The first marquee title showdown for 2017 is set to take place this Sunday (Manila time), when WBC, WBA (super champion), and IBF world middleweight (160 lbs.) titlist Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan takes on WBA regular champion Daniel Jacobs of the United States in a 12-round unification duel at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Both fighters are well-respected individuals outside the ring, but it is the firepower they bring in the ring that has made their showdown a highly anticipated one. Collectively, Golovkin and Jacobs have knocked out 90% of their adversaries.
Golovkin totes a record of 36-0 with 33 knockouts and is regarded as one of the most feared and avoided fighters in pro boxing. The 34-year old Golovkin, who once fought in the Philippines as an amateur, is on a 23-fight knockout streak. The last time Golovkin went the distance was in 2008, when he hammered out an eight-round decision over Amar Amari in Denmark. He has since been on a roll, stopping his next 23 opponents and picking a handful of middleweight titles along the way. Golovkin has been middleweight champ since 2010 when he initially won the WBA’s version of the belt.
Golovkin boasts of debilitating power in both fists, although some critics aver that the quality of his victims leaves plenty to be desired. Jacobs’ arrival hopes to change the landscape, as the Brooklyn native is coming in with a respectable record of 32-1, with 29 knockouts. The lone blemish in Jacobs’ record was a fifth-round knockout loss to Russian Dmitry Pirog in 2010 for the vacant WBO middleweight title. Jacobs was leading on the scorecards when Pirog flattened him with a crushing right hand in the fifth stanza. Jacobs has since won his next 12 fights, all by knockout.
Jacobs is nicknamed “The Miracle Man” because he overcame osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer to become world champion. But while Jacobs has been declared cancer-free, questions persist about his chin which was marked “fragile” after the knockout loss to Pirog. Jacobs also kissed the canvas in August 2015 opposite light-hitting challenger Sergio Mora. For Golovkin, Jacobs says he sparred with light heavyweights to test and galvanize his chin.
Golovkin remains the 8-to-1 pick to remain champion, although his armor has its share of dents. Golovkin struggled in his last fight in September, getting tagged repeatedly by welterweight champ Kell Brook. Then again, when Golovkin got his act together, he displayed his power anew by stopping Brook with a furious barrage in the fifth round. Brook went home with a fractured right eye socket. Golovkin’s defense is far from being air-tight, but with the champion it is a case of his offense being the best defense.
Jacobs has vowed to beat Golovkin the way he beat cancer: through sheer faith and determination. While he is impressed with Golovkin’s ledger, Jacobs says he is looking forward to the challenge. “I am scared of no man, I fear nothing,” said Jacobs.
The middleweight clash figures to be a punchaton, but the safe bet remains Golovkin. Between Golovkin and Jacobs, it is Golovkin’s chin that has thus far withstood serious bombardment. Moreover, the prevailing presumption is that Golovkin’s power carries more crunch and will be felt to the hilt by Jacobs. The fight could be over in a few rounds, but the explosiveness will likely linger in the minds of fight fans long after the smoke of battle had cleared.
* * *
For comments, the writer can be reached at email@example.com.