by Cliff Rold
The camp of lineal Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez has pointed out how light the resume of their perceived most dangerous contender has been. It’s not just perception anymore.
31-year old WBA Middleweight beltholder Gennady Golovkin (27-0, 24 KO) of Kazakhstan made his eighth title defense a statement on Saturday night at the MGM Grand at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, dominating and stopping 31-year old veteran contender Matthew Macklin (29-5, 20 KO) of Birmingham, West Midlands in the United Kingdom with a body shot in the third round. With the win, the best of his career to date, the former Olympic Silver Medalist Golovkin cleared a big hurdle towards the goal of getting the reigning Middleweight king in the ring.
Martinez is currently rehabbing from injury. By the time he returns, the chorus demanding he face the man likely to be seen as his heir apparent could be deafening.
The engaging Macklin wasted little time taking the fight to Golovkin before wisely attempting to mix in some movement. Tying up Golovkin in close, Macklin appeared to have a sound strategy in place. With just less than a minute to go, Golovkin tore those plans asunder with a rattling right hand. Macklin stayed on his feet as he took more power shots down the stretch, most of them singular and each playing with his legs.
Golovkin rocked Macklin again early in the second and methodically stalked his man with heavy hands. A cut was opened over the left eye of Macklin as he attempted to find a way into the fight, his head being rocked with rights and his body absorbing a nasty left. With thirty seconds to go, Macklin landed a shot off the ropes to back Golovkin off.
It was a temporary respite.
Macklin, always a warrior at heart, tried to find a miracle and landed a nice left hook as Golovkin came forward. Golovkin’s response to being tagged was to go right back to work. Backing Macklin into the ropes, an uppercut raised the guard of Macklin and a left to the body collapsed him to the floor. Macklin didn’t beat the ten count. He didn’t appear to beat the two-minute count, the devastation of the shot carrying well past the conclusion of referee Eddie Cotton’s count at 1:22 of round three.
Speaking on air after the fight, Golovkin was as calm as he’d been in the ring. “This is a big day for me today…This fight is a present for my public.” Asked about a showdown with Martinez, Golovkin was clear. “I know I’m ready for this fight. I think it’s great business for everybody. For sport, for fans, for TV too.”
Everybody except, maybe, the Middle Champion of the World. Martinez’s days as king may not be numbered but it certainly felt that way as Golovkin made the latest step in his career.
Macklin seemed to agree. In March 2012, he scored a knockdown early before suffering a stoppage loss in a challenge of Martinez. He didn’t blink about who he felt was the best man he’s ever shared a ring with. “Without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the best kid I’ve ever fought.” Macklin, unsuccessful now in three shots at titles in the division, likely remains a viable contender against just about anyone but the rising Kazakh puncher.
Closing in on a potential title shot at Super Middleweight, 25-year old Thomas Oosthuizen (21-0-2, 13 KO), 167, of Boksburg, Gauteng, South Africa, came from behind to steal a draw despite the early dominance of 29-year old Brandon Gonzales (17-0-1, 10 KO), 166, of Sacramento, California, winning most of the second half of the ten-round affair.
The referee was Ricky Gonzales.
The fight was a series of mirror image rounds for almost all of the first half. Oosthuizen, his southpaw lead right dangling at his waist, left him open for Gonzales to control him with lefts shot straight and plenty behind them. The normally high volume Oosthuizen could do nothing to get on track, tagged seemingly every time he tried to get off.
That started to change in the sixth, Gonzales slowing down a bit as Oosthuizen exerted himself with more purpose. Gonzales replied in a close seventh, landing well and visibly to the body.
The fight’s turn to the competitive continued in rounds eight and nine, Oosthuizen subtly taking control of the flow of the fight and finding a long uppercut. A fatigued Gonzales ate the harder shots in the final round, his late flagging culminating in a final exchange of body blows. Oosthuizen got the better of the exchange.
It was enough for the favorite not to lose, final scores coming in at 98-92 for Gonzales, 96-94 for Oosthuizen, and the settling 95-95. Oosthuizen, despite salvaging a draw, likely takes a hit to his reputation for the moment while Gonzales improves his stock. Both men will move on in pursuit of contention in the thick Super Middleweight division.
In the televised opener, 26-year old Jr. Middleweight Willie Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KO), 153, of Cleveland, Ohio, weathered some bad moments and a cut to extend his current win streak to five with a unanimous ten-round decision over a game 29-year old Lucian Cuello (32-3, 16 KO), 153, of La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was Cuello’s first defeat since a stoppage loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2010, halting a winning streak at six.
The referee was Joey Lupino.
Nelson dominated the first two rounds, working at range and inside in the first and primarily inside in the second. Playing close hurt Nelson in the third, a cut opened up by a clash of heads and stiff left hook from Cuello. Nelson was visibly wobbled in the frame, the fight taking a turn for the dramatic.
The pace of the fight slowed in the next three rounds as Nelson opted to move more. Drama returned in the seventh. Nelson, stopping along the ropes, was tagged with a big left hook and Cuello went to work. Ripping right hands around the guard and lefts to the head and body, Cuello kept Nelson wary but seemed to lose steam. Nelson came back in the final minute, throwing his left to the body and finding the right uppercut.
There was no shyness from either man in round eight, Nelson meeting Cuello in the trenches as both men looked for a big shot. Nelson did more boxing at distance in the ninth, tying up when his back touched the ropes.
Cuello came out strong at the start of the final round, busting Nelson with a right. Nelson immediately grabbed to signal it hurt. A left uppercut wobbled him before the round was a minute old and he went to his bike. A cut opened over the right eye of Cuello and he wiped away the crimson as he continued a dogged pursuit. Nelson was able to leg it out, punching just enough to keep it honest and make the final bell.
The decision came in at fair ranges of 97-93 twice and 96-94, all for Nelson. The crowd, sympathetic to a Cuello who did more damage in less rounds, booed the outcome.
The contest was televised in the U.S. on HBO as part of its “Boxing After Dark” series, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and K2 Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com