by Hamilton Nolan
Gennady Golovkin is a fighter at the very height of his powers. Those powers are so overwhelming that it is reasonable to speculate that only a handful of men in any weight class possess comparable levels of mastery. This is odd, since Gennady Golovkin is far less famous among casual fans than quite a few fighters inferior to him. That won't be true for much longer. Golovkin is a force so overwhelming that he hardly needs to prove himself any more. It is up to the rest of boxing to prove that it can stop him.
There is nothing shameful about being inferior to Golovkin. It is safe to say that as of the present moment, every middleweight in the world is inferior to Golovkin. In order to find a fighter who might have a fair chance of winning a fight against him, it's necessary to look down a weight class, to Floyd Mayweather, or up a weight class, to Andre Ward. They are the two very best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and each of them has a far more star-studded résumé than Golovkin does. But that is the level at which the puncher from Kazakhstan is destined to find his real challenges in the sport. He is ready for that level of fight right now. He just needs to climb a few more steps up the ladder of contenders to prove it to the paying public.
Curtis Stevens (25-3) is a very dangerous fighter. He is a Brooklyn-born monster puncher, a product of New York's competitive amateur system. He has boxing skills in addition to power. His left hook is tight, fast, and heavy, and capable of turning out the lights on just about any 160-pounder. His last four fights have featured three first-round stoppages, most recently of respectable journeyman Saul Roman, who ended the night splayed out on the canvas. Stevens has floated around the fringes of boxing's top tier for years, and he has certainly provided enough violent action recently to warrant a nice big fight for himself. He is a man that would be feared by any normal boxer.
But Gennady Golovkin has little to fear from Curtis Stevens. I mean, the left hook, sure. That should be feared in the same general way that a speeding bus or an errant meteor should be feared. But whereas even a good middleweight would find fighting Curtis Stevens to be a minefield, Golovkin should be able to navigate it with relative ease. It's not that Stevens is a pushover; it's that his opponent happens to be superior to him in all of the things that he's good at.
Power? Only a fool would get in a contest of punching power with Golovkin. He's knocked out 24 of his 27 opponents. He hasn't had a decision win since 2008. Golovkin's power is a boxing gym legend. There are tales of pro champions scared to spar with him. His punches often make opponents grimace in a way that reveals that they wish, suddenly, that they were somewhere else far, far away from a boxing ring. In the past year, he clobbered Grzegorz Proksa, knocking him down repeatedly; he massacred Gabriel Rosado's face until the fight had to be stopped, even though Golovkin was reportedly quite ill before the fight; he hammered Nobuhiro Ishida with an overhand right that would have cracked a stone statue; and he dropped Matthew Macklin with a hook to the body that had the same effect as a high caliber gunshot wound. Golovkin's power is transcendent. He is the human embodiment of "heavy hands." Trading with him is a failing game, for anyone.
On top of that, he is a beautiful boxer. He never looks tired or stressed or unduly pressured. Though not flashy, he moves with a wonderful economy of motion, and makes the right decisions in a way that only those with hundreds of amateur fights can do. He has, he says, never been knocked down. He does not get flustered. He has seen it all. And he is stronger and more destructive than anyone who has ever stepped in a ring with him. It is very hard to concoct a scenario in which Golovkin would lose to even a fighter a cut above Curtis Stevens. No disrespect to Curtis Stevens.
For Golovkin, even a fearsome knockout artist like Stevens is simply a bump on the road to the very top of boxing. If this sport's various warring promoters can do their jobs correctly, we will be seeing him in some very big fights very soon. Stevens knows all this. He will undoubtedly try to bring the fight to Golovkin. And that could be his downfall.
On the undercard, the huge and hulking southpaw heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov takes on Mike Perez (19-0), a Cuban who has fought mostly in Europe. Abdusalamov, a former Russian amateur champion, has a relatively raw, slugger's style, and can run out of gas. But he is 18-0 with 18 knockouts, and fun to watch for that reason. Perhaps Perez will be the man whose defensive skills and footwork elude Abdusalamov's power. But I wouldn't bet on it.