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HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down Gennady Golovkin's second round KO of Marco Antonio Rubio and wonder what's next for the middleweight wrecking ball.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
There may be a middleweight out there somewhere who can withstand Gennady Golovkin, who can stand up to the combination of speed, power and skills that he brings to the table; but if there is, his identity remains a mystery. It certainly wasn’t Marco Antonio Rubio, who offered nary a punch in protest as we was swatted aside with consummate comfort and ease inside two rounds by a middleweight champion whose legend only grows with every foe he bowls over and every smile that spreads across his face in the aftermath of his increasingly dominant victories.
Golovkin has long dubbed his crowd-pleasing approach to pugilism as being “Mexican Style,” which was the name of the card at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on Saturday night. That the sport’s Mexican fans have embraced him as one of their own was underlined by the crowd of 9,323 – a venue record – that roared him on. The fact that the main event only gave them four and a half minutes of action didn’t dampen their enthusiasm one bit; if anything, it only whetted their appetite to see more of the Kazakh-born California resident.
Of the fight itself, there is little to say, other than that Golovkin demonstrated again that he is more than a hard puncher, or even an extremely hard one. His deceptively deft footwork cuts off the ring and forces his opponents into the position in which he wants them to be, and his otherworldly power is married to surprising hand speed, ensuring that not only do his punches explode with devastating authority, they arrive before their victims have a chance to prepare for or even see them.
That was certainly the case with the second-round blow that marked the beginning of the end for Rubio. After a first round that saw Rubio mostly moving and covering up as Golovkin tried a series of overhand rights, and which ended with a left-right combination that snapped back the Mexican’s head, Golovkin landed a big right hand that knocked Rubio into the ropes early in the second, and then dropped his hands to dig a left hook to the body before moving rapidly upstairs and rattling Rubio again. The challenger moved part way around the ring, Golovkin grazed him with a left hook and then launched a lightning fast right uppercut through the guard that caught him hard on the jaw. Seeing his opening, the champion opened up with another left hook and then a right that landed on the top of Rubio’s head. Rubio crumpled to the canvas along the ropes, and although he just about beat the count, referee Jack Reiss rightly waved it off.
Rubio protested the stoppage, and even asserted afterward that former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who defeated him in 2009, hit harder than Golovkin; the validity of that assertion, questionable anyway, was challenged by Rubio’s insistence that the final punch had landed on the back of his head, showing that he literally had no idea what hit him.
“I liked the fight. Rubio he does not step back; he is a good fighter, I respect him,” Golovkin offered kindly, before stating unequivocally that he would like to fight Miguel Cotto or, alternatively, make Canelo Alvarez a good boy. Before that happens, a date in Monaco beckons, perhaps in February, but given his reception on Saturday night, another date in California is surely on the cards as well.
“Those guys are not going to be knocking the door down to fight him,” said HBO commentator Roy Jones, referencing Golovkin’s intimidating power. “But now, fighting in LA he can draw a big crowd, so maybe those guys can get the pay-day to get into the ring with Golovkin.” Whether they would get into the ring with the expectation of victory is another matter, however. As Jones noted, “That uppercut will make you feel like you don't have a shot.” Based on the evidence to date, few people do.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
For two rounds, it appeared as if the skepticism had been wrong and the career obituaries were premature. Featherweight champion Nonito Donaire looked confident, his hand speed superior to that of opponent Nicholas Walters, and at the end of the second frame, he had Walters wobbled and hurt. Four rounds later, however, the fight was all over and a career might have ended too, as Donaire, for the first time in his storied career, was bloodied, battered and beaten inside the distance.
Walters had impressed in his last outing, annihilating Vic Darchinyan inside five rounds in May; in contrast, Donaire, after his four-victory Fighter of the Year pinnacle in 2012, had underwhelmed, losing a lopsided decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux and then scoring less-than-compelling wins over Darchinyan and Simphewe Veytaka. There was a sense that, with his family boosted by the arrival of a young son and following a reunion with his previously estranged father, Donaire’s mind might have been elsewhere and that the time may have been ripe for a changing of the guard. And so it proved, even if it didn’t initially appear that it would.
Donaire’s speed and combinations probably won him the first round. They certainly secured him the second, his short-range combinations inside the lankier Walters’ longer punches punctuated by a booming left hook that wobbled his Jamaican foe badly enough that had the bell not run to end the frame almost immediately, it is conceivable the outcome might ultimately have been different.
The bell did ring, however, to end the second round and again to begin the third, and it was in the third that the tide changed permanently, when a short right uppercut from Walters dropped Donaire to his haunches. The Filipino’s visit to the canvas was brief, and the two men exchanged furious exchanges at the end of the round, but now Donaire fully appreciated the extent to which Walters could hurt him, and the dynamic of the fight shifted permanently.
Donaire now sought to stay outside Walters’ long reach, as Walters stalked him behind a stiff jab. Repeatedly, Walters backed him to the ropes, and although Donaire fought his way out as best he could with explosive combinations, it was clear that Walters’ heavy hands were taking their toll. At the end of the fourth, Donaire retreated to his corner with blood streaming from his right eye, and his body language did not suggest a man confident in his fate.
Even so, the end came suddenly, and showed that Walters, as well as being an offensive machine, has deft defensive skills as well. An increasingly ragged Donaire launched a left hook from a distance, Walters leaned back out of the way, and before an out-of-position Donaire could set himself again, Walters launched a right hand that caught him high on the left side of the head. Donaire crashed to the canvas face-first, and although he somehow hauled himself to his feet, he was in no position to continue and referee Raul Caiz Jr. rightly waved it off.
Walters was magnanimous in victory.
“Donaire is a super, super boxer, and a great champion,” he said. But, he added, “I was bigger, younger, quicker, stronger, and more intelligent.”
Donaire willingly conceded what had happened.
“He knocked the shit out of me,” he said. “He's an amazing guy. I was at my best; I never trained this hard. I knew the power what he had inside the ring. The size he had over me, I couldn't even move.
I have to go back to the drawing board. I can't compete with a guy like Walters.”
He turned to Walters with one final compliment. “You’re amazing,” he said, and on this night at least he certainly was. Walters can seemingly look forward to a bright future. Donaire will go home and consider his.
Gennady Golovkin and Marco Antonio Rubio weigh-in ahead of Saturday's doubleheader on HBO beginning at 10pm ET/PT.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Over the course of fight week, fans, writers and opposing camps alike frequently resort to all manner of amateur psychiatry, interpretation of body language and divination of verbal utterances to try and establish a boxer’s mindset. A lot of time it’s a hopeless quest; whatever a fighter might say or however he might walk in the two or three days before a bout, what he is most likely thinking is that he is so indescribably hungry that he is sure he can feel his body eating itself.
Still, that doesn’t stop us from trying.
While there was no mistaking the confidence of featherweight Nicholas Walters as he took his turn working out for the media at a gym in Santa Monica this week (nor, indeed, was there any mistaking his ripped physique, or the eyes that opened wide among assembled observers when they saw it), the mood of opponent Nonito Donaire was more open to question. Win or lose, Donaire has generally been a reliably engaging interviewee, his expansive and friendly personality almost invariably on display. So what to make of his demeanor at that same workout, hidden behind enormous sunglasses and beneath an oversized baseball cap, and showing none of the energy in response to questioning that Walters had demonstrated?
Was it that, as so many have speculated, his heart is no longer in the game, that his focus is now directed more toward family mattersthan the hunger needed to swap punches with younger, stronger men? Or was it resentment at, or boredom with, being asked different variations of that very question?
Or maybe he was just hungry.
By the time of the press conference the following day, Donaire’s spirits seemed brighter – if not quite as bright as his suit – even if his words didn’t convey the confidence in victory that we normally expect of prizefighters in these circumstances. The frequent fight week sightings of a weary-looking Donaire heading back to his room after a visit to the gym led to some further inference that he was perhaps having some weight issues, but at the weigh-in on Friday, he looked trim and ready as he tipped the scales at 125.6lbs., the same as Walters.
There was, however, no disguising the mood of Marco Antonio Rubio, the designated opponent for Gennady Golovkin in Saturday’s main event, as he and his team approached the scale. It is rarely a good sign when a fighter’s handlers break out the towel to spare his blushes when, after just failing to make weight, he strips naked before a second attempt. It’s a distinctly worse sign when those handlers hold the towel in place before their man has even walked up to the stage, an acknowledgment in advance that he is going to miss weight by the proverbial mile.
And so he did, measuring in at 161.8 lbs., fully 1.8 lbs. above the middleweight limit. Rubio’s countenance was of a man who had drained himself trying to make the weight he did make, who was aghast at his failure to lose any more, and who would frankly at that moment rather have been anywhere else in the world.
It seems likely that that will be his thought on Saturday night, too, when he looks across the ring and sees Golovkin in the other corner. Golovkin, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, looked the epitome of effortless professionalism: hair neatly groomed, team outfits colorful and bright, body honed to perfection as he weighed in at 159. He posed for the cameras with relish, flexing his muscles and smiling; alongside him, Rubio looked a beaten man already, making the occasional half-hearted effort to pose triumphantly, but mostly wincing as if every move he made somehow hurt him.
Walters-Donaire just might be a Fight of the Year caliber contest, with no unanimity among prognosticators as to its likely outcome. Golovkin-Rubio is almost certain to be as much procession as prizefight, the latest stage in an ongoing coronation of the man from Kazakhstan as boxing’s Next Big Star. If there had been any doubt about the winner beforehand (and there really hadn’t), it evaporated on the scales in the southern California heat, as a beaming Golovkin basked in the adulation of his supporters, and Rubio gave impression of coming to terms that his Saturday evening appointment, while certain to be painful, would probably at least be mercifully brief.
Nonito Donaire 125.6 lbs.
Nicholas Walters 125.6 lbs.
Gennady Golovkin 159 lbs.
Marco Antonio Rubio 161.8 lbs. (Rubio had 2 hours to re-weigh and make the 160 lb. limit, but did not do so; instead he lost $100,000 from his purse.)
HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney reports from the Golovkin vs. Rubio final press conference in Carson, CA.