The intrigue about Gennady Golovkin’s Oct. 17 middleweight title unification bout against David Lemieux goes deeper than the simple allure of two of boxing’s biggest punchers squaring off.
For Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs), the sport’s most avoided fighter, his Oct. 17 pay-per-view debut at New York’s Madison Square Garden is perceived by most to be the biggest and toughest challenge of his career.
It’s a sentiment with which the Kazakh KO sensation doesn’t disagree.
“[Lemieux] is a dangerous guy and a smart guy,” said Golovkin during Monday’s appearance on ESPN.com’s Making the Rounds. “I think it’s a great fight for us. This is the biggest fight for me and he is the toughest challenge.”
Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs), a native of Montreal, has rebuilt his career with nine straight victories since suffering a pair of shocking defeats in 2011 as a red-hot prospect against Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine. Relying on his relentless style using hooks and power shots almost exclusively, Lemieux floored former titlist Hassan N’Dam four times in June to claim a vacant middleweight title by unanimous decision.
Yet despite the clear-and-present danger facing Golovkin, 33, in this fight, veteran trainer Abel Sanchez doesn’t agree that his fighter is entering his toughest test to date.
“I don’t think so. I think Curtis Stevens was tougher,” Sanchez told ESPN.com. “Stevens is more a sharp, short puncher and compact, where Lemieux is a little wide with his shots and is a bit slower. But he is tough.”
Golovkin, who has recorded 20 straight knockouts dating back to 2008 and has defended his middleweight title 14 times, picked Stevens apart in November 2013 before Stevens' corner called for a halt after Round 8.
While Sanchez clearly respects Lemieux’s power entering this fight, saying Golovkin will “have to be aware of it the whole time,” he doesn’t necessarily fear it.
“Watching Lemieux, I really don’t think he’s the kind of puncher that people make him out to be,” Sanchez said. “He seems to be real wide and seems to be more of a thudding puncher than a snapping puncher.
“[Edwin] Valero was a snapping puncher. Golovkin is a snapping puncher. Ricardo Lopez was a snapping puncher. George Foreman was more of a thudding puncher. But [Lemieux] is still knocking guys out, so he must be doing something right.”
Lemieux, 26, has fought just once outside of Quebec, making his U.S. debut last December in Brooklyn, New York, when he defeated former Golovkin opponent Gabriel Rosado by 10th-round TKO. Lemieux shares a second common opponent in Rubio, who handed him his first defeat in April 2011 via seventh-round TKO when Lemieux’s corner stopped the bout.
Golovkin dismantled both opponents, stopping Rosado by seventh-round corner stoppage in January 2013 before knocking Rubio out in Round 2 last October.
“I think for the Rubio fight [Lemieux] was a little young,” Sanchez said. “Joe Louis got knocked out by [Max] Schmeling early in his career and came back. I think that [Lemieux] was young and not ready for a step up of that level against an experienced guy who took everything. It had to be discouraging when he hit Rubio with everything and he didn’t go anywhere. I think it was more of a mental thing for him.”
Despite how well Lemieux has rebuilt his career, Sanchez believes that Golovkin can hurt him early. In fact, he believes the entire tenor of the fight will change the first time Lemieux tastes GGG’s power.
“As soon as Lemieux feels the first jab, it’s going to be a different fight,” Sanchez said. “Just like when [Golovkin] knocked [Osumanu] Adama down with the jab [in Round 1 of their February 2014 bout], he didn’t even try to hit him hard. As soon as Lemieux tastes that first jab, it’s a different story.”