Gennady Golovkin puts on a show and a clinic with Lemieux stoppage
NEW YORK CITY – The showdown between Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux wasn’t the Hagler-Hearnsesque shootout that fans and the bout’s promoters hoped it would be.
The anticipated middleweight title unification bout went the way odds makers that viewed Golovkin as a 5-to-1 favorite had envisioned: another dominating performance for “GGG,” who systematically broke down his game but outclassed fellow power puncher to an eighth-round stoppage on Saturday.
However, the fight – which headlined an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast in the U.S. – delivered in another way: it was a true “event,” one that packed Madison Square Garden to the proverbial rafters with hardcore fans and bona-fide celebrities.
The atmosphere was as electric and intense as it was for any show headlined by Puerto Rican boxing idols Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.
In fact, the crowd of 20,548 gathered for Golovkin-Lemieux was the first time a boxing event has sold out the storied arena without Trinidad or Cotto – a span of at least 15 years, probably more.
The fact that Golovkin, a 33-year-old native of Kazakhstan who didn’t make his U.S. debut until September 2012, was able to sellout the Garden against a Montreal native, who had previously only fought once in America (in Brooklyn last December), is a minor miracle.
RING pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez, who defended his RING/WBC flyweight title against Brian Viloria in the co-featured bout (and the fight of the night), sold his share of tickets to a surprisingly large contingent of Nicaraguan fans, but it was clear who “the man” of the evening was once Golovkin stepped into the squared circle for his main event against Lemieux (who also had a large and vocal group cheering for him).
Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts) had the biggest and the loudest fan base, many of whom were from Kazakhstan and proudly waved their nation’s flag throughout the fight, but many of them were Americans and fans from other parts of the world who wore hats and T-shirts emblazoned with “GGG.”
In just three years after his U.S. debut, Golovkin has become one of the biggest boxing attractions in the country. He’s proven that he can bring in 10,000-plus fans in New York City and in the greater Los Angeles area. And despite limited English, he’s become a darling of the American sports media.
The big question is whether he can become star, one that shines beyond hardcore followers of the sport.
The number of pay-per-view buys HBO does will help answer that question. If Golovkin, who (along with Lemieux) was in his first U.S. pay-per-view event, pulls in around 300,000 buys – a number similar to what Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao garnered for their pay-per-view debuts – he may have a shot at crossing over.
“This is a big step for my career and my future,” Golovkin said during the post-fight press conference. “This was my first pay-per-view fight. Next for me is to unify all of the middleweight belts and to do more pay per view shows.”
Few doubt that he can become the undisputed 160-pound champ.
His dominance in the middleweight division, so far, cannot be questioned. Lemieux (34-3, 31 KOs) was Golovkin’s 21st consecutive stoppage victory. He defended his WBA title for the 15th time and added Lemieux’s IBF strap to his collection (which includes the WBC interim and IBO belts).
And he beat Lemieux with uncommon style and underrated skill.
Golovkin-Lemieux was billed as a showdown of the best punchers in the middleweight division – and it was. The middleweights have the highest KO percentages in their division (and most of the other weight classes).
However, Golovkin is more than an aggressive puncher. The world amateur champ and 2004 Olympic silver medalist reveals the fundamentals of boxing in his seek-and-destroy approach. He doesn’t just punch hard. He knows how to punch (technique), when to punch (timing) and where to punch (accuracy).
Golovkin landed 58 percent of his power punches (110 of 190), according to CompuBox stats. He landed 51 percent of his total punches (280 of 549), including a whopping 47 percent of his jabs (170 or 359).
Golovkin averaged 21 jabs per round, four times the middleweight average, according to CompuBox. That jab, along with his footwork and ring generalship, allowed Golovkin to be in complete control of the first five rounds of the bout.
“I think people thought this fight would be a crazy style of fight, like street fight, but not this time,” Golovkin said. “David is a big, strong middleweight, so I take my time and box.
“I respect David. He’s champion, but it was a different class. Today was boxing school for David.”
Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez wasn’t surprised by his top fighter’s skill and accuracy.
“People forget that he had 350 bouts as an amateur, and only lost five,” Sanchez said. “He can box. Today he wanted to show that he’s not just a banger.”
Golovkin carefully kept Lemieux at bay with his very stiff jab and repeatedly walked his game foe into an assortment of clean power shots. It was as though Golovkin knew what Lemieux was going to do before the 27-year-old Canadian did.
In Round 5, Golovkin dropped Lemieux with a hook to the body (and landed a short right while the Montreal native was on one knee).
Golovkin tried to close the show in Round 6, but his increased aggression allowed Lemiuex to land his vaunted hook to the head and body of his tormentor. Lemieux stepped up his aggression in Round 7 and continued to land punches, despite getting the worst of nearly every exchange.
By Round 8, referee Steve Willis was clearly concerned as Golovkin violently snapped Lemieux’s head back with jabs and crosses while he pressed the younger man to the ropes – where he landed a debilitating left to the body.
Lillis jumped in and stopped the fight at 1:32 of the round before Lemieux got seriously hurt.
“I’m a bit disappointed tonight,” Lemieux said during the post-fight press conference. “(Golovkin is) a good champion.
“His jab was a very good punch. That was his best punch of the night. He got me good.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure I’ll be seeing him in the future, somewhere down the line.”
Maybe. But not before Golovkin goes after the winner of the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez RING/WBC title bout that takes place on Nov. 21.
Tom Loeffler, of K2 Promotions, which promotes Golovkin, said his team will be looking for the winners of other upcoming middleweight title bouts – Andy Lee-Billy Joe Saunders (WBO) and Daniel Jacobs-Peter Quillin (WBA “regular”) – next year, but their primary target is the Cotto-Canelo winner.
The expectations for the Golovkin-Lemieux pay-per-view numbers were modest. That won’t be the case for Golovkin vs. the Cotto-Canelo winner.
“That’s the biggest fight that can be made in boxing for 2016,” said Loeffler.