Someone’s ‘0’ has got to go on Saturday night in London. Gennady Golovkin (35-0, 32 KO), whose frustrating pursuit of Canelo Alvarez remains unfulfilled, meets undefeated British welterweight Kell Brook (36-0, 25 KO) for the Kazakh’s WBC and IBF middleweight titles. Brook, IBF welterweight champion, will step up two weights in a matchup that is intriguing for many reasons, and more importantly one that we’ll be able to watch live at a decent hour.
GGG, whose mega-fight with Canelo is still under construction, heads to London for the first time to face what may well the biggest challenge of his career to date. There is no question as to whether it is Brook’s. The Sheffield native has pursued his countryman, Amir Khan, for years now only to be arrogantly dismissed, but after the latter’s career-stalling knockout at the hands of Alvarez in May, it is Brook who is stepping up to an even more daunting challenge against the most powerful puncher the middleweight division has seen for a generation.
Brook won the IBF Welterweight title from Shawn Porter in August 2014, but just weeks later was the victim of a vicious machete attack during a night out in Tenerife. After a hazy day and night’s drinking, Brook was left with a massive, gaping wound on his thigh that required 32 staples. The events of the night were never truly established but it is to Brook’s absolute credit that he was to return in March 2015 to make the first of three title defences.
Brook will have shed few tears to see Khan get dropped so shudderingly by the far-too-powerful Alvarez. However, Khan, the two-time former world champion was unwavering in the wake of his defeat, stating his intense dislike for Brook as the primary reason that they would never fight. Surely, in boxing of all sports, a hatred for your rival would be a massive carrot to step up and face them.
Khan, though, as an alumni of future hall-of-fame trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, still has relative box-office draw in the US and would clearly prefer take a loss to one of the stars of the US market, rather than suffer the potential ignominy of defeat to a guy who he has always regarded as being beneath him.
Despite this discord, Khan will not have entered Brook’s thoughts in recent months as he knows he is going toe-to-toe this weekend with a freakishly powerful man. He’ll also be aware that going twelve rounds at the O2 may require the greatest performance of his career to date. While detractors of Golovkin always point to his so-so resume, he has never sidestepped a fight, more he has been forced to endure games of cat and mouse with crafty promoters.
To be fair, anyone who has stepped in the ring with Golovkin in the last two years has been absolutely decimated, so for Golden Boy et al. there is the fear of seeing their top draw get absolutely pummelled. From a practical – see commercial – perspective, it is easier for a boxer to return after defeat to a back foot technician over twelve strategic rounds than it is to pick themselves up from a jarring knockout defeat. George Groves career was completely derailed by Carl Froch’s right hand in 2014, while Khan’s stock, as discussed, has clearly plummeted.
In October of last year, Golovkin ruthlessly took apart David Lemieux, then IBF middleweight champion, in eight glaringly one-sided rounds. Last time out after a blitzkrieg of the mandatory challenger, Dominic Wade, GGG had to listen to some bullshit prevarication from Golden-Boy, who seem to want the champion to come to Mexico City and fight strictly under their stipulations. A bout with Billy-Joe Saunders was never a reality, while Chris Eubank Jr’s chances of a shot at Golovkin seem to have been waylaid by an overly nosy parent.
So, it falls to Brook, an underrated fighter to jump two weights and attempt to pull off one of boxing’s greatest ever upsets. Brook, for whatever reason, never really made it outside the UK market but himself and Eddie Hearn, the chief of Matchroom Sports, have seen a once in a lifetime opportunity present itself.
Brook seem eminently confident going into this fight but in a game where the combatants willingly permit themselves to indulge in fantasy prior to fight night, why wouldn’t he be? For Brook, who has always been a big welterweight, a jump up the weights was probably on the cards, but not two levels and not to face an absolute wrecking ball.
The first instinct, after Khan’s defeat to Alvarez, was to predict an equally grizzly end for Brook. However, Brook will probably never return to 147 pounds so it’s not like he’s just coming up for a look, and he looks physically the match to Golovkin in the flesh. He’s got really good speed, and a great chin – admittedly against welterweights – but speed and a chin make for good bedfellows.
On the flip side, however, you have to question whether the extra weight will actually equate into a more powerful boxer, yet one who also maintains his speed? What made Manny Pacquiao such an incredible boxer was his ability to win world titles in eight divisions while maintaining both these physical attributes.
More often that not, in any sport, extra muscle equals decreased mobility. After some supreme hand speed, Once Were Warriors antihero Jake the Mus nonchalantly observed that his fallen foe had used “Too much weights, not enough speed work” and there’s merit in this observation.
In this fight, Brook’s speed is his greatest ally and it appears that his best chance of victory lies in winning a boxing match as opposed to a toe-to-toe fight with Golovkin. The risk with adding this weight is that his greatest attribute is now hugely nullified. Of course, you can argue either way but surely it seems Brook is playing into GGG’s hands by climbing all the way up to 16o. Brook is now, of course, proclaiming that 160 has always been his natural weight but why only make the jump now?
Again, we shouldn’t get caught up in the pre-fight hyperbole and while Brook did look in exceptional shape at the weigh-in, the lingering concern remains that he is stepping up for the first time to face the best there is in the middleweight division.
Brook won’t face the same strength issues as Khan but if this detracts from his speed and allows Golovkin close down the ring early then it’s game over. If Brook boxes patiently for the early rounds and makes it past nine, then this fight is live. Golovkin is coming to fight in hostile territories – though he strikes you as a guy who’d fight anyone, anywhere, anytime – and if the power game doesn’t pay dividends early he may become unsettled.
However, GGG is a brilliantly precise boxer, and his only perceived weaknesses are based on conjecture. Brook is the one who needs everything to go right and even if it does, he may not win.
If Brooks greatest attributes haven’t been compromised then tomorrow night has the potential to be the fight of the year. The feeling is, though, that the jump in weight will come at a price. Golovkin will want to thrill on his UK debut. And we’re inclined to think he will.
Straight Up Sport Betting Tips:
- Gennady Golovin to win in the 9th @ 12/1
- Both fighters to be knocked down @ 12/1