(Mashantucket, CT, USA; Junior middleweights Gennady Golovkin [blue trunks] and Matthew Macklin [green trunks] box during their middleweight bout at Foxwoods Resort and Casino-MGM Grand Theatre. Golovkin won via third round knockout. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Matthew Macklin deserved the win over Felix Sturm. Matthew Macklin might have beaten middleweight champion Sergio Martinez on the scorecards had he made it past the 11th round. Those are two of the best 160-pounders of the past half-decade. Gennady Golovkin treated Macklin like a pit bull with a rag doll between his teeth, stopping him in three rounds on HBO Saturday.
Golovkin is a calm killing machine, a boxer with unbelievable punching power and the technique to make it all the more lethal. This is the best middleweight in the world. If you're at 160 and you're in his way, you have two choices: Run and hide, and take the hit with the public; or take your medicine, and count the birdies.
On the undercard, two of promoter Lou DiBella's prospects — Willie Nelson and Thomas Oosthuizen had rough outings, but escaped with a win and a draw, respectively.
GENNADY GOLOVKIN-MATTHEW MACKLIN
Color me a chicken — in my preview, I backed away from my earlier prediction of a three-round knockout, instead figuring it would take until late in the fight. I wasn't so impressed by Macklin in his Sturm and Martinez showings that made me think he could beat Golovkin, not for a second, but the Adrien Broner struggle with Paulie Malignaggi made me doubt whether another phenom, Golovkin, might run into trouble when facing his most educated veteran opposition. Bawk bawk — I was right the first time.
Macklin became frightened halfway through the 1st round after spending a minute-plus backing up Golovkin, but once Golovkin stepped forward and landed a few, you could see the fear on Macklin's face instantly, and not much of consequence had yet landed. It's hard not to get carried away with estimations of his punching power. You have to go back to prime Mike Tyson to see opponents so quickly spooked by the raw pain of what they're experiencing. And you can't avoid Golovkin, really. He's not especially quick-footed, to say the least, but he gets where he wants to go and you can't get away from him.
There was a salvo in the 2nd when Golovkin had Macklin's back to the ropes and Macklin fired, briefly backing off Golovkin. Golovkin had red cheeks from the damage, but never once did he seem shook. In the 3rd, Golovkin again trapped Macklin on the ropes, threw two uppercuts to the head and then went downstairs to score his second Knockout of the Year candidate for 2013. Macklin was done immediately after that left hook landed, anyone could see. Macklin, a smart fighter, recognized in a post-fight interview how it happened — he was so preoccupied with Golovkin hitting him in the head (a head badly bruised and cut through only three rounds) that his body defense suffered.
DiBella, who promotes both Macklin and Martinez, was once a vocal skeptic of Golovkin's drawing power and said he signed up his man Macklin for Golovkin because HBO threw a lot of money at it. After this, it's hard to imagine how much money it will take for promoters to sign up their fighters against Golovkin. The winner of Daniel Geale-Darren Barker makes a certain amount of sense, from the standpoint of the middleweight rankings; how much money would it take to get the winner of that bout in there against Golovkin? Golovkin might be an improved ratings draw, but I'm not sure there's enough money in the world to make Martinez want to fight Golovkin. There are three fighters right now who hit so hard, and are good enough to apply that power intelligently, that the risk/reward ratio is such that it will take immense professional pride, money or both for people to want to fight them: Lucas Matthysse, Adonis Stevenson and Golovkin.
And it only gets more daunting. All of them are getting better fight-by-fight. Golovkin showed some improved defense Saturday, his lone potentially fatal flaw. The whole world should be scared. Or else embrace it; as our old friend @morelandj replied to me on Twitter, "I for one welcome our Kazakh overlord."
BRANDON GONZALES-THOMAS OOSTHUIZEN
Most people thought Gonzales won this super middleweight showdown, which ended in a draw. The draw, though, was a respectable outcome. Gonzales showed signs of putting it all together as a fighter whose hype as a prospect had not lived up to his performances to date. His late fade, though, showed how much farther he still had to go for his boxing career to match his athletic potential. Oosthuizen, outclassed early, dug his way back into the fight against a boxer who couldn't keep up the pace.
Gonzales has often been wild and hittable for a fighter trained by Virgil Hunter, famed for assisting super middleweight champion Andre Ward's evolution into a defensive maestro. And Lord, how we heard about Ward tonight. HBO's broadcasting booth has, sadly, become a never-ending font of Ward ass-kissing, and I say that as someone who likes Ward as a fighter; likes Ward, sometimes, as a commentator; and likes both Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman a great deal as commentators. The stroking was so omnipresent that for a while, commentary about it was omnipresent on Twitter. When you have a solid fight with intriguing ramifications in the ring and all anyone can talk about is how annoying the commentary is, you're doing it wrong. This isn't the first week this happened, either. The hyperbolic Ward love simply must stop if HBO doesn't want to turn his remaining fans against him.
Anyway, I had it 96-94, with Gonzales using his hand and foot speed early to keep the defensively deficient and volume-punching Oosthuizen from getting off, as well as to take advantage of his own deficiencies of speed. Oosthuizen took the late rounds, and he wins a 12-rounder, I suspect. Gonzales fought in his first 10-rounder, incredibly, and while he deserved to win, however narrowly, he showed that while he nearly has arrived, he still has some work to do. Not even Hunter's creepy, dirty-talk whispering ("Deep. Again… Take a swallow") could coax Gonzales into turning up the volume, so maybe it's just not there yet. Oosthuizen has plenty of work to do himself, if he's going to fight people who are faster and more fluid than him, which most people will be. Both go back to the drawing board. Both can do better. Neither is ready for anyone better than the other.
WILLIE NELSON-LUCIANO CUELLO
Nelson came into this bout with some buzz, having stopped Michael Medina in one round on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, on top of wins over prospects John Jackson and Yudel Jhonson after a disastrous outing against Vincent Arroyo on ShoBox. That he's a 6'3" junior middleweight who refuses to fight at distance in favor of slugging it out up close had drawn comparisons to Paul Williams, a much-maligned fighter in his day who nonetheless rose to nearly the top of the pound-for-pound ranks. Suffice it to say Nelson walks away from this bout with a win that nonetheless diminishes that buzz.
Credit, in part, to Cuello, who withstood Nelson's early power-punching surge — Nelson was trying in the first two rounds to end the fight on every shot — to assert himself on the inside and give the chinny Nelson something to think about. He rocked him in the 3rd, 7th and 10th.
Jack Loew's trademark advice to double the jab made a bit of difference for a stretch, and Nelson won most of the rounds when he stayed outside. But Loew was also a disaster for Nelson besides, telling him he was fighting like a child, conceding to HBO's Max Kellerman that he had no control over what Nelson was doing, etc. Nelson is and probably will be a fun fighter because of his vulnerability indefinitely. He's not someone you can take from this effort as a real contender, or someone who is likely to be.