Gennady Golovkin returns to the ringSaturday night for the first time since 2016 when he fights Daniel Jacobs in a title unification bout with the IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles on the line from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The co-main event features Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez defending WBC junior bantamweight title against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) hasn’t fought since he scored a fifth-round knockout over welterweight champion Kell Brook in September. The knockout ran Golovkin’s streak to 23 over an eight-year span.
Jacobs (32-1, 23 KOs) last competed in September when he defeated Sergio Mora by seventh-round TKO. The Brooklyn native has won 12 consecutive fights since he suffered his only loss to Dmitry Pirog in July 2010.
Gonzalez (46-0, 38 KOs), who many in boxing feel is the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world,looks to score his first stoppage since his ninth-round TKO win over Brian Viloria in Oct. 2015.Interestingly enough, it wasan event him and Golovkin fought at MSG.
Sor Rungvisai (34-4-1) comes into the biggest fight of his career on a tear, winning seven consecutive fights.
There are plenty of questions heading into Saturday night’s card, but these are the four biggest ones:
Can ‘GGG’ stay focused on Jacobs and not look ahead to a possible showdown against Saul"Canelo"Alvarez?
In the lead-up to Saturday’s fight, Golovkin hasbeen asked plenty of questions in regards to Alvarez. He hasmaintained that he isfocused on Jacobs, but at times, he has shown frustration that a fight with Alvarez hasn’t been signed.
Golovkin needs to remember what's in front of him. Hestated in the build-upthat when he fought Brook it wasn’t interesting to him, and that he had his mind on other things,trying to make different fights like the one with Alvarez.
Jacobs is the number two middleweight in the world and cannot be overlooked.This isn’t a fighter who'smoving up two weight classes like Brook did. A slight loss of focus by Golovkin on Saturday night, and the Alvarez fight is an afterthought.
CanJacobs be the guy to take down Golovkin?
If you base a fight on what the oddsmakers say, Jacobs might as well just show up to MSG,let Golovkin knock him out and collect his money. Jacobs isabout a 6-1 underdog.
Normally, this would be the biggest fight in Jacobs’ 33-fight career. Butin 2011, Jacobs found out he had cancer. Doctors told him he had osteosarcoma, and a tumor was found on his spine. Obviously, a fight for your life is different from one in the ring, but Jacobs' mental fortitude can only help him in a fight against Golovkin.
Jacobs brought in former welterweight titleholder Chris Algieri as his nutritionist but to also help guide him through the process of a big fight. Back in 2014, Algieri took on boxing’s biggest star, Manny Pacquiao, in Macau, China. Even though he lost the fight, Algierihelped Jacobs prepare for his biggest professional moment.
Jacobs will be the heaviest striker and most technical boxer with which Golovkin hasstepped inside the ring. With everything he’s gone through and having the right team around him, Jacobs has the best shot at putting a halt to the Golovkin train.
Who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
Gonzalezis regarded as the best boxer in the world. It's easy to make the case for him. The hard-hitting 29-year-old is undefeated in 46 fights, with 38 of those wins by knockout, and is one of only 16 boxers to capture four world titles in four different weight classes.
Butfighting in a lower weight class hurts Gonzalez’s case. The public likes seeing the bigger weight classes and routinely views the lower divisions as only fighters who are quick and can nicely fill in an undercard.
Golovkin is undefeated in 36 fights andhas the spectacular knockout streak, but some in boxing feel his management team has booked him in situations where he can face easier competition. He looked unimpressive in his last fight, against Brook.
If you want to be the best fighter in the world, you need to have supreme focus in every fight regardless of who you are going up against.
How many pay-per-view buys will the show garner?
The top two fights, on paper, make this a must-watch event. You have the two best boxers in the world in what should becompetitive fights.
Butasking fans to shell out $64.95 to watch fights during oneof the biggest sports weekends of the year — the first Saturday of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — is a tall task. This is a fight that could have been on HBO, but the company doesn't seemtoo keen on the ideaof having big fights on their network and not PPV.
Golovkin's last PPV outing in October2015, against David Lemieux, did around 150,000 buys. ThatSaturdayfeatured a Cubs-Mets MLB playoff game.The basketball tournament might be viewed more than baseball playoffs.
If this fight can do the same numbers as it did 17 months ago, it would be considered a success.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can find his podcast, "The Fight Club Chicago," and subscribe on iTunes. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.