NEW YORK – If what happened Saturday at Madison Square Garden is what promoter Oscar De La Hoya called beforehand “the new era of boxing,” sign me up.
After flyweight superstar Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez was sensational in a ninth-round stoppage of Brian Viloria in an exciting bout, Gennady Golovkin stepped up and showed off his A-game.
Golovkin’s power and combination punching overwhelmed David Lemieux, who simply didn’t have the weapons to keep Golovkin from charging forward in their middleweight title unification match before 20,548 fans. Golovkin scored an eighth-round stoppage when referee Steve Willis jumped in to save Lemieux as Golovkin was unloading in the corner.
It was a typically fun night for Golovkin, who before the bout got a visit and a good luck wish from presidential candidate Donald Trump in his locker room.
Golovkin landed 51 percent of his total punches and a mind-boggling 58 percent of his power shots. As hard as he hits, it was only a matter of time before Lemieux succumbed.
Golovkin scored one knockdown, in the fifth, with a punishing body shot. He landed a right to the chin as Lemieux was on one knee in the center of the ring, prompting HBO analyst Roy Jones to say on the broadcast, “I would have been disqualified for that.”
Golovkin didn’t deserve to be disqualified, but he should have had a point deducted.
That, though, was the only blight on what was a big night for him and puts him at the top not only of the division but of the sport.
There are few, if any, fighters who could draw more than 20,000 to the Garden. And though the pay-per-view numbers aren’t expected to be overwhelming, his next fight should be.
He’ll likely face the winner of the WBC middleweight title bout between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, which is Nov. 21 in Las Vegas. Cotto, who began as a pro as a 140-pounder in 2000, has been, to use Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler’s words, “very selective in his negotiations” about which weight limit he’ll fight at despite being the middleweight champion.
Most concerned think that Alvarez would accept the Golovkin challenge were he to win on Nov. 21. That would set up a big pay-per-view for early 2016.
“I want all the belts, now I have two,” said Golovkin, who holds the IBF, WBA and interim WBC belts. “[I want] the winner of Cotto-Canelo, for sure.”
Lemieux and his team complained about the stoppage, but it was clearly warranted. He was fighting on unsteady legs for several rounds, breathing hard and taking plenty of clean head shots.
Willis had been watching Lemieux closely for a while and seemed to make an appropriate decision.
Camille Estephan, Lemieux’s manager, praised Golovkin’s performance but was unhappy with the timing of the stop.
“It was too early to stop the fight,” Estephan said. “That punch that Golovkin threw didn’t even bring David to the mat. David fought valiantly [and] he showed a lot of heart and skills. But Golovkin's defense was great. I think that his defense is underestimated.”
After Floyd Mayweather retired following his Sept. 12 win over Andre Berto, De La Hoya hailed the retirement by ripping his ex-rival and saying that Mayweather didn’t care about giving the fans exciting fights.
Both the Golovkin-Lemieux fight and the Gonzalez-Viloria fight delivered high on both the skill and entertainment quotient.
Golovkin and Gonzalez were both outstanding in their wins, looking adept at all facts. Lemieux didn’t distinguish himself with his skills, but he showed a big heart and plenty of courage for continuing to move forward and slug it out with arguably the sport’s hardest hitter.
“My assessment is now [Golovkin] has 21 knockouts in a row and an additional world title,” Loeffler said. “It goes back to you have to believe what you’re seeing. Lemieux was trying to throw big bombs and he landed a few, but he was never able to hurt Gennady, who was systematically able to break him down.”
It won’t be long before Golovkin, now 34-0 with 31 knockouts, will need to vacate the middleweight division. It’s not because he can’t make the weight, because he does that as easily as he does most other things in the ring.
He’s obliterated the competition, and there are few who are going to be willing to fight him if he gets the winner of the Cotto-Alvarez match and is successful.
That would leave him with the choice to move up to 168 or even 175, where he’d be at a huge size disadvantage. But it’s the reality he faces in a division where he’s lapping the field.
He’s as good as they get in boxing, and he’s entertaining to boot.
It’s a good combination, no matter what class he fights in.