by Cliff Rold
The pairing, indirect this time, of middleweight Gennady Golovkin and now Jr. bantamweight Roman Gonzalez delivered again on Saturday. As has been the case for most of this pairing, Golovkin delivers more spectacle in lieu of worthy adversaries.
Gonzalez delivers in the tougher fights. This time, he had his best HBO dance partner to date. Gonzalez and Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras came together for one of the best 115 lb. fights in years, a dramatic statement from both men of their character, stamina, and will to win.
That Cuadras came up a little short was no discredit. He earned new fans and, depending on whether Gonzalez sticks around 115 for a bit or stops there for only a few fights, earned a rematch down the line.
Golovkin did what he was expected to do, stop Kell Brook, but not with the immediate ease some expected. Inevitability ruled.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Golovkin B; Brook B/Post: B; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Golovkin A+; Brook B/Post: A+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Golovkin B; Brook B/Post: B-; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Golovkin A; Brook B+/Post: Same
After almost having his block knocked off, Kell Brook settled down a made a go of it…for a couple rounds. Those couple of rounds were impressive. Through three rounds, one would almost wonder if an upset was brewing. He was tagging Golovkin with hard shots and seemed to even rock him with an uppercut.
It looked from the onset that Golovkin was going for an early knockout. That he did it while abandoning his jab left him open and Brook exploited the holes. Golovkin was still landing around the body of Brook. While an eye injury influenced the finish, there were signs that Brook was running out of gas in the fourth.
The perimeter work he was doing in the second and third became a trudge towards the ropes. His legs were fading and his punches were losing steam. There were no x-rays in the corner telling them about a fractured eye socket. By all appearances, his corner sensed a mounting beating and saved their man for another day. It was a wise choice proved even brighter by medical outcomes later reported.
The durability Brook needed to maintain his early success wasn’t going to be there. A welterweight who’d never really seen elite power in his own class tasted it in a larger one. The end result was a proof for cynics who saw this as every bit the mismatch Canelo Alvarez-Amir Khan was. The smaller men made good shows in both fights.
They were never really going to challenge to win. Brook may have more luck in the Jr. middleweight division though the increasing depth there makes no promises.
The Brook fight at least provided the spectacle of a massive crowd as Golovkin showed his wares in front of another big crowd. That’s not bad for business but there is monotony to it all.
This year, we’ve seen Golovkin face hapless Dominic Wade and an ultimately hopeless Brook. Daniel Jacobs and Billy Joe Saunders could potentially be waiting in the wings. It’ll keep the trains moving.
It doesn’t get the pulse racing (and from a fistic standpoint, Canelo Alvarez against Golovkin really doesn’t either).
The talent pool at 154, guys like Demetrius Andrade, Erickson Lubin, and Julian Williams, might end up being what Golovkin followers have been waiting for all along.
The tests could be coming. Pulses will race.
What get the pulse racing for now, in any weight class, is seeing two well-matched fighters in their primes fighting with the passion. We got that and then some later in the evening.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Cuadras B+/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; Cuadras B/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B+; Cuadras B/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A; Cuadras B+/Post: A; A
In a fight that could be hard to score sometimes, Gonzalez did what he always does. He threw a lot of punches. He missed more than is usually the case this time around, but when you throw and land as many as he does it’s like fighting off rain.
Cuadras did a damn good job of trying. Despite an uncharacteristic fast start from Gonzalez, Cuadras looked like he won a close first round. Gonzalez did some excellent work for the next couple but the fight settled into a closer contest as it wore on. Cuadras used smart movement. He wasn’t going to give Roman a trench war when he was still full steam. Despite a brief burst of boos for the movement in the middle of the fight, both men gave them reason to cheer.
One of the most memorable moments came in the fifth, a round Cuadras was winning early. Getting comfortable, Cuadras elected to play to the crowd, clowning and taunting. Roman took over and seized the second half of the round. Cuadras didn’t try it again. This wasn’t going to be one of those nights.
It also wasn’t going to be a night where an opponent lilted under the pressure of Gonzalez. Cuadras did some excellent work when forced to come off his toes and stand his ground. It produced excellent exchanges and Gonzalez’s face came out looking the worse for it. While he landed the right shots to swell his man, Cuadras’s wide shots didn’t land in enough clean multiples to outweigh the visible combinations Gonzalez got home in close quarters.
Many rounds featured a sort of pattern, Cuadras blazing to quick starts and Roman landing more and getting stronger as the rounds wore on. The effort that took could be seen in the fatigue of the Nicaraguan as the fight grew long, creditable to some nice body work from Cuadras. Gonzalez was exhausted and still his chin and work rate never let the fight get away. After losing the eleventh, it was Roman forcing Cuadras to hold too often, not able to muster the closing statement he needed in the twelfth.
In the end, while some ringside press agreed, the 117-111 score felt too wide. Scores of 116-112 and 115-113 came in fair for a man who now is virtually guaranteed a trip to the Hall of Fame. Roman Gonzalez has been the most dominant talent in the sub-bantamweight categories of boxing for most of the last eight years. In Cuadras, he found a worthy foil to show how much greatness he has inside of him. When his best stuff landed and the man in front of him was still there, he dug deeper.
And in being the man still standing, competing and succeeding in spots where others faltered, Cuadras showed he was every bit the fighter his record suggested. If they do it again someday, we all win.
For now, the countdown looks on towards a showdown between Gonzalez and Japan’s Naoya Inoue. Gonzalez, at 29, has a style that isn’t going to last forever. He hasn’t faced anyone who wasn’t rated in the Ring or TBRB top ten of the class he was fighting since appearing on HBO. He should continue that standard, and at his size HBO likely insists he does.
Rematches with Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada, a showdown with Inoue, and a possible mandatory against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai all linger out there as possibilities. Every one is must see television for the man who extended his claim to being the best fighter in the world, in any division, again last weekend.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 33-10
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]