By Cliff Rold
What will the Middleweight division look like a year from now? What will it look like by Sunday?
Both questions leave intriguing answers possible as 160 lbs. takes center stage on two continents. With a unification match in Germany, a stellar clash between emerging faces in the States, and a hotly anticipated clash in two weeks (Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.), Middleweight is coming together.
It’s been coming for a while. Middleweight is a class is recent years that had a depth of young talent that stood out from the crowd of seventeen. There have been bumps along the way (Proksa was upset by Kerry Hope earlier this year; Fernando Guerrero suffered a surprising defeat), but that is to be expected.
Eventually, the fights had to break out. That is happening now. Sturm, all but allergic to the name Golovkin over the last year, found an acceptable way to keep avoiding that showdown. Golovkin, alternately, has a chance to answer questions about his quality of foe.
Daniel Geale and Grzegorz Proksa don’t give a damn about any of that. They’re both coming to win.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Titles: WBA “Super” Middleweight (2007-Present, 12 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBA Middleweight (2006); WBO Middleweight (2003-04, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 158.7 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 159.3 lbs.
Hails from: Cologne, Germany
Record: 37-2-2, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 14-2-2, 4 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 7 (Hector Velazco, Hacine Cherifi, Bert Schenk, Maselino Masoe, Javier Castillejo, Sebastian Sylvester, Sebastian Zbik)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Oscar De La Hoya, Javier Castillejo)
Titles: IBF Middleweight (2011-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 158.7 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 160.25 lbs.
Hails from: New South Wales, Australia
Record: 27-1, 15 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Roman Karmazin, Sebastian Sylvester)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Anthony Mundine)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Sturm A-; Geale B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Sturm B; Geale B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Sturm B; Geale B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Sturm B; Geale B
This fight is no puncher’s duel, but there should be plenty of leather landing. Sturm is a bit quicker on the draw. Geale is the more fluid of the two. Both men are effective with the jab so whoever establishes the stick first has an advantage.
Can either establish it over the other? That’s a tough question. Geale is better at mixing up his left, a quick lead hook also to be wary of. Both men do a good job of going to the body. Could volume of offense be a key? If so, that could weigh in Geale’s favor. He is likely to move his hands more. If he’s landing, Sturm may have trouble setting up his offense.
It’s hard to ignore the home field in this one.
Geale traveled to Germany to win his belt last year and won going away. Two of the judges gave him the wide win he deserved. Another had him losing a ghastly ten rounds. Sylvester is nowhere near the local favorite Sturm is. Sturm left fights there was a case for him losing against Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray with a win and draw last year. With Geale unlikely to score a stop, how many rounds would he have to win to get out of Germany with two belts this weekend?
The stateside match is more likely to end before the judge’s matter.
Titles: WBA “Non-Super” Middleweight (2010-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 159 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 159.25 lbs.
Hails from: Stuttgart, Germany (Born in Kazakhstan)
Record: 23-0, 20 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 4 KO (5-0, 5 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Kasim Ouma)
Titles/Previous Titles: 1st Title Fight
Weight: 159 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 160.85 lbs.
Hails from: Redhill, Surrey, United Kingdom (Born in Poland)
Record: 28-1, 21 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Sebastian Sylvester)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Golovkin B+; Proksa A
Pre-Fight: Power – Golovkin A; Proksa B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Golovkin B; Proksa B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Golovkin A; Proksa B+
Proksa is flashy. Golovkin is fundamentally sound. Both bring fireworks when they let their hands fly. By the end of the night, no matter who wins, we may see the sort of fight that births a rivalry at the title level that lasts beyond a single night.
Proksa, a southpaw, often fights with his hands down, using head movement and his own awkward rhythm to find spots to unload. His jab comes from up and under; his lead right hook is blazing. He has quick feet to go with it. There are those who have compared his style to Middleweight king Sergio Martinez. It is an apt comparison.
Golovkin is sort of a work in progress professionally. Wildly successful as an amateur, he’s morphed into a pro style high on pressure and with a wicked left hook to the body. Golovkin is seemingly always right on top of guys, but the guys he’s been in with don’t have the firepower Proksa does.
If there is a reason to doubt Proksa, it is his defense. He doesn’t have much of one. While he slips shots well, he also gets hit far too often and against Golovkin that is a recipe for disaster. His lone loss earlier this year, to the dramatically less talented Kerry Hope, has already been avenged. That’s a plus. However, it was a cut against Hope that seemed to untrack him the first time. If Golovkin opens him up, has he learned enough to fight through it? Some fighters can’t fight through blood.
Golovkin isn’t exactly Willie Pep either. He was in a crowd pleaser with a faded Kasim Ouma largely because Ouma couldn’t miss. Golovkin has slipped shots better since, but he’s been in with Willie Standup and Betty Falls since then. If Proksa starts to land, will Golovkin be able to establish the grind he needs to slow the Pole down?
Sturm-Geale looks about even on paper, but that might be the problem. If Geale wins by a little, it probably isn’t enough. In what, for him, is a sort of defining fight, Sturm is likely to bring his A-game and he’s been in with a little better depth of foe. He might win big. He might not. With whispers of a big money fight with Arthur Abraham making the rounds, expect Sturm’s hand to be raised at night’s end either way.
The real red meat is Golovkin-Proksa. Proksa may not be in the BoxingScene top ten right this moment, but there’s more than a handful in the ratings he could beat. His breakout performance against Sylvester, and rematch savaging of Hope, showed off a talent to be reckoned with. Golovkin fits the same description. Over twelve rounds, Golovkin has too much time to take advantage of Proksa’s lax defense. He’s going to have to struggle, but ultimately his heavy-handed attack will break Proksa down. A late stoppage or pull away decision for Golovkin looks like the right call for this excellent Boxing After Dark showdown.
Report Card Picks 2012: 39-13
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]