On Saturday night, perennial fan favourite and former middleweight king Gennady Golovkin makes his long-awaited comeback at Madison Square Garden against unbeaten Canadian Steve Rolls.
Indeed, Manhattan’s Mecca of boxing is a venue that Golovkin’s fans are intimately familiar with, having hosted many of the Kazakhstani superstar’s successful nights throughout the past couple of years – including memorable victories over Daniel Geale, David Lemieux, and Daniel Jacobs.
In consistently dispatching of claimants to his middleweight throne with dominant performances, Golovkin amassed a fearsome record of 37-0 with 33 knockouts as unified middleweight champion, and was invariably featured among the pound-for-pound top five fighters in the world.
This is, generally speaking, a position he no longer holds despite the deeply contentious nature of his majority decision loss to Saul Alvarez last September. In a closely-contested grudge rematch where the skill and will of the pair was on full display, Golovkin showcased different dimensions to his game – boxing on the back foot for much of the bout – and was unfortunate in the eyes of some to be narrowly outpointed by the Mexican.
Following the declaration of the verdict, a distraught Golovkin was seen storming out of the ring and had also previously admitted becoming somewhat disillusioned with the sport on multiple occasions before the fight – something which led fans to fear that his loss to Canelo represented his last appearance in the ring.
However, these fears were allayed when Golovkin’s promoters K2 announced that a deal was struck with streaming service DAZN to broadcast Golovkin’s remaining career fights – following the dissolution of HBO Boxing. It is also important to note that following an acrimonious split with Abel Sanchez, Golovkin will now be operating under the guidance of former heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks; a student of the late Emmanuel Steward who assumed responsibility for training Wladimir Klitschko in the latter part of the Ukrainian’s career.
Shortlisted opponents for Golovkin’s highly-anticipated return were seasoned veteran Hassan N’Dam – who has since moved up to super-middleweight; unsuccessfully challenging Callum Smith for the WBA championship – and Poland’s undefeated contender Kamil Szeremata, before similarly unbeaten – albeit unheralded – Steve Rolls, with a record of 19-0, was officially announced as the comeback opponent.
Rolls will be surely be looking to spring a surprise by capitalising on his counterpart’s nine-month layoff coupled with the potential uncertainty brought about by a change in camp. He may also take additional inspiration from the sensational exploits of Andy Ruiz a week earlier at the same venue, who stunned the world by unseating Anthony Joshua – battering the champion around the ring for seven rounds – to become the new unified champion.
Ultimately, however, Golovkin has proven that he is capable of defying inexorable athletic decline by continuing to produce world-class performances against world-class opposition. As a world-class performance is probably more than what is required to prevail over Rolls in devastating fashion, expect Golovkin to return to winning ways with a characteristically powerful display.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________