Brian Harty

Fighter of the Year: Gennady Golovkin

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The readers' choice for Fighter of the Year received less than one quarter of all votes cast. That says something about what took place in 2013.

Nine names were offered in the poll. The bottom four – Mikey Garcia (5.3 percent), Bernard Hopkins (1.9 percent), Sergey Kovalev (2.3 percent) and Akira Yaegashi (1.0 percent) – all gave worthy performances but were simply crowded out by five others who accomplished truly remarkable things in the past year. Tim Bradley, Danny Garcia, Gennady Golovkin, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Adonis Stevenson all received more than 10 percent of the vote for their efforts.

At the end of the day, though, there's just something about GGG.

It's no surprise to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. (45-0, 26 knockouts) in the top two. He fought twice in 2013, and while the first – a unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero – was largely a clinic in mismatching, the second was a lesson in history-making.

altMayweather's bout with Canelo Alvarez, who at the time was probably popular enough in Mexico to be the A-side in a pay-per-view fight with Pancho Villa, was reportedly seen by 77 percent of households in that country, the all-time record for a boxing event there. Across the border in Showtime Land, the fight was purchased 2.2 million times for around $150 million. (For those of you familiar with coin-op laundry, that's a stack of quarters 650 miles high.) Buy-wise, still less than the 2.53 million for Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, but far more money-wise, and that's before even getting to the record gate sales, closed-circuit tickets, etc.

Oh, and Mayweather won also, with ease, fighting above welterweight (barely) for only the third time to beat the incumbent RING junior middleweight champion, who many thought had a chance to muscle his way to victory. Plus, the fight was only No. 2 in a kerjillion-dollar, six-bout deal with Showtime, another bit of history Mayweather chiseled out in 2013. In our poll, he got 20.7 percent of the 1,764 votes cast.

Division champions Danny Garcia (junior welterweight) and Adonis Stevenson (light heavyweight) finished neck-and-neck with 16.4 and 15.1 percent, respectively.

Garcia's year was a study in contrast: confidence and doubt, the former from Garcia and the latter from everyone else. The lack of respect was confounding to those around the kid from Philadelphia, having just logged two victories over Erik Morales and a knockout of Amir Khan in 2012, and then a unanimous decision over Zab Judah in April 2013. But there it was: the question of not "if," but "what round" Garcia would fall to the heavily-inked and heavily-favored Lucas Matthysse.

altAnd once again Garcia delivered a "Swift" kick in the groin to the oddsmakers. Fighting in the co-feature to Mayweather-Alvarez, Garcia (27-0, 16 KOs) withstood the power-puncher's attacks before jabbing and hooking his way into the lead of what ultimately became an upset unanimous-decision win. The more Matthysse's right eye swelled shut, the more fans' eyes opened up to the fact that, yeah, Garcia's good.

Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) fought 20 rounds of a scheduled 46 in 2013. Four fights, four knockouts. First was a six-round revenge job against Darnell Boone, the man responsible for the "1" in Stevenson's record. It cleared the slate, but did so in relative obscurity. It was the next fight that made the Emanuel Steward protege a star.

Stevenson's overhand left to Chad Dawson's head connected with such force that it folded the then-RING champ in half before he toppled over like his foot was hinged to the canvas. This happened in the first round.

We already knew Stevenson could knock guys out, though. His next assignment proved he could also box … before knocking guys out. Tavoris Cloud lasted seven rounds. Stevenson then finished out the year with a sixth-round TKO against Tony Bellew, whose previous fight was a UD over fellow top-10er Isaac Chilemba.

Tim Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) started 2013 under a cloud of fan-rage following his gift-decision victory over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012 (Bradley actually received death threats), but ended the abuse with what would be voted Fight of the Year against Ruslan Provodnikov. He then completely erased the respect deficit by beating Juan Manuel Marquez, which doubled as a true victory-by-proxy over Pacquiao since it had been Marquez who KO'd the congressman in his previous fight. Bradley got 13.5 percent of the vote.

But the winner, with 23.8 percent, was the guy from Kazakhstan with the goofy grin and the slightly NSFW nickname (his initials, to be fair). He's also the guy with two-handed power and the skills to put him in position for using it.

Gennady Golovkin started boxing professionally in 2006 and has been on a winning streak ever since. His record currently stands at 28-0, with 25 knockouts, and in those 28 fights his weight has ranged from 159 to 161.25 pounds. The last bout of his that didn't end with a knockout was an eight-rounder in 2008. He is consistent.

He was the same in the amateurs, racking up 345 wins in 350 fights, a gold medal at the 2003 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At the relatively ripe old age of 31, he also has maturity to go with his experience.

In 2014 he had four fights. Before each one of them, there were those who said he'd soon be exposed as an overhyped power-puncher, and those who said no, he's different. After each of his wins, the voices of the latter grew louder. It was not just the power, which produced different-sounding impacts even through the TV and was further sensationalized by sparring partners who said they'd never felt anything like it. It was also the poise, the patience, and the precision. The footwork, the hand speed. Golovkin seemed to have the elements of a complete fighter.

But the power, and willingness to use it, is what drew fans to him in 2013. Being on HBO didn't hurt.

He began the year in New York with a bloodletting, defending his WBA middleweight title with a seventh-round stoppage of Gabriel Rosado. That stoked the public's interest, but rather than wait for the cable network to give him another date, Golovkin headed to Monte Carlo two-and-a-half months later for three rounds with Nobuhiro Ishida. He returned to the U.S. three months after that and KO'd Matthew Macklin in Connecticut, also in the third round.

altHis fourth outing of the year was against Curtis Stevens, who stepped forward and asked for the fight that the rest of the middleweight division now seemed to be actively avoiding. After all, reasoned Stevens, his hands were also accustomed to delivering knockouts.

By this time, Golovkin was beginning to reap the benefits of HBO's favor, and after a high-profile promotion for the fight which included all the requisite threat-hype and trash talk, 1.41 million viewers tuned in to watch Golovkin hammer Stevens for eight rounds until the New Yorker's corner asked the ref to end it. Those numbers made it the third-most watched fight on cable that year, behind bouts headlined by proven stars Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Although Golovkin again opted to stay busy against a questionable opponent in Monaco rather than wait for another HBO date (he'll face Osumanu Adama on Feb. 1), fans of GGG are hoping 2014 will bring even bigger things – fights against the top contenders at 160 and possibly even 168. Whatever happens, we say, "Yes, please."

 

 

Brian Harty is THE RING magazine's Contributing Editor. He can be reached at bharty@ringtv.com

Photos: Naoki Fukuda (Golovkin-Stevens, Mayweather-Alvarez, Golovkin-Rosado); Al Bello-Getty Images (Garcia-Matthysse)

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