GGG deserves #1 P4P rating
By Bob Smith: Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) deserves to be rated #1 pound-for-pound after his 12 round unanimous decision win over Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs) last Saturday night at Madison square Garden, in New York. There is no excuse for him not to be #1, since he did defeat the second best middleweight in the world in Danny Jacobs, and since the current P4P #1, at least according to ESPN, Roman “Chocalatito” Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KOs), lost on Saturday to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38 KOs) by a 12 round majority decision. First, I’ll discuss the Jacobs fight; then, the issue of GGG as P4P #1; finally, where GGG ranks among the best boxers of the last 30-40 years or so.
Jacobs vs GGG
It was a good fight – it was tactical, and both fighters have high boxing IQs, so it was never going to be a Curtis Stevens- David Lemieux style slug fest where the biggest puncher would win. I think that everyone who saw the fight was impressed with the skill of Jacobs – he is easily the 2nd best middleweight in the world, and perhaps the standard going forward for being able to go 12 rounds with GGG was beating cancer. Yes, for Jacobs GGG does not have overwhelming power and is not scary, but then for him, life threatening cancer isn’t either. For the rest of us, and for the rest of boxers he is.
It is worth noting how often black boxers refuse to give GGG and Sergey Kovalev credit. Bernard Hopkins said Jacobs would win; in a similar way, Anthony Joshua said that Andre Ward deserved to win against Kovalev, when it was a clear robbery. Many other boxers and commentators defended the Ward robbery as well. This fight was pretty similar – and early to middle of the fight knockdown with the other fighter partly coming back in the second half. I’m really glad that this one did not end in a robbery as well and I was quite worried at the scorecards.
Jacobs himself refused to give GGG credit, and claimed it was a conspiracy against him because the judges wanted to set up a GGG- Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fight. Never mind that it is unlikely that Canelo will face GGG before he is 40. In any case, regardless of personal flaws, Jacobs would defeat Lemieux, Stevens, Canelo, Marco Antonio Rubio, Daniel Geale, Billy Joe Saunders, and any other middleweight not named GGG.
GGG as #1 pound-for-pound
With Golovkin as #1 pound-for-pound, he can begin to make more demands as the A-side. Even given that he is #1, I still don’t see Canelo willing to face him. Now, Canelo as an individual might be willing to, but his management recognizes that the are far easier fights at stake, and really, why would they let him face a beast like GGG when they can literally get tens of millions of dollars a year to make excuses and duck. Canelo has plenty of time, where is Golovkin is at his peak or has slightly passed it. All Canelo has to do is wait until GGG loses or retires or is in his late 30s and there are clear signs of slippage. Then he can through select match ups inherit the P4P crown and be an even bigger draw than Mayweather, because of his natural Mexican and Hispanic fan base.
Probably the biggest consequence of Golovkin being #1 pound-for-pound is that he should get to fight and defeat Saunders in his home country of Kazakhstan to become the unified middleweight champion. I just don’t see any other major consequences – he has already defeated the best middleweights in the world and does not have an interest in moving up in weight. He did look small against Jacobs, so I don’t see him fighting and doing well against super middleweights who rehydrate to the low 180s and are skilled and strong inside fighters. He is better off staying at middleweight.
The Legacy of Golovkin
I must first state that I dismiss as unserious the criticisms that boxers nowadays are not as good as in other eras, and am sick of hearing how Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson would school the Klitschkos, or how Willie Pep was so amazing. There were excellent fighters of the past to be sure, but boxing now more than ever is a global sport, and EVERY division is more competitive than it was in the past due to this. And no, Tyson would not and could not KO Vitali Klitschko, even at his peak, for Lennox Lewis could not, and Holyfield could not beat Lewis. He simply does not have the size or strength to compete with the Klitschkos, however, fast and skilled and aggressive he was. Muhammed Ali was also skilled and would have a better shot against the Klitschkos but even then there is no guarantee that he would win.
The point of this is that boxing is more competitive now than ever and the fact that Golovkin demolishes all his competition, with the notable exception of Danny Jacobs, does not mean that the middleweight division is awful, but that GGG really is that good. Similarly, the heavyweight division “all of a sudden” became competitive and interesting with British and American black fighters like Joshua and Wilder who are good to be fair, but have adopted the height and strategies of the Klitschkos and are thus imitators.
I can’t put GGG in the kinesthetic genius category – there are only three boxers who deserve this honor over the past 40 years – Roy Jones Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. No reader of this site should require evidence for this claim – these three stand alone in their amazing achievements.
However, GGG is on the level with Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran. He is also on the level with Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. These are of course amazing fighters. He approaches all time middleweight greats like Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, and Carlos Monzon, though to be honest all of these fighters were much before my time so comparisons with Golovkin are tough for me.
I will say that his Achilles heel is skilled and quick fighters with power. I do believe that he would lose to a prime Roy Jones Jr., probably by KO. And Sugar Ray Leonard would likely outpoint him – he had tremendous speed and respectable power. He could handle Tommy Hearns and would break him down and KO him – and him versus Hagler – who incidentally, is a huge fan of GGG – a beautiful draw after 12 grueling rounds. Could he have defeat a prime Bernard Hopkins – well, he would either KO him or lose on points, and I lean to the idea that he would KO Hopkins. GGG is just too devastating a stalker and though he has less power than Kovalev, he has much more skill in cutting off the ring.
In sum, then he is competitive with a collection of the very best middleweight champions of the last 30-40 years and in all likelihood is one of the top 20 or even top 10 middleweights of all time. He deserves the pound-for-pound #1 ranking in a time when boxing has an audience larger than ever before.
How long will Golovkin keep this rank? Well, in the best case scenario, 2-3 years. By then, Golovkin would be 38, which is very old for a boxer, and though his power will carry him and his style works well even if his speed declines somewhat, there are so many good boxers out there his reign almost surely will last less than Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao or Jones Jr. It could even be less than one year or even six months, who knows.
But he did so something special in defeating Danny Jacobs. Congratulations GGG, and best wishes to unify the middleweight titles later this year, and to get a fight with Canelo and KO him.