Boxer-puncher matches are the lifeblood of matchmakers but for fans there's nothing like a slugger vs. slugger showdown. On Saturday, Gennady Golovkin, whose .889 knockout percentage is the highest ever among middleweight titlists, will meet Curtis Stevens, who has scored three sensational first-round stoppages in his last four fights. The potential pyrotechnics may well represent an early Thanksgiving present for boxing fans worldwide.
Beyond the obvious power stats, there are other numbers that may shape the outcome. They include:
Kazakhstan's Master Blaster: Like Leo Santa Cruz and Sergey Kovalev, Golovkin has merged supreme volume punching with extraordinary accuracy. Although Golovkin's output dropped precipitously in his most recent outing against Matthew Macklin (only 47.3 per round), his previous seven CompuBox-tracked bouts saw him average 71.6, well above the 56.9 middleweight average.
But while Golovkin's output dropped against Macklin, his precision surged off the charts. He landed 50% of his total punches, 48% of his jabs and 52% of his power punches -- far above the middleweight aveages of 32%, 23% and 38% respectively. That continues a trend that saw Golovkin land 51% overall, 49% jabs and 54% power versus Ishida and 42% overall, 38% jabs and 47% power against Gabriel Rosado. In his U.S. debut last September against Grzegorz Proksa, Golovkin's accuracy was down (34% overall, 24% jabs, 40% power) but he still out-landed the Pole 101-38 (overall), 27-9 (jabs) and 74-29 (power) before impressively putting him away in the fifth.
Unlike most aggressors, Golovkin is deceptively difficult to hit thanks to his extraordinary amateur background, which was capped off by a silver medal in the 2004 Athens games. His last several opponents have had a tough time drawing a bead:
Macklin -- 25% overall, 11% jabs, 38% power
Ishida -- 19% overall, 17% jabs, 21% power
Rosado -- 22% overall, 15% jabs, 28% power
Proksa -- 18% overall, 11% jabs, 21% power
Fuchigami -- 10% overall, 3% jabs, 30% power
In other words, Golovkin's all-around game epitomizes the well-known axiom of "hit and not be hit" and that's why he's rated among the best pound-for-pound fighters on earth.
In a New York Groove: Ever since returning from a 26-month layoff in March 2012, the 28-year-old Stevens has showcased both the crippling left-handed power that marked the first phase of his career with an emotional maturity not previously shown.
The first two fights were one-round blowouts of Romaro Johnson and Elvin Ayala that lasted a combined 216 seconds. Against Ayala, Stevens was 9 of 22 overall (41%) and 6 of 13 in power shots (46%) while Ayala barely touched him (2 of 19, 11% overall, 1 of 5, 20% power). That fight set the stage for his bout with veteran gatekeeper Derrick Findley, whose durability forced Stevens to display impressive new wrinkles.
When Findley refused to fall to Stevens' patented early charge the New Yorker remained focused, engaged, active and thoroughly professional. He maintained a high work rate (72.2 per round) and merged it with good precision (36% overall, 46% power) and as a result he out-landed the veteran 208-109 (total), 32-14 (jabs) and 176-95 (power).
Moreover, Stevens didn't let a flash knockdown in the seventh deter him. In fact, he reached fight highs of 35 connects, 33 power connects, 81 total punches and 69 power attempts in that knockdown round and in the eighth and final round he was 24 of 78 overall (31%) and 21 of 55 in power punches (38%). He popped in long-range flurries, moved in tight semi-circles and proved himself to be much more than the one-dimensional bomber of years past.
In his most recent fight against Saul Roman, it was thought that the Mexican would test Stevens even more than Findley had. But Roman's notoriously weak chin failed him as Stevens landed a destructive hook in the early moments that set the stage for the knockout at the 2:26 mark. While the lopsided connect margins underlined Stevens' dominance (34-8 overall, 34-6 power), his precision was even more so (61% overall, 64% power).
"Get me Golovkin," Stevens said in the post-fight interview. A few days later, Stevens demand became reality.
Prediction: Given the styles this could be short, sweet and savage. However, anything Stevens can do Golovkin can do it better. Both are early-round KO threats but Golovkin has the more proven overall skills, especially on defense. He is more equipped to prosper in a longer fight while Stevens' ability to hang in against top-notch competition remains a question, and Golovkin is the best opponent he has yet faced. Will his mind stand the stress when Golovkin stands up to his early attack? No. Golovkin by mid-rounds KO.