After an exciting doubleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, featuring knockout victories from a pair of unbeaten titlists on the rise, here are five things we learned from the card titled “Mexican Style”:
1. Golovkin is ready for true crossover stardom
Although Gennady Golovkin’s second-round knockout of veteran middleweight Marco Antonio Rubio on Saturday proved somewhat anticlimactic, it was no fault of the “Kazakh KO King.”
Golovkin’s 18th consecutive knockout and 12th straight defense of his 160-pound title only escalated American boxing’s love affair with the grinning, humble fighter wielding dynamite in both hands. Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) has not yet fully made the leap into the conscious of the general sports fan, but he doesn’t appear to be far off.
Plain and simple, he delivers on the action promised in a time when fans haven’t consistently received an equal payout for their money spent. With the brands of boxing’s incumbent kings growing tired due to factors such as age and unwillingness to make the best fights available, Golovkin, 32, is a breath of fresh air to the sport.
While his few remaining critics are quick to remind that he has yet to face true A-level competition, his insistence on staying busy and being willing to fight anyone over a span of three weight classes has more than compensated. The Tysonesque buzz that has followed Golovkin from one devastating knockout to another is real. It won't be long now before the rest of the American sports world begins to fully take notice.
2. California debut proves GGG’s brand has closed the gap
Mixing his danger with his lack of a native fan base made it an easy justification for Golovkin to become boxing’s most avoided fighter. But prospective opponents can no longer make the excuse that GGG is not a marketable draw.
Golovkin made his West Coast debut in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,323 at a venue that repeatedly opened extra seating in the lead-up to the fight. Three months earlier, he made his debut in the big arena at New York’s Madison Square Garden to spectacularly knock out former titlist Daniel Geale in front of more than 8,500 fans.
GGG is ready to fill the big arenas and make the leap onto the pay-per-view level for the right fight in 2015. What that will do is dramatically enlarge the name-value of his potential opponents.
With Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez signing a long-term deal to return to HBO, along with his promoter Golden Boy showing a newfound willingness to play nice with others, big fights are on the horizon at middleweight.
By the time the winner of a possible spring 2015 showdown between Alvarez and middleweight champion Miguel Cotto has his hand raised, Golovkin -- who became Cotto’s mandatory challenger in winning a vacant interim title Saturday --- should see his brand further developed.
Although that won’t make him any less dangerous for the winner to face -- especially if his knockout streak continues -- potential Golovkin opponents can no longer contend fighting him isn’t a smart move, financially.
3. Bad weekend for Rubio
Despite entering the fight as a heavy underdog, Rubio (59-7-1, 51 KOs) was expected to challenge Golovkin in ways other recent opponents were unable to do.
Rubio, 34, entered the fight with height and reach advantages over Golovkin, along with respected durability. With 51 knockouts in 59 victories entering the fight, he also represented arguably the hardest puncher Golovkin had seen.
But the native of Mexico lost both his interim belt and his ability to challenge Golovkin for his full title the day before the fight, when he weighed in over the middleweight limit at 161.8 pounds. Despite having two hours to shed the extra weight, Rubio never made it back to the scales and forfeited $100,000 of his $350,000 purse.
To make matters worse for Rubio, along with his unprofessionalism, he failed to live up to his end of the bargain inside the ring. Despite a solid opening round in which he pressured Golovkin and landed a mixture of left hooks and body shots, Rubio folded quickly once he tasted GGG’s power in Round 2.
Golovkin set up Rubio’s exit with a perfect right uppercut that sent him reeling and running for cover along the ropes. Golovkin swooped in and capped off a flurry with an overhand left to the top of the head that sent Rubio to the canvas.
Rubio sat up quickly but took his time getting up, as referee Jack Reiss counted him out with Rubio appearing to not want any more.
4. A featherweight star is born in Walters
Secondary beltholder Nicholas Walters entered Saturday’s bout against 126-pound titlist Nonito Donaire known mostly for his power, which stopped 10 of his previous 11 opponents.
But the native of Jamaica left the bout with a memorable knockout against the biggest name in a loaded, red-hot division.
Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), 28, announced himself to the boxing public in his first appearance on American television by outworking and ultimately stopping Donaire in Round 6.
Out-jabbing Donaire to the tune of 44-4 according to CompuBox, Walters set the stage for his devastating power. Donaire was floored in Round 3 for the first time in his career on a beautiful uppercut that opened a cut above his right eye.
By Round 6, Walters was simply wearing him down as the bigger man and finished him with a right hand to the side of the head that sent Donaire to the canvas face first, moments before referee Raul Caiz Jr. called off the fight.
The victory also showcased Walters’ humility and the respect he held for Donaire during their postfight interview. Walters not only doesn’t lack for confidence, but he’s also a potential handful for any of the other titlists in the division, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko.
5. The end is near for Donaire
Donaire gave Walters full credit for the victory and said he entered at his best and never trained as hard for a fight in his career.
But what Donaire’s loss illustrated was that, at 31, the former four-division titlist is no longer the guy who captured fighter of the year honors in 2012. It also gave credence to the thought Donaire had moved up one weight class too big.
Either way, the future of his career, at least against elite opponents, appears to be over. While Donaire refused to take the bait when HBO’s Max Kellerman suggested retirement after the bout, his comments spoke volumes.
“I have to go back to the drawing board,” Donaire said. “I know I can’t compete with guys like Walters. He was just overwhelming me. I succumbed to his size and power and his overwhelming aura.”