25 October 2015

Boxing: Golovkin vs. Lemieux on 17 October 2015

Golovkin and Lemieux
I caught up with the Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux fight over the weekend. Instead of paying $60 to watch it on PPV I watched it for free on my friend's HBO go account. (Thanks Jeffy!)

Boxing can be fascinating to watch. A good fight is an opportunity to enjoy watching two skilled athletes solve a difficult problem under duress. A bad fight is watching two mokes fumble around embarrassingly. Most fights are bad, because boxing is hard.

Some fighters are intelligent, delicate artists that excel at specific aspects of the trade. Floyd Mayweather is supremely good at not getting punched, and also a very accurate, precise puncher. He is also famous (infamous? famously smart?) for not taking fights against anyone that will maybe give him a hard time. (He didn't fight Manny Pacquaio until the latter fighter had been beaten by other, lesser fighters and was years past his prime, due in no small part to a Juan Manuel Marquez punch that probably would have killed anyone not a professional fighter.) Mayweather uses these two skills to win (mostly) boring fights. Occasionally he will deliver a sustained beatdown and KO finish against a wildly outclassed fighter (Ricky Hatton) but usually not. Mayweather is not a risk taker; he is all about protecting the brand. Which is too bad, because Mayweather is a jerk and serial abuser of women and it would be lovely to watch him catch a beating.

Other fighters are less technical, and (like Mayweather) get by on favorable (read: weak) matchups to pad their record and bully their way against opponents that are likely to succumb to their strengths and hide their weaknesses. David Lemieux , a 'model handsome' multilingual fighter is of this type: a strong puncher, but not terribly smart or strategic. The only thing he has in common with a fighter like Mayweather is that he has stretched his record by feasting on weaker fighters. That is maybe a bit unfair because he is certainly a good fighter so by definition most of his opponents will be weaker. Fighting mostly at home in Quebec he came into his fight with Golovkin with a record of 34-2, with 31 knockouts. This is very good indeed! According to the announcers he has the power to turn around any fight. A puncher's chance, as it were. More on this anon.

Then there is the rare fighter that is both technically sound and heavy handed. Enter Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin. The hype train on Golovkin has been running full steam for years now, and with good reason. That's how you get a PPV fight with over 150,000 buys. (A pathetic number given Golovkin's qualities as a fighter and the fact that the Mayweather-Pacquaio shitshow got over 4.4 MILLION ppv buys. People are dumb.) His most recent fight was no different. Golovkin is a very good boxer. This fact is often obscured because he has legendary punching power.

Aside: In boxing circles you hear a lot of talk about how hard a guy punches. Any comments on this topic from promoters or managers are so inflated that they should be immediately and summarily ignored. This stuff is always overstated because people (including me) like talking about it and it sells tickets. It is not overstated in Golovkin's case.

The Golovkin - Lemieux fight itself was a 'great' fight only if you enjoy watching one man repeatedly punch another man in the face. It was certainly great if you are a Golovkin fan. It was decidedly less great for Lemieux's modeling prospects. It took only one round for Golovkin to imprint his will on Lemieux, via a sharp, accurate, punishing jab. Whenever I see a great jab I am reminded of one of the interviewees from When We Were Kings (I think it is Thomas Hauser) who says, "a jab is a punch in the face", and that getting punched in the face hurts. 

Golovkin took the opportunity to share this little nugget with Lemieux over and over and over again. As a casual observer it was difficult to watch. Lemieux had no answer for it, and was forced to lunge and reach and tip himself off balance in the hopes of landing a haymaker to turn the fight around. The obvious problem with this strategy against Golovkin is that whatever your 'puncher's chance' you do not punch as hard as he does. And so even if you exchange punches it is not an even trade. Watch what happens with Daniel Geale in this GIF: Geale lands a glancing blow. And then HOLY SHIT.

There were a few odd moments in the fight: Golovkin hit Lemieux after a he took a knee to recover from a body blow. He should have had more time to recover from it. The fight went on at least a round too long because Lemieux is a game fighter. His corner should have thrown in the towel after the 7th round.

Hamilton Nolan wrote some very good words about the fight. His summary of the footwork was astute. Lemieux was busy. He bounced around a lot but to no effect; it was inefficient. Golovkin was a model of efficiency and balance. If you are efficient you do not tire as easily, and if you are balanced and planted your punches land much harder.

So not a great fight, but a great performance from a very good fighter. Golovkin deserves his accolades.

No comments: