Back in 2013 I wrote a column previewing a title fight at Madison Square Garden between Gennady Golovkin and Curtis Stevens. In that column I stated, “Outside of hardcore boxing fans, few have heard of Golovkin simply because he hasn’t been able to land the mega-fight he’s undoubtedly worthy of.
“Simply put, other champions want nothing to do with Golovkin and challengers aren’t in any rush to try and take his belt.”
Well here we are almost four years and 10 fights later, and not much has changed.
Granted “Triple G” is now one of the most recognized and celebrated boxers of today, yet the highly coveted career defining mega-fights he wants most, continue to elude him. The reasons are the same as they were back in 2013, when the most sought after opponents steered clear of Golovkin.
I can’t really fault most of those fighters or their handlers back then, because there wasn’t much upside as the risk far outweighed any possible reward. Golovkin wasn’t the draw he is today and casual fight fans didn’t even know who he was. But that’s all changed as GGG is without a doubt, one of the sport’s biggest stars.
This Saturday night Golovkin (36-0, 33 KO’s) returns to Madison Square Garden to face off against Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KO’s). Plenty of hardware will be up for grabs as GGG puts his WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and IBO middleweight straps on the line. Jacobs is the current owner of the WBA (Regular) title. Obviously the main goal right now appears to be an attempt to completely unify the 160-pound weight class.
Not surprising, bookmakers opened Golovkin as a -750 betting favorite, with the take-back on Jacobs +500. As we go to print, the price to back GGG continues to rise and he’s currently listed as high as -900 here in Las Vegas. Recreational bettors tend to back the underdog in bouts where one fighter is so heavily favored, wanting to put up a small amount of money in an attempt to make a nice score.
Historically, casual bettors tend to wager late, so it should come as no surprise to see the betting line drop as we approach fight night. Therefore those wanting to back the favorite should wait, while those who intend to bet the underdog should fire sooner rather than later.
Now let’s break this fight down and see if there’s any value worth taking advantage of.
Jacobs has many of the assets needed to have a shot at handing Golovkin his first loss. He’s got excellent hand and foot speed, along with size and strength. Jacobs is also a very efficient boxer with a well-rounded skill set.
Though he may not be great at any one thing, Jacobs is very good at a lot of them. He’s solid defensively, has power in both hands, and is extremely accurate. Jacobs prefers and does his best work when moving forward, but has also shown the ability to do some damage when being backed up. The main concern is whether or not he’s got the chin to deal with GGG’s power.
It’s been nine years since any opponent has been able to go the distance against Golovkin. He’s been able to finish more than 20 straight opponents by KO-TKO, and only one of the last 10 was able to make it past the eighth round. Simply put, though he obviously possesses one-punch knockout power, Golovkin prefers to systematically break opponents down. Few fighters have been able to work the head and body simultaneously the way GGG has done.
For Golovkin, his devastating knockouts are the primary reason he’s become the global celebrity he is today. But what’s almost always overlooked is his ability to box.
In fact, I’d argue that I’ve never seen him out-boxed and even find it difficult to recall Golovkin losing many rounds in his 36 professional bouts. His detractors continue to point out his defense is suspect and Golovkin isn’t very difficult to land against.
That may hold some truth, because we have seen GGG get hit more as the level of opposition increases. But he’s also been able to walk right through those punches in order to land some of his own, and has yet to appear hurt in any past bout.
Bottom line, for Jacobs to have a shot at winning he’ll need to go right after Golovkin from the opening bell. To date, GGG has opted to start slow and take his time to feel and figure opponents out.
Finally, as a fan I am truly looking forward to watching this fight, especially since Jacobs may be Golovkin’s toughest test to date. As a bettor, I’ve yet to find the value needed to warrant a wager on this bout. I will admit the 5-1 odds or better being offered on the one-loss Jacobs appear attractive on the surface, and he’s got more than just a puncher’s chance.
I look for Golovkin to absorb Jacobs’ best shots early and then start stalking and walking him down like he’s done to so many fighters in the past… and put on another “Big Drama Show.”