November 4, 2013

KO Digest Ringside Report - Gennady Golovkin bombs Curtis Stevens

New York loves Golovkin
THEATER AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN —  It is a long and explosive road to the Mecca of Boxing and after last April's Boston Marathon Bombing, I almost didn't make it.

What a strange 6 months it's been since I was credentialed to cover my first big fight at Madison Square Garden. War was the theme of that fateful heavyweight confrontation when big British invader Tyson Fury came to American shores  for the first time and was almost knocked out by a well timed torpedo launched from the lower decks of the USS Cunningham.

As a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces, the bombing of my home city hit hard. It was a shot nobody saw coming and those are always the most dangerous in boxing, and on the battlefield. As a fight scribe, imagine my surprise when it was a local amateur boxer from Massachusetts and his younger brother who detonated the explosives that scarred my city and knocked me off my Amtrak train from Boston to New York. Locked down to shelter in place, the best I could do was watch the fight on TV. It was a welcome break from news about the bombings and the manhunt. Fury survived the projectile that exploded on his chin in the second round and he came back to sink Steve Cunningham by brutal seventh round knockout. 

Fast forward to November and Boston is still healing from the attack that killed four and maimed dozens but the city I put in my rear-view mirror on Saturday was in celebration mode. The Red Sox are the World Series Champions of baseball and a huge parade was held downtown to honor the bombing victims and the victorious Olde Towne Team. Coincidentally, on the same weekend I made my pilgrimage to midtown Manhattan to cover the Golovkin fight at MSG, the New York City Marathon was being held with a special tribute to those who lost life and limb in Boston last April.

Stevens reacts to the power of Golovkin
In the ring on Saturday night, Gennady Golovkin succesfully defended his WBA middleweight title against tough talking Brownsville Bomber Curtis "Showtime" Stevens. The end came mercifully after eight predominately one-sided rounds in favor of the popular puncher from Kazakhstan. Stevens made a good account of himself when it looked for all the world to see like he'd be done early in the fight. After a slow feeling out round in the first, Golovkin came alive in the second, dropping Stevens on his back with a devastating double left hook. While still looking up at the overhead lights, a surprised look came over the face of Stevens, proof again that it's punches you don't see coming that hurt worst.

Gut check time for Showtime Stevens in the 2nd round
Stevens (25-4, 18 KO's) made it to his feet and survived the round but he was badly hurt and spent the next round clearing the cobwebs behind a high guard. Defensively, this protected his head but it left his body open and "GGG" quickly went to war on the exposed flank, peppering Stevens with accurate power jabs and ripping hooks to the body. After recovering from the knockdown, things got interesting in the fourth and fifth when Stevens began to find Golovkin's chin with flush right hands that the unbeaten (28-0, 25 KO's) WBA middleweight champ unflinchingly walked through to answer some of the questions fans had been asking about his chin. With the chin check passed, Golovkin began to significantly assert himself in the sixth round and a pattern was established that carried on through to the conclusion of the fight.

As it unfolded, Stevens did his best to keep the action in the middle of the ring where he engaged Golovkin in close quarter combat until the physical cost of these firefights invariably pushed him back to the ropes or into a corner where Golovkin bombed away at the body. This pattern continued into the seventh and eighth rounds with Stevens taking an awful beating along the ropes at the conclusion of the final round of the fight. When the bell rang to end the eighth, referee Harvey Dock immediately ended the contest in the corner with the brave challenger on his feet but finished in the fight. For Stevens, there was no shame in defeat. Even his fans knew he couldn't beat Golovkin, but "Showtime" did them proud on HBO and he earned the respect of those who thought he'd fall early and easily in a mismatch.

"My strategy was to box, not make a street fight. After the knockdown, I felt it was my fight," said Golovkin.  

For the victorious Triple G, this was his 15th consecutive knockout win and he took another step closer to a shot at lineal World Middleweight Champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez. It was Martinez who Golovkin called out first on HBO after the Stevens fight and it is Martinez who boxing fans most wish to see Golovkin in the ring with. It is a natural matchup and one that Martinez cannot avoid for very much longer. Despite being the WBA middleweight title holder, Golovkin is the de facto #1 contender to the real champion Martinez and "Maravilla" is not one to duck tough challengers.

Perez hammers Abdusalamov
In the televised co-main event, Cuban defector "Irish" Mike Perez defeated Magomed Abdusalamov in a grueling battle of unbeaten heavyweight prospects. Abdusalamov (18-1, 18 KO's) was shaken up in the first round and he complained to trainer John David Jackson of a broken nose in between rounds. As the fight wore on, Perez was the more accurate puncher and by the end of the ten rounds, Abdusalamov's face was badly swollen and his left eyelid was cut open. A point was deducted from Perez in the ninth round for a low blow but it proved to be academic on the official scorecards which favored Perez 97-92, 95-94, and 97-92.

Abdusalamov was then taken to a local hospital for treatment of a broken nose and left hand where it was discovered that he had a small blood clot on his brain. The battered Russian brawler underwent surgery to remove the clot and he was placed in a medically induced coma to reduce the risk to his life. Abdusalamov is now reported to be in stable condition but his future in the ring looks doubtful. For Perez (20-0, 12 KO's) it was an important victory and the unbeaten stylist now looks forward to bigger fights in the heavyweight division.

On The Undercard: 

Ola Afolabi (20-3-4, 9 KO's, London, England) won a dreadfully boring majority decision over Lukasz Janik (26-2, 14 KO's, Jelenia Gora, Poland) in a vacant IBO cruiserweight title fight. Nearly devoid of action for twelve full rounds, Afolabi utilized his jab and superior athleticism to control the tempo of the fight against his one-dimensional Polish opponent. Janik was cut to the right eye in the tenth round. Official scores were 114-114, 117-111, and 115-113.
Harrison stays unbeaten
Dusty Hernandez Harrison (18-0, 10 KO's, Washington, DC) defeated Josh Torres (12-3-1, 5 KO's, New Mexico) by unanimous decision for the vacant WBC Youth welterweight title. The popular and poised Harrison showed well schooled movement, educated jabs, and straight right hands that befuddled Torres terribly. If only Harrison threw more left hooks, he might have been able to end this one inside the distance. Official scores in favor of Harrison were 100-90, 98-92, and 98-92. 

Joel Diaz Jr (13-0, 11 KO's, Palmdale, CA) shut out Bryne Green (7-7-1, 3 KO's,Vineland, NJ) in a junior lightweight bout. Green was knocked down from a body shot in the third but recovered nicely. Diaz used his advantages in height, power, and boxing experience to press the action in the fifth, scoring another knockdown from an accumulation of punches. Green was in survival mode for most of the sixth. All three judges scored the fight 60-52 for the winner.

The Mecca of Boxing

In the evening opener, Kazakhstan's Isa Akbarbayev set the tone for the night by defeating New Yorker Brian Clookey in a decent cruiserweight scrap. The popular winner improved his record to 11-0, 7 KO's while the local loser fell to 4-1-1, 2 KO's and suffered a nasty cut over his left eye for his troubles. All three official judges scored the fight 40-36 for Akbarbayev to the delight of the heavily Kazakh crowd.  

KO Digest Ringside Report by Jeffrey Freeman