Two of the hardest hitting fights on the planet competing in their genuine weight class battle each other tonight in a bout which encapsulates everything that boxing should be about. Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs have 62 stoppage victories between them, and you have to go back to August 2009 to find a time when either man went to a decision.
Smiley on the outside but a cold-blooded crusader inside, Gennady Golovkin has firmly established a fearsome reputation as one of the best fighters of this era. His power often belies his supreme boxing skills which earned him a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, and an AIBA World Championships gold medal.
Victories over the likes of Curtis Stevens, Martin Murray and David Lemieux aligned his rise to middleweight domination, while he stopped Kell Brook in five rounds during their enthralling fight last September. Although Golovkin emerged victorious, he was hit by Brook fairly often during the first three rounds, and against a bona fide middleweight in Jacobs, he may want to be more cautious in the exchanges.
But caution doesn’t seem to be an asset that Golovkin craves. He’s a stalker mixed with the calmness of an assassin, who knows that at any moment one punch can end the resolve of even the most game of opponents. They don’t come much braver than Daniel Jacobs however, who is not only a world champion, but a man who faced - and beat - his biggest battle outside of the ring.
Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in early 2012, Jacobs spent 19 months out of the sport as he defeated the illness and resumed his boxing career. Now 32-1 as a professional with 29 early finishes, he’s looked even better since his return than he was before, with 12 consecutive stoppage wins earning him the WBA middleweight title that he’s held since August 2014.
If Jacobs is to add Golovkin’s WBC, IBF and IBO belts in tonight’s unification match, he is going to have to eke out every ounce of the legendary resilience and belief that he possesses. Speaking to the press after weighing in, Jacobs was focused ahead of his upcoming task.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. I believe in my abilities. The mindset is a skill that people underestimate. My mentality is something that’s going to make me overachieve. I’m a mental beast and a mental warrior.”
Although Jacobs was stopped in his lone defeat to Dmitry Pirog in July 2010 and dropped by Sergio Mora in the first round of their August 2015 bout, he is a confident fighter who likes to assert his dominance early. He has gone past the seventh round just twice, and famously stopped Peter Quillin in 85 seconds in December 2015.
Golovkin turns 35 next month, and knows that his athletic prime is approaching the final garrison. If he beats Jacobs and Saul Alvarez takes care of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in May, the stage may finally be set for a superfight that would eclipse even the excitement of tonight’s expected fireworks. Despite the lure of that future battle, the Kazakh star is not looking past Jacobs.
“This is the biggest day for us. It’s a very dangerous fight and a very dangerous opponent. Everybody is coming for a big drama show.”
Madison Square Garden is the fitting location for the event, and British viewers can watch live on BoxNation in the early hours of the morning. This is a fight that has the potential to define the lives of both men. For Golovkin, it’s an opportunity to beat a world class middleweight in his prime, and to finally silence the doubters who maintain that he’s a nothing more than a flat-track bully.
For Jacobs, he’s already a world champion and somebody who has beaten the biggest challenge of all, but this is a chance for boxing supremacy, to beat the man many believe to be nigh on unbeatable. The bookmakers have Golovkin as 1/7 favourite, while Jacobs is a huge 5/1 underdog. Those odds seem high for a man who can punch as hard as Jacobs, especially considering Golovkin’s occasional defensive shortcomings in recent fights.
A solid undercard in New York also includes WBC super flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez looking for his 47th consecutive victory against Wisaksil Wangek, while Ireland’s Andy Lee returns to the ring for the first time since December 2015 against KeAndrae Leatherwood.