by Kieran Mulvaney
So does that answer the questions?
Gennady Golovkin hasn't fought anyone, they said. His highlight reel knockout wins have been over blown-up junior middleweights, they said. Wait until he fights a full-size middleweight like Matthew Macklin, they said.
Well, what are they saying now?
If they're anything like the several thousand fans and media in the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods on Saturday night, they may have trouble saying anything until they pick their slack jaws up off the ground. Nobody can know what the future holds, of course, but it's hard to escape the feeling that dominating Macklin and knocking him out with a third round body shot was for Golovkin what annihilating Michael Spinks was for Mike Tyson: the defining moment of tightly coiled, almost superhuman, power and intimidation.
Indeed, from the moment the opening bell rang, the fight had the air of Tyson in his prime: a wrecking ball of a fighter reducing the toughest of opponents to jelly before the first punch has even been thrown. Macklin (29-5, 20 KOs) knew what he had to do: keep Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs) at distance, flick out the jab, and not let him get close. But he did so with so little confidence that he was unable to keep his stalking predator at bay; the first couple of punches that landed seemed to confirm in Macklin's mind his sense that punishment was just around the corner, and then a straight right hand and left hook near the end of the first round sent the Anglo-Irishman into the ropes and seemingly on his way to an early exit.
About halfway through the second round, Macklin appeared to make the decision that his only option was to stand and fight, to either find a chance to win or go down trying. But, predictably, ramping up his own offense served principally to leave him more open to incoming artillery from his opponent. Each of Golovkin's scoring blows landed with a thudding echo heard, and felt, at ringside, none more so than the sudden blow that ended the contest.
Golovkin backed Macklin to the ropes, landed a hard right upstairs and then a ripping left hook to the body. Macklin's face contorted in pain and he dropped like a stone to the canvas, where he lay writhing in evident agony well past the time that referee Eddie Cotton had counted him out, even as Michael Buffer was announcing the result, even as the crowd continued to gasp and gawp in astonishment.
"That may have been the hardest body punch I ever saw," said Macklin promoter Lou DiBella at ringside afterward. "Certainly the best since Roy Jones knocked out Virgil Hill. I could hear that punch land. I think I heard something break."
Once he recovered, Macklin - who has fought the likes of Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm - was unequivocal in his praise for his conqueror.
"He's the best I ever fought," he said. "He never really let me get started. It was a great shot he landed. I tip my hat to him. He's a great champion. He has clubbing, solid power and you can feel the weight from every punch he throws."
The big difference between Golovkin and Spinks-era Tyson, of course, is that when he is not chopping down opponents with crushing punches, he does not have the same menace - he is, in fact, friendly and outgoing. His postfight words, though, were a clear challenge to the rest of the middleweight division:
"I felt great," he said. "This was an easy fight for me. Everything I wanted to do, I was able to do in the ring. He never hurt me. I want to fight again as soon as possible. Any top fighter, any champion, any belt holder, anytime anywhere. I am here."
Thomas "Tommy Gunn" Oosthuizen and Brandon Gonzales fought to a split decision draw in a co-main event that saw both super middleweights remain unbeaten. Gonzales (17-02, 10 KOs) started by far the stronger, beating Oosthuizen (21-0-2, 13 KOs) to the punch, landing lead right hands and mauling his opponent at close range. Halfway through, however, Oosthuizen, who looked sluggish in the early going, established his southpaw jab and began keeping the fight at a more comfortable distance as Gonzales' offense became more ragged. The crowd was unhappy with the verdict, but given the tale of two halves, it felt like a just one.
In the opening bout of the telecast, junior middleweight Willie Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KOs) survived a series of rough moments to score an unpopular but merited unanimous decision win over Luciano Cuello. Nelson started aggressively, attacking Cuello (32-3, 15 KOs) with hooks and right hands, but by the third round already looked as if he had already punched himself out, as his punch output dropped and the shorter Cuello was able to work inside and land some sharp punches - as well as an accidental headbutt, which opened a cut over Nelson's right eye. Nelson dominated when he kept Cuello at bay with his lanky left jab, but he was rocked again in the seventh and again in the tenth and final round, when Cuello rocked him repeatedly and Nelson hung on for dear life to survive.