By Thomas Gerbasi
NEW YORK - – After scoring another knockout win Saturday night, this one over Curtis Stevens before 4,618 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, WBA / IBO middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s legend continues to grow, and at 28-0 with 25 knockouts, it’s clear that the next fight for Kazakhstan’s “GGG” needs to be a major one, and he had only one name on his mind after the bout was done:
“Sergio Martinez,” said Golovkin of the WBC middleweight boss when pressed on who he would like to face next. As for tonight’s fight, the potential for danger was there, but after eight fairly one-sided rounds, it’s clear that Golovkin is on a different level than most of his 160-pound peers.
From the opening bell, Golovkin was raring to go, meeting Stevens (25-4, 18 KOs) in the middle of the ring and remaining in front of the power-punching Brooklynite, eagerly trading blows at a fast clip and emerging with redness under both eyes early on. That’s not to say Golovkin was playing second fiddle to the challenger though, as he got in more than his share of shots throughout the opening three minutes.
The pace was more measured in the second, with Golovkin spearing Stevens with his jab throughout the frame until he unleashed a vicious left hook that dropped the challenger with a thud. Stevens rose to his feet, and though clearly in trouble, he was able to survive, even getting in a left hook before the bell.
Golovkin was in no mood to stick around any longer though, and he went on the offensive immediately to begin the third stanza. After taking some hard shots, Stevens fired back, but his shots were having no effect on the champion, who stalked with vicious intent. Yet again, Stevens made it through the round.
With Stevens keeping his guard high, Golovkin adjusted in the fourth and started ripping hooks to the body while doing his best to muscle his challenger around. But suddenly in the final 40 seconds, Stevens came alive and started tagging Golovkin, who may have forgotten that he still had a dangerous puncher in front of him.
Stevens continued to surge in round five, and while he wasn’t winning rounds yet, he did force Golovkin to step back after eating a left hook to the jaw, a positive sign for the New Yorker, who had a spring in his step again.
The two exchanged repeatedly at close range in the sixth frame, but in the second minute, Golovkin’s bombs were having more of an effect, sending Stevens into defense mode along the ropes for much of the rest of the round.
By round seven, Stevens’ left eye was closing, and though he rallied at times, Golovkin was widening his substantial lead with each swing of his fists, and it only got worse in the eighth, with Stevens’ work rate dwindling to virtually nothing as “GGG” teed off. By the time the bell rang, Stevens’ corner had seen enough, halting the bout.
The knockout was the 31-year-old Golovkin’s 15th straight.
In the co-main event, Cuba'’s Mike Perez and Russia'’s Magomed Abdusalamov engaged in one of the best heavyweight fights of recent years, with Perez pounding out a well-deserved 10 round unanimous decision to win the USNBC title.
Scores were 97-92 twice and 95-94 for Perez, now 20-0 with 12 KOs; Abdusalamov falls to 18-1 with 18 KOs.
Perez took the fight to Abdusalamov at the sound of the opening bell and he didn’t stop throwing at the Russian, even rocking him with a left with 1:18 remaining in the round.
Hoping to get some payback, Makhachkala’s Abdusalamov shot out fast to start round two, and for the next three minutes, both fighters stayed in the pocket and fired off power shots. In the process, they provided more heavyweight action than the last three Wladimir Klitschko fights combined, something the crowd certainly appreciated.
There was more of the same heated action in the third, but as Perez dug to the body to try and wear his foe down, he was also showing signs of fatigue, allowing Abdusalamov to tee off with punches that were landing but just missing the sweet spot that would end the fight.
The fourth was a good round for Abdusalamov, as his thudding shots began to separate the two on the scorecards, but by the fifth, Perez was back it, pursuing Abdusalamov across the ring, and he kept it going in round six.
By round seven, Abdusalamov’s face was a swollen mess, and you got the idea that if Perez had a little more power, he would have been able to close the show. Abdusalamov wasn’t ready to go away though, and he rallied late in the seventh and the eighth.
In the ninth, referee Benjy Esteves deducted a point from Perez for a low blow, but by the end of the round, both fighters were going at it as if they needed to get that point back. The same thing happened in the tenth, and finally, with 1:06 remaining, Perez rocked Abdusalamov. The Russian wouldn’t go down though, and soon enough he was firing back, ending the bout on his feet and fighting.