Triple G and the Rube


Tonight’s match between middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin and Marco Antonio Rubio has been much anticipated not only because of the two fighters’ fan-friendly fighting styles, but because Golovkin, for all his acclaim, has hardly stepped up to the elite level yet in his career. So far, in his already distinguished career, Golovkin’s biggest opponents have been themselves entirely undistinguished, the most recognizable names in his record being the extremely flawed Australian Daniel Geale, the fading contender Matthew Macklin, and the all-but-anonymous Nobuhiro Ishida. Someone unfamiliar with Golovkin’s performances might feel inclined to ask how he could build the reputation he has against such mediocre competition, but a writer for Ring magazine recently summarized this inconsistency well, comparing Golovkin to Mike Tyson. The sport was so much in awe Tyson’s path of destruction for most of his career, no one much thought to question the level of competition. Golovkin’s athletic dominance has been arguably just as impressive, but we can see a similar blind spot in our collective view of Golovkin. We want to believe so much that he’ll continue dispatching his opponents with such ease and prove himself the true champion of the division, that we’re willing to overlook a few chips in the paint.
Rubio, of course, while by no means a master technician or a sure bet for the Boxing Hall of Fame, has actually fought some upper-level, if not elite, competition. In fact, Rubio has a total of 66 fights with 59 wins, 51 of which came by way of knockout. That’s not quite double Golovkin’s KO record, but considering his reputation in the sport, almost is pretty damn good. Losing only 6 times in 66 fights, the only two of Rubio’s losses in the last 5 years have been to Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who, by the way, came into the ring a good weight class above Rubio. With these credentials, it’s plain to see that tonight’s match is a reasonable one, even though fans are expecting a one-sided victory for Golovkin. I think we’ll see an interesting exchange or two in the early rounds because Rubio’s chin is so sturdy, but if he’s not able to use his awkward style to keep Golovin’s punch rate low, he won’t be able to stand 12 rounds. Golovkin is hittable, so if he doesn’t watch his defense, he could actually get hurt, which might lead him to reduce his offense, thereby undermining his fight plan.
All that would have made a fairly comprehensive picture of the fight, if Rubio had made weight. Just yesterday at the weigh-in, fans discovered Rubio was a full pound and a half over the middleweight limit. This could mean that Rubio felt stronger at the higher weight and intentionally came in at the weight to give himself an advantage, but that advantage is somewhat counterproductive given that in achieving it he forfeited his championship title. As for other scenarios, none of them are good for Rubio. He’s in his mid-thirties, but his weight shouldn’t be such a challenge in preparing for a top-level fight at this age. The ESPN anchors are eager to lead analysts to declare Golovkin’s victory a foregone conclusion with outrageous talking points like “describe what makes Golovkin an all-time great,” but fans can expect to see him tested tonight, if not too heavily.

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