The retirement and subsequent abdication of the pound for pound crown by Floyd Mayweather Jr. has left the boxing world in a state of flux. Metaphorically boxing is a kingdom without a king, but this Saturday provided not one but two suitable heirs to the throne.
Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs) successfully unified the middleweight title on Saturday night with an eighth round stoppage of David Lemieux (34-3, 31 KOs) at the Mecca of boxing Madison Square Garden. The historic venue has hosted a raft of great middleweight fights from Hopkins v Trinidad to Robinson v Lamotta I and provided the perfect backdrop to this unification bout.
The New York crowd was electric and it gave way to an electrifying performance from Golovkin. He controlled Lemieux in the opening rounds, stalking him around the ring with everything working off his jab, in particular several hurtful hooks to the body.
Lemieux had limited success in the third with a right hand that connected flush with the Kazakh’s chin, but it did not halt Golovkin’s march. He has a style synonymous with fighters from the Middle East, highly skilled, technical fighters with the ability to cut off the ring and wear opponents down. Abilities he executed to perfection in his demolition of Lemieux.
In the fourth, Golovkin nearly had Lemieux out on his feet with a massive left hook, but he survived into the fifth where he retaliated with a left-right combination before a before a left-right-left to the body dropped Lemieux to one knee. As he dipped to the canvas Golovkin hit him while he was down. Golovkin was lucky that Lemieux didn’t make a meal out of it as in the worst case scenario he could have been disqualified for his infringement.
Lemieux rose from the canvas and the fight stretched into the seventh, but the pressure was relentless from Golovkin. By that stage Lemieux was battered and bleeding heavily from the nose. The ringside doctor had to intervene to ensure he was able to continue. A left-right-left uppercut from Golovkin caused significant damage to Lemieux in the eighth and the referee stepped in shortly afterwards to spare any further punishment.
With this win Golovkin has effectively become the undisputed middleweight champion in every way but name only. He added the IBF title to his own WBA title and prior to the fight he had already acquired the WBC interim title. The full version of the WBC title is held by Miguel Cotto but it means that the winner of his November super fight with Saul Alvarez will have to face Golovkin in their first defence or face being stripped of the title.
The WBO middleweight champion, Andy Lee may be the only fighter who can disputed Golovkin’s status as the top dog in the division. Lee is a fighter known for not shying away from a challenge, so providing that he is successful in his rescheduled defence against Billy Joe Saunders in November this could potentially be on Golovkin’s fight schedule for 2016.
On the undercard, the fighter who many feel is the legitimate heir to the pound for pound crown; Roman Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs) halted former two division world champion, Brian Viloria (36-5, 22 KOs) in nine rounds to successfully defend his WBC Flyweight title.
Viloria started well in the opening rounds, he was aggressive and doubled up on the left hook to push the champion back on occasion. However, Gonzalez demonstrated on more than one occasion why he is so highly regarded by the boxing fraternity. In the third, he unloaded a “blink and you’ll miss it,” right hand counter that dropped Viloria.
From that point on Gonzalez provided fans with a showcase of his talent and illustrated why he should be considered the true pound for pound king. In the fifth, Gonzalez literally boxed ring around Viloria landing crunching hooks to the body and shots the head while utilising his superior footwork and movement around the ring.
In the end, Gonzalez simply outgunned his veteran opponent. Viloria had produced a spirited performance but by the seventh Gonzalez was outworking him and was having continual success with the uppercut. By the eighth Gonzalez was landing hurtful punches while Viloria was down to landing single shots. The referee intervened in the ninth and Viloria can have no complaints as he was facing legitimately one of the best fighters on the planet.
Following Saturday night, Gonzalez and Golovkin can both make legitimate claims to being the best fighter on the planet. Based on his ring record, Gonzalez perhaps has the greatest claim to the crown, but Golovkin is hot on his heels. One thing is for certain, Mayweather’s retirement has ushered in a new debate as to who will be king of the castle in the kingdom of boxing. The king is dead. Long live the king.