by Tyson Bruce
Age & Physical Equipment
Gennady Golovkin: At thirty-two years of age (soon too be 33 in April) and riding an eighteen-fight knockout streak, Golovkin, 31-0-0-(28 KOs) appears to be in his physical prime. Considering the brevity of most of his fights, it’s fair to say that Golovkin is a “young” thirty-two by boxing standards. That being said, one of the least talked about story lines with Golovkin is the fact that the clock may be waning on his opportunity to box pound-for-pound level opposition during his absolute physical peak.
At five-foot ten and with the long fluid muscles of a swimmer, Golovkin has the ideal boxers’ build. His respectable 70-inch wingspan allows him the flexibility to either use his jab from the outside or unleash his vicious power on the inside. Neither extremely large nor small for the weight class, his ideal distance is at mid-range, where he has the ability to move his hands but also counter-punch effectively.
Martin Murray: Also thirty-two years of age, with a relatively brief standing at or around the top of the middleweight division, Murray, 29-1-1 (12 KOs), is right at the peak of his physical powers. His relative youth was on display in his two biggest fights against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez, both on the downside of their careers.
Just one look at Murray’s physique and it’s obvious what a physical specimen he is for the division. At nearly 6′ 1″ tall and sporting a 73-inch reach, Murray is clearly the larger man in this fight. Murray is far from a string bean, possessing a thickly muscled, lean body that has helped make him such a durable challenger. Martinez, despite being a respected puncher, clearly struggled to make a physical impact against the much larger Murray. This should help Murray against the brutal offensive assault from Golovkin.
Quality of Opposition and Experience:
Golovkin: The constant knock against Golovkin is that he has not fought or defeated any of the top tier middleweights, despite his best efforts to lure them into the ring. While this fact remains indisputable, he sure has beat a long string of very good middleweights. Say what you will about Proksa, Geale, Macklin, Stevens, or Rubio, they were respected top-ten contenders when Golovkin absolutely eviscerated them. In fact, there isn’t a middleweight alive who has beat more ranked contenders than Golovkin.
Golovkin has been able to develop so quickly as a professional because of his massively long and decorated amateur career. “GGG” travelled around the globe and fought the world’s best amateurs for nearly a decade. His consistency at the very highest level is downright scary, with just five losses in nearly 350 amateur fights — an accomplishment that compares favorably with nearly any amateur in history. His amateur background laid the technical foundation that has allowed him to be such a successful pro.
Murray’s experience at the top of the middleweight division has been relatively brief and perhaps slightly overblown going into his bout with Golovkin. Aside from challenging Sturm and Martinez, he has boxed an awful lot of guys even the most seasoned boxing fans have never heard of. That being said, in those two outings he more than proved his worth as a top contender. At the present time, a better middleweight in Europe cannot be found.
Murray had a solid if not spectacular amateur career in Great Britain that was derailed when he had a run-in with the law.
The Brit returned to the spotlight when he won the fourth installment of the prizefighter tournament. Murray gradually honed his skills by fighting and defeating fellow prospects and journeyman fighters on Britain’s domestic boxing scene. His two big encounters against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez had the misfortune of being fought on both opponents’ home turf. Had Murray had a level playing field, he might very well be the unified middleweight champion right now.
Fighting Style and Intangibles:
Golovkin’s style is a hybrid of a highly technical Eastern-European style and the brute force Mexican/North American professional style.
Golovkin is an excellent (and underrated) counter-puncher who uses a high volume punching style to open his opponents up for the counter shots that knock them out. It’s easy to forget that Golovkin lands more jabs per round than any other top-rated boxer on earth, and nearly eight more per round than his opponent this weekend. His hard, thudding jab and profound awareness of his ring surroundings are what enables Golovkin to figure out his opponents so quickly and why his fights end so fast. His ninety percent knockout ratio (the highest in the sport) has created an aura of terror around Golovkin that is in and of itself one of his greatest weapons.
The most consistent criticism of Golovkin is that Abel Sanchez’s seek and destroy strategy creates holes in his defence. Yet, this criticism is not really substantiated with any solid evidence, as he is tied with Erislandy Lara and behind only Floyd Mayweather for possessing the highest plus/minus ratio in the sport. Plus/Minus is determined by subtracting the opponents connect percentage with the fighters landed percentage. When you consider how safety-conscious Mayweather and Lara are perceived to be, it’s truly remarkable that the offensive-minded Golovkin rivals them in any defensive category.
Murray is considered more the pure boxer going into the bout. Murray has a traditional stand-up European style in many respects, with an effective jab and tight-shell defense being the cornerstones of his style. Murray has also shown an impressive chin, as despite the high-contact nature (at times) during the Sturm and Martinez fights, neither man was able to stun Murray or really get his respect.
The glaring weakness of his style against Golovkin is that his tight-shell defense and cautious nature can periodically neutralize his offense. Against Martinez, his passivity is what caused him to lose value points on the scorecards. If an aging Martinez was able to send Murray into hiding, what will he do when Golovkin starts whaling away? Also, with just a 38 percent knockout ratio, does he have the power to really get Golovkin’s respect?