There was an odd moment during Saturday night’s bout between Kazakh monster Gennady Golovkin and Rochester, NY native Willie Monroe, Jr. Golovkin had dominated the first couple of rounds, battering Monroe in the 2nd and dropping him twice. Then, out of the blue, Golovkin started eating punches. And then more.
The HBO crew, especially Max Kellerman — whose voice usually rises excitedly in an upward inflection when anybody does ANYTHING of note against GGG, kicked the hyperbole up a notch, but suddenly, he was making sense. Golovkin was getting hit with basically everything Monroe threw. In the 4th round, Monroe actually outlanded Golovkin 33-30 according to CompuBox. What the hell was going on?
Golovkin was having fun.
There will be a few pundits and several fans (some of whom have started already) who will point out the fact that Golovkin’s face was marked, bruised, and swollen. They’ll mention the fact that he tasted serious leather from a guy who was basically a Friday Night Fights boxer — that is, someone who had never been tested at this level before. And they would be right to make those observations. Except that Golovkin got hit because he wanted to.
Go back and watch the first couple of rounds again if you don’t believe me. Monroe fired off stiff jabs and landed a few, but Golovkin slipped a lot of punches and blocked a whole lot more. Mostly, Monroe’s shots glanced off harmlessly while Golovkin landed hard power punches and took. It was only after he dropped Monroe –who to his credit recovered well and pressed on — that he started getting hit.
Golovkin’s demeanor changed after the knockdowns. He was going to get Monroe out of there, and he really didn’t care how many shots he had to swallow in order to make that happen. I’d surmise that he realized very early that Monroe simply didn’t have the power to hurt him, and made the decision to let Monroe get busy so that he could catch him with a counter shot when Monroe upped his output.
The impromptu strategy didn’t please Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, who implored him not to “show how tough” he was and take control of the fight again. But Golovkin had made up his mind. He was going to see exactly what Monroe had left in the tank.
The result was a better-than-expected fight where the two men traded shots in front of the raucous crowd at the Inglewood Forum. Maybe Golovkin really wanted the fight to go longer so fans got their money’s worth, as he tried to explain in the post-fight interview. Maybe he wanted to go toe-to-toe with Monroe for a while to show him who was the better fighter. Or, perhaps Golovkin, ever-desperate to land a fight with an elite opponent, simply wanted to show some kinks in his armor in an attempt to look vulnerable.
But there’s no way Golovkin suddenly forgot how to defend punches. I’d buy it if the entire fight was like that, but this was a conscious decision he made to drop his hands and let Monroe work. Odds are that Golovkin could have kept his guard up, fought the entire fight the way he did early on and dominated easily. He would have probably still earned a stoppage, albeit later in the fight. But he wanted blood, and he wanted a battle.
He got his 20th consecutive stoppage victory when he roared out in the 6th round and pounded Monroe until he could take no more. It was another lethal offensive performance, one in which he shredded a big southpaw and did not struggle to land punches.
And hell, maybe he showed enough vulnerability get a decent look from Canelo Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions sooner rather than later. Golovkin is 33, and he knows damn well that things start sliding around this age, especially for an offensive machine like him. Those signs of slippage aren’t terribly far away. We don’t know how GGG would react if it were Canelo landing clean power shots instead of a guy like Monroe, who came in with six knockouts, but we damn sure want to find out.
It’s unfortunate for him, and it’s an absolute shame for boxing fans that the most exciting fighter in the sport, a man who has forged a path to stardom by cracking the skull of every boxer he faces, is 33 instead of 25. We don’t have a whole lot of time left to enjoy him.
He’s repeatedly said he’ll fight two more times this year, but he’s unlikely to land the mega fight he craves so badly in the immediate future. Hopefully, somebody steps up. If not, it will be our loss as much as his.
Some Random Notes From Saturday Night:
Somebody in the gaming commission has to have a hell of a sense of humor. Once again, we got Jack Reiss as the referee for the GGG fight. And once again, Reiss botched the 10 count. This time he finished at 10 and then took several seconds to scold Monroe for not getting up in time. Then he asked if he wanted to continue. Somebody strap a fucking helmet cam on him again.
Roman Gonzalez had some serious hype to live up to. Touted by the HBO crew (and anyone who knows boxing) as a top five pound-for-pound fighter, he didn’t disappoint in his fight with Edgar Sosa. He utterly destroyed a tough fighter with zero resistance. More of this guy, stat.
I’m not sure why there’s so much clamor for GGG to go up to 168. There’s nothing there for him, especially if Carl Froch retires. Andre Ward is fighting on music channels and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. has no idea what weight classes are. He might as well stay at 160 and pound away. I don’t remember there being this much heat on Hopkins to jump when he was dominating the division.
Monroe got stopped, but his stock jumped higher with the loss than with any win on resume. He is a tough dude who fought valiantly until he couldn’t take any more punishment. There’s no shame in that. He did far better than most of GGG’s opponents.
After the fight, I had conversations with several people who would now favor Canelo over Golovkin. For me, GGG still drills him if they meet.
Photo: Willie Monroe, Jr. (R)throws a punch at Gennady Golovkin (Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)