There is little of Adrien Broner in Gennady Golovkin, and vice versa. Where Broner is loquatious, oversharing, crass and jewel-bedecked, Golovkin barely speaks English to avoid being mocked, doesn't trash-talk or fess up to anything he doesn't have to and has been dubbed in one headline "The Working Man's Champion." Perhaps they share fight-ending power, although after last weekend, Broner didn't show it in his debut at welterweight.
Where they really overlap is that they're widely proclaimed as phenoms, fighting on consecutive weekends against opponents who declared they hadn't fought anyone of consequence prior to them. Broner's phenom status suffered a dip in some quarters after he fought Paulie Malignaggi to a split decision. Before last weekend, I had dismissed Matthew Macklin's chances of damaging Golovkin's stock. With Malignaggi proving against Broner that a well-educated veteran who has fought proven competition (even if he hasn't always won) can't be discounted versus someone who hasn't faced that kind of competition, suddenly the overlap between Malignaggi and Macklin neatly mirrors the overlap between Broner and Golovkin.
Niether claim against Broner or Golovkin was entirely true; Broner had beaten a man who arguably was the #1 lightweight, so it's not as if he fought "no one" — just not anyone like Malignaggi. Golovkin has beaten Gregorz Proksa, a top 10 middleweight. But Macklin, who by my eye is not vastly superior to Proksa — better, yes, just not vastly — is a top 5ish middleweight. And maybe the level Macklin is on, having contended so closely with legitimate champion Sergio Martinez and then-top middleweight Felix Sturm, is enough to truly test Golovkin, too. The heat check comes Saturday on HBO.
Golovkin is an interesting figure in the boxing business, in that he is a cult hero amongst hardcore fans yet is still building himself into the kind of fighter whose risk/reward ratio makes it worthwhile to fight him, a condition which in turn makes it hard for him to score the caliber of win he needs to go from cult figure to mainstream figure. His ratings improved on HBO from horrid to not very good from his first appearance to the next, suggesting some word of mouth was getting out there about a fighter who might hit harder than anyone in the sport, pound-for-pound. HBO informs that his episode of "2 Days," wherein he struggles with the flu before his win over Gabriel Rosado, has garnered 2.5 million views thus far, above last year's average of 2.1 million — which is, again, maybe some sign of him catching on, or alternately a sign that it was merely a good installment of the series (which it was).
Macklin is to be commended for deciding once again to take such a difficult assignment. Sturm in Germany had been unbeatable in close calls, while Martinez was near the peak of his powers. Now the British-Irish fighter is going up against Golovkin? That is a bold man. That he could contend on such even terms with Sturm and Martinez speaks to his quality. He showed his smarts against Martinez, forcing the champ, a natural counterpuncher, to come at him, countering him while he did so with good timing, while also keeping his right glove in the correct position to take fewer of Martinez's lethal left hands. He exhibits good footwork and head movement, both combining to give him solid defense. He was especially right hand-heavy against Martinez, which makes a certain amount of sense given Martinez's southpaw stance, but he's pretty right hand-heavy overall, as it's his most powerful punch. He throws it in a variety of ways — straight down the middle, uppercut, hooking arc, to the body — to make up for the fact that he pushes his left, an unnatural act like someone trying to dribble a basketball with his off-hand and looking obviously shaky doing so.
Most of those things are things Golovkin hasn't had to contend with as a pro, at least outside the gym. Macklin will be faster, too, although Golovkin is more used to that. What's worrisome for Macklin is that he's been knocked out twice, once by Martinez (defensible) and another time by Jamie Moore (not so defensible). He also has a proven track record of fading late in fights. Against a fighter like Golovkin whose damage accumulates so massively, that is dangerous. Macklin said the difference between how the fight against Martinez went and how the Golovkin fight will go is that Martinez was a style nightmare for him. He's right on the Martinez point, except Martinez and Golovkin are match-up nightmares for most people, Martinez because of his outrageous speed and unconventional movement, Golovkin because of his enormous power and excellent fundamentals on offense.
Still, Macklin won't have to find Golovkin the way he did Martinez, whatever comfort that is. Golovkin is just about as excellent with his offensive technique as he is hittable. Everything about Golovkin starts with his power, of course. Dudes react to Golovkin's punches like he's got pianos for fists, particularly his right. Macklin's correct — there are no real obvious flaws to exploit (except the hitability part) because he doesn't make mistakes, he places his shots well, he takes a good punch, he is faster than he looks, he can counter or lead, etc. It comes down to whether he has unseen flaws based on his level of competition thus far, and whether he can be outboxed or hurt.
I don't think Macklin can do either. Before the Broner fight, I might've picked Golovkin to win in three rounds. Now, I'm dialing back my original "Golovkin eats him alive" prediction. Macklin is good enough to last until the late rounds and maybe win about half of them, on the optimistic side of his chances, but I can't see him making it out of the ring with his consciousness intact.