By Charles Jay
We know it would be too much to ask to get upsets of TWO of boxing’s top attractions within one week. And it would be incredibly bad luck for DAZN to see two of its three boxing stars go down in back-to-back fashion.
We don’t think they’re going to be rolling snake eyes here, though.
Steve Rolls comes into Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with a 19-0 record that has been accomplished with no fanfare whatsoever. And so there are a fair amount of boxing fans asking “Steve Who?” as this fight approaches.
And look – Gennady Golovkin, who provides the “A” side of this matchup, is being pacified for the time being as he aims toward a third fight with Canelo Alvarez, which is the reason DAZN picked him up in the first place.
So it is understandable that he is getting a tuneup, or a “gimme,” as it were.
But is Rolls enough of a survivor to give us some rounds, and if so, how agonizing are those rounds going to be to watch?
You can see on his Wikipedia page that he has almost a hundred amateur bouts, competed for the Canadian national team, and went to some international events. He works out of a fitness center as a personal trainer. Okay, we will concede that he’ll be in shape.
But this is very thin resume to take into a fight that carries this much exposure. Rolls was fighting eight-rounders as recently as last April, and in the fight that was most significant for him, he beat KeAndre Leatherwood for the USBA middleweight title last time out, in what was a competitive fight, although it wasn’t close on two of the cards.
He’s pretty much a stand-up fighter, with his hands held high. There is nothing particularly out of the ordinary that he does. Sure, he’ll throw a jab out there, but not often enough. He certainly isn’t likely to control any rounds with it.
His power numbers are not intriguing (just ten KO’s in 19 fights). And watching him in action, there doesn’t appear to be anything explosive that he brings to the table. In other words, it’s not a matter of us saying “Yeah, we know he hasn’t fought anyone, but he can really crack….”
And that’s a shame. Because when you’re going in there with a much more experienced guy; a champion who may still be one of the best in the world on a pound-for-pound basis, you’d like to have something that is a great equalizer, such as a very busy and effective jab, excellent power in one hand or the other, or something unorthodox to keep the opponent off-balance and make him improvise in some way. Rolls, unfortunately, isn’t going to be bringing any of that into battle.
Of course, if he did, he wouldn’t be a tuneup for GGG, would he?
No. He is what is known as a “safe” opponent.
Let’s put it this way – Rolls don’t bring as much in the way of an all-around game as did Andy Ruiz, and Golovkin probably brings more than Anthony Joshua.
And so really, if you’re wondering what is going to happen, maybe the answers lie in what GGG wants to get out of this fight. After having laid off since September, does he want to get some “work” in? Would he rather get Rolls out of there as quickly as possible? Does he want to employ a strategy where he just gradually chop down the opponent? Or is he looking to throw caution to the winds and take advantage of a very inexperienced foe?
If you’re a betting man, this would impact what you do with the over-under on rounds. GGG is a prohibitive favorite to win, but if you look around enough, you can find “total rounds” bets of all kinds. As far as I can see, the closest thing to an even money proposition puts it at four and a half rounds.
So then Rolls’ chin comes into play, and I’m not sure we know enough about it to determine whether he can take some sharp punches from a genuine major leaguer without folding. I can tell you that he doesn’t look like a deft counterpuncher, and he can be countered himself with some effectiveness.
Rolls is kind of bland, like a steak without seasoning, but he does look pretty decent fundamentally. In other words, while his skills are not off the charts, it’s not like he’s a big mess in there. You can’t say that Golovkin hasn’t shown some interest in getting guys out of there early; since he reached the ten-round level, 14 of his 24 wins inside the distance have come in the first three rounds. But he is also now 37 years old.
If Rolls makes the choice that he wants to be a survivor, he might have a chance to do it. And in that event, it would produce what is often referred to in the business as “agony,” which means that you’ll have a succession of rounds that are one-sided and aren’t really interesting in any way.
However, what bothers me about Rolls is that he does not appear to be a mover. He’s not going to frustrate his man, and since he can’t punch it will make it more difficult for him to get out of trouble. In turn, that means he is going to take some punishment. Golovkin had a layoff similar to this last year, and in his hastily-arranged “tuneup” prior to the rematch with Canelo, he didn’t waste any time with Vanes Martirosyan (two rounds). So maybe just getting a workout isn’t what he’s looking for.
It’s not as much a matter of skills as it is a matter of force. GGG has it; Rolls doesn’t, and probably can’t hold it off. And that should end this within four rounds.