Gennady Golovkin why he chose to fight Willie Monroe Jr., out of all possible opponents, on Saturday night, and he’ll tell you it isn’t in spite of Monroe’s awkward, challenging style, but because of it.
“First of all, he’s southpaw,” he told a small gathering of reporters in Los Angeles earlier this week. “It’s different for me. Canelo had problems with Lara; Cotto had problems with Trout – it’s a different style facing a southpaw. It’s very interesting for me. It’s my motivation. It’s a new test for me. I want to show my fans, my team, that I can beat any style. It’s very interesting for me. I know it’s not easy.”
His trainer Abel Sanchez, however, sees it as perhaps less of a challenge than does the fighter himself.
“In the amateurs, he fought a lot of southpaws, like Sergey Kovalev, Andy Lee, Lucian Bute,” he said. “But that was over three rounds. Willie can be slick the first few rounds, like in the amateurs, but then he’s going to have to still deal with him after that. He does present some movement, but I’ve noticed in some of Willie’s fights, when he gets a little confident, he tends to hang out on the ropes a little. He can’t do that against Gennady, or it’s goodnight.”
And for all the focus on Golovkin’s power – which is understandable given that he is currently riding a 19-fight KO streak – sometimes overlooked is his ring generalship, and in particular his ability to cut off the ring against his opponent.
“Oh, absolutely,” agreed Sanchez. “After three rounds, he’s going to have him figured out, he’s going to know where he’s going and how he’s going, and when he’s going to be there – and when he does, it’s going to be difficult for Willie.”
It is a measure of Golovkin’s dominance that the highest level of intrigue surrounding his latest title defense is not whether he might lose (few people who are not called Monroe truly expect that to happen) but how long it will take him to figure his opponent out and stop him.
Still, as promoter Tom Loeffler points out, that same dominance scares off a lot of potential opponents, “and Willie Monroe Jr. is a solid guy and he wanted the fight, and that’s why we have to give him a lot of respect. All Gennady can do is fight whoever gets into the ring with him. His career is dependent on his activity and how he looks in the ring.”
That level of activity has played almost as big a role as his knockout power in developing his fan base. Saturday’s bout with Monroe will be his ninth since making his HBO debut against Grzegroz Proksa in September 2012, and when it is pointed out to him that champions seven or eight years his junior nowadays frequently fight just twice a year – roughly half his pace – he animatedly exclaims, “I don’t know why!” He likes to fight; and for all the talk of future big match ups with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, or Andre Ward, for now the focus is very much on his next fight, with Monroe – and what Golovkin, at least, hopes will be a tough challenge on Saturday night.
Monroe certainly looked ready to rumble at Friday’s weigh-in at the Forum, where Saturday’s fight will take place. He had mentioned to reporters that he had invested more effort than usual during camp in weight training, as a way to combat Golovkin’s strength, and it showed as he tipped the scales at a ripped 160 lbs. Golovkin himself came in one pound under the middleweight limit, at 159 lbs.
In the co-main event, flyweight challenger Edgar Sosa initially weighed a fraction over the limit at 112.2 lbs., but somehow found weight to lose from his frame and made weight on his second try. Champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, making his much-anticipated HBO debut, came in at 111 lbs.
Gennady Golovkin 159 lbs.
Willie Monroe Jr. 160 lbs.
Roman Gonzalez 111 lbs.
Edgar Sosa 112 lbs
Watch a replay of Friday's Golovkin-Monroe weigh-in from the Forum in Los Angeles.