Triple B

By Adam Berlin on May 17, 2015
Triple B
Golovkin was hit. Golovkin was stunned a few times. Golovkin was winded. (Naoki Fukuda)

Golovkin is an ambitious man. He wants to be a cross-over star. He wants to be the next big name in boxing. But ambition can become a tainted word…

Antony: “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;  
              And Brutus is an honourable man.”
                        —Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2

Gennady Golovkin proved once again why he’s middleweight champion. He’s heavy-handed in both hands. He can cut off a ring. He can box. And he can take a punch. Before Willie Monroe Jr. succumbed to Golovkin’s power and admitted “I’m done,” the novice from Ithaca (and that’s what he is with only 21 fights under his young belt against, at best, modest competition) landed some clean shots against the destroyer from Kazakhstan. It was a better fight than most expected and it revealed, perhaps for the first time in his professional career, that Golovkin is merely mortal.

Roy Jones, whose commentary is sometimes frustrating because of an annoying tic where he repeats Jim Lampley’s prompt before giving an answer, warmed up when he summed up Golovkin’s performance at the end of HBO’s telecast: 

“We know that Golovkin can raise his level to the level of his competition. We also learned that unlike Max believes, he is human, he does cut, he can be hit, and other guys in boxing realize this. They’re not as afraid of Gennady Golovkin as some would perceive him to be. It’s just a matter of finding the guys who are not contractually tied up or obligated to take those risks. But people are not afraid of anybody. He has proven that he is the best fighter in the middleweight division right now and that is clear cut, and I really love watching him fight. He’s the most exciting show on TV right now, bar none, you understand me, but there are middleweights out there who look at this and say I’ve seen him and I want him too.”

When he’s excited about a fight or a fighter, Roy Jones becomes more expansive and more insightful. On Golovkin he is exactly right.  Saturday night’s fight may have showed Golovkin’s dominance, but it also showed his vulnerabilities. Rounds 1 and 2 were all Golovkin—he doled out a beating and he knocked Monroe down twice. When the cameras zoomed in on Monroe after the second round, he was dazed and unresponsive in his corner, his eyes sick. It’s the kind of sickness that comes from pain and exhaustion and a broken will. I’ve always compared that crucial minute between rounds to a mini-visit to the hospital. Repairs are made. Liquids are administered. Rest, even if it’s only for sixty seconds, is prescribed. Monroe wasn’t exactly refreshed when got off his stool to face the third round, but he’d recovered enough to weather the round. In the fourth, the historically light-punching Monroe landed several shots to Golovkin’s body that made Triple G wince and several shots to Golovkin’s jaw that snapped the Kazakh’s head back and sprayed sweat. The fourth round was Monroe’s big stand. In the fifth his stand was less dramatic, and in the sixth, the kid they call The Mongoose looked like road-kill when he called the end to his own fight. Still, as Roy Jones pointed out, the fourth and fifth rounds were enough to convince some middleweights that Golovkin has flaws. 

What are the flaws that game Willie Monroe Jr. exposed? Golovkin leaves enough space between his elbows and his torso, particularly his left elbow, that he’s susceptible to a body attack. Monroe landed several shots under Golovkin’s ribs that hurt. Golovkin is susceptible to fatigue. He was breathing hard between rounds, and not just because his corner was asking him to take deep breaths. From Round 2 on, Golovkin’s open mouth, open enough to display the row of three Gs on his mouthpiece, spelled tired. By the fifth round, Golovkin’s arms were no longer firing textbook-straight; instead, his punches were wide-arced and wild, the kinds of punches that leave heads dangerously exposed. And most concerning, Golovkin’s legs, which usually appear coiled and ready, looked stiff, without spring. As every boxing fan knows, the true source of power isn’t in defined biceps. It’s in the legs. It’s in the torque of hips and core. Golovkin may have won the fifth, but from the waist down, Golovkin didn’t quite look the part we’ve expected him to play.

Roy Jones’ speech on Golovkin was spot on, but it wasn’t the most interesting speech of the night. For me, Golovkin’s words at fight’s end seemed the most telling, and pointed to why this middleweight champion may falter. It’s not his skills. It’s not his power. It’s his arrogance. 

Listen to what Gennady Golovkin said about his hard-fought victory against Willy Monroe Jr. during the post-fight Q&A with Max Kellerman:

GGG: First of all thank you very much, home. Thank you very much. LA. Mucho gracias, everybody. I feel great. My performance special for you. Guys. Thank you for my team. Thank you for my opponent. He bring very good drama show. You know, this present just for you. Thank you.

Max: Gennady, in the first two rounds, he barely touched you. You landed very precisely. You hurt him. You almost had him out in the second round. Then as the fight wore on, he started catching you with a lot of big shots. What changed?

GGG: Max, first of all I show him who is the boss. Who is the real champ. That is my hope. Second step, second step I give him chance. Just, I’m stay here, just come on, bring big drama show, let’s go, let’s do it. I know he’s no joke. It’s my present.

Max: Are you saying that, because you’ve hinted at this in the past, that you don’t want to just score an early one-sided knockout? That you actually let your opponent, a dangerous fighter, back into the fight?

GGG: Yes, of course. You know I feel it’s drama show. It’s today. Saturday night. This is not five minutes. You know a lot of people coming. Just respect my people. Just I show my people. Just show.

Golovkin’s answers are not all spur-of-the moment, off-the-cuff responses. Many of Golovkin’s lines, composed and rehearsed long before the opening bell rang, sound studied. I commend the fighter for learning English. I understand the time and effort it takes to master a new language. And I recognize Golovkin’s honest desire to speak English since he now resides in sunny Los Angeles. But there’s also a crass and calculated angle to Triple G’s budding vocabulary—the more English he speaks, the more appeal he’ll have, and the more money he’ll make. Working hard to publicize himself, striving to fill stadium seats, Golovkin ingratiated himself with the crowd. He spoke in English and called LA his home, hoping to make himself a marquee name in the good old USA where fighters receive the best paychecks. He spoke in Spanish to win the Hispanic vote, keenly aware that his style (more relentless puncher, less finesse boxer) is in keeping with those who fight (and follow fights) south of the border, another smart language-as-publicity move. Gennady Golovkin is not just thinking boxing, he’s thinking fame—and there’s nothing wrong with that. As Money Mayweather has taught us, smart marketing leads to multi-millions. While Mayweather has played the bad guy to amass a fortune, Golovkin is playing the good guy, the genuine guy, the showman who wishes to entertain the crowd with “big drama show.” That’s the Golovkin MO. That’s GGG’s blueprint for breaking into boxing’s financial stratosphere.

Golovkin is an ambitious man. He wants to be a cross-over star. He wants to be the next big name in boxing. But ambition can become a tainted word as Shakespeare well knew when he gave Antony his famous speech in Julius Caesar. Asking his countrymen to lend him their ears, Antony speaks of Brutus’s ambition, skillfully turning the word honorable rotten, skillfully turning the crowd against the winner of that famous Roman fight: Brutus permanently knocked out Caesar. Golovkin, in his post-fight speech, did Antony’s work on his own. The word show, said three times in methinks-the-lady-doth-protest-too-much excess, highlights Golovkin’s flaw, a flaw with its root in ambition. 

Big Drama Show. Really? Golovkin was putting on a show? He was giving a present to the audience? It’s easy to talk cocky after a fight is done. Once that final bell rings, punches stop and breath returns. Granted, Golovkin earned his post-fight attitude with his 30th stoppage in 33 fights. And, granted again, Golovkin was a gracious winner, praising his opponent for a strong effort. But his words, which suggest he was carrying Monroe, that he was giving the fans their money’s worth, that he could have ended the fight in five minutes on this Saturday night instead of the 15 minutes and 45 seconds it took, is triple B Bullshit. Golovkin was hit many times. Golovkin was stunned a few times. Golovkin was winded. And Golovkin was frustrated for many minutes of the fight. 

Gennady Golovkin didn’t look like he was putting on a show in the fourth or fifth rounds. And he didn’t look to be enjoying the “big drama show” while sitting on his stool in the corner. It’s in the corner that truth is revealed. Fighters relax in their corners. They allow their trainers to see what they don’t allow their opponents to see. Like hospital patients, they put away their fronts and let themselves be cared for. Unless Gennady Golovkin is a great method actor, unless he was just playing for the cameras and trying to fool the crowd that he really was hurt, that Willy Monroe Jr. really did have a chance, that this really was a big-drama show with ebbs and flows, his final words really were false.  What I saw between rounds wasn’t acting. I saw genuine discomfort and even some genuine doubt.

Perhaps Triple G has been living in southern California too long. He’s too close to the warm weather and the beautiful people he talked about. He’s too close to Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong. This middleweight champion is the real deal. And he’s exciting. And he’s often likable. And he hits harder per pound than probably any fighter today. But he’s not invincible. If Golovkin truly believes he was putting on a show, and if he truly convinces himself that it was all a show, something that’s easy to do with repetition, with interview after interview, with adulation and adoration fueling ego, the middleweight champion may soon be in trouble. Fear is a great motivator in boxing. If Gennady Golovkin remembers his discomfort, he’ll stay sharp. If he negates his discomfort to the point of forgetting, he may also forget what it means to train hard, to stay careful, to remain champion. All it takes is one slip. Just ask Julius Caesar. Just ask overly-ambitious Brutus, the honourable man.

Adam Berlin is the author of the recently published boxing novel Both Members of the Club (Texas Review Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). His other novels are The Number of Missing (Spuyten Duyvil), Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Headlock (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). For more, please visit adamberlin.com.

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  1. norris lurker 01:02am, 05/25/2015

    Dear Mr Berlin, Your interpretation is slightly Shakespearean. The fight that i watched was exactly as GGG called it after the fight.. Willie Munroe may well be in a position to best a number of his compatriots but fell woefully short of competing with GGG. There is a class of fighters and fighters with class, there is no question that GGG is up there with Haggler, Hearns and other pinnacle fighters in their divisions. As for fame and fortune why not, so long as he doesn’t turn into another Mayweather.

  2. Darrell 05:47pm, 05/18/2015

    Must’ve seen a different fight to me…...I saw Golovkin win every round, albeit the fourth could’ve gone the other way, and get his man out of there rather easily when he stepped on the gas.  Although he was breathing heavily between rounds he didn’t look out of gas when fighting and actually forced Monroe to fight in close…..good performance.

    Of course Roy Jones is right, GGG is human, he cuts, can be hit but when it matters….to him (GGG)....he ends it like very few can.

    He will lose only when he can’t connect regularly….his style, and great footwork coming forward mean he will connect regularly.  I see no one to beat him at 160, only a small handful will give him trouble at 168.

  3. Lorne Market 12:22pm, 05/18/2015

    If only only Monroe hits hard, Golovkin might have been knocked down or knocked out.

  4. Tony Brunson 11:46am, 05/18/2015

    ” I saw genuine discomfort and even some genuine doubt.”. You make me laugh, but I don’t think that’s the intention of your article.

    As I watched the fight, I noticed him pull his punches at the end of the 2nd round, and the fight went on. Then I saw him pass up opportunities for the kill in the 3rd round, and I realized, “Golovkin is carrying this kid to make the fight last longer”. Maybe it was to get in more rounds against a lefty/runner or maybe it was to continue the Drama Show. And he deliberately took those head shots, that any boxing amateur could have landed, to encourage Willie.

  5. raxman 02:23am, 05/18/2015

    Willie “not even ardent fans of boxing had seen me fight before this one” Monroe jnr proved two things in this fight. 1. Golovkin just has to find better opponents - even if it means making offers that ranked opponents can’t refuse. and 2. as with his rare amateur losses (including and most particularly his gold medal Olympic fight) GGG is vulnerable to a good inside fighter, a fighter who’s ego isn’t so involved that he wont repeatedly and strategically tie him up. golovkin is a beast when he can set up at range, particularly behind his jab but even throwing lead rights and hooks - but like so many of the amateurs from the era that didn’t score inside punches he is much less comfortable when its close and messy. the 160 pound bhop would have bamboozled him as I’m sure we’ll see SOG do when they eventually fight.
    I think 168 is where GGG has to go. there is much more depth in the division so at least he’d have to earn his victories and battering a few top tier super middleweights would ensure that Ward had to fight him.

  6. Philip Anthony 09:37pm, 05/17/2015

    good article well written inspiring me to write more… definitely an air of arrogance and rehearsal for the post fight interview

  7. FrankinDallas 06:21pm, 05/17/2015

    I was going to comment but then I realized the author and
    I watched different fights last night.

  8. Thor 05:42pm, 05/17/2015

    The writer is trying too hard. GGG beats ANYONE that gets in the ring including the LAZY Andre Ward.

  9. Beaujack 03:35pm, 05/17/2015

    If as Roy Jones said, the “top” middleweights today will be coming out of the woodwork to challenge GGG, because of this ko of Willie Monroe jr.
    Well WHERE ARE THEY ?...

  10. Beaujack 03:29pm, 05/17/2015

    Mr Berlin, I think you doth protest too much. Because GGG was breathing deep breaths in his corner was, to follow the instructions of his corner literally…If he was so “tired” after the 4th round, why did he come out in the 5th round throwing short vicious punches and put an end to the fray quite quickly.? I take GGG’s word that he sometimes allows his opponents to last a tad longer so he can get some rounds…There is no fighter ever without some flaws, but in Golovkin we might truly be witnessing one of the best middleweights in the modern era…

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:21pm, 05/17/2015

    The photo above clearly shows an illegal blow below the belt line….who the fuk wouldn’t wince?!

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:17pm, 05/17/2015

    Here’s something that’s overlooked by Roy Jones and other critics…..something that makes all the difference in the world and makes up for a multitude of sins and shortcomings…..that something that compels even the most brutish opponent to contemplate their mortality….GGG hits harder with either hand than Jones ever did when he was juiced to the gills!

  13. claude taylor 01:55pm, 05/17/2015

    Me thinks the author doth protest too much. And Adam, Shakespearean? Really?

  14. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:43pm, 05/17/2015

    Adam Berlin-Great write up and an even greater eye for finding fault, I’d hate for any of my work to be graded by you. Here’s what’s missing in your critique…..Monroe was not a foil….he is a real fighter who could kick some of the asses that Roy Jones says want a piece of GGG now and he posed some real problems that GGG had to overcome. As I posted earlier, Monroe is a southpaw and an avoidance type fighter who is built to take a beating, which he did and one who would not implode the first time GGG caught him with something, which he didn’t, and more important than any of that, he truly believed that he is better than he really is.

  15. Koolz 12:45pm, 05/17/2015

    Since I have been watching GGG even before he was pro…
    Let me say this, he created a fight Called the Big Drama Show, he let Monroe
    hit him stayed in the pocket with him trying to create The Drama. 
    He controlled every round and probably could have ended it after the 2nd if he wanted to.
    He Made THE BIG DRAMA SHOW a BIG DRAMA!
    The fans loved it and it was a success!
    GGG is here, he isn’t going any where
    and if he is full of himself GOOD thank GOD!
    EGO?  I hope so the guy deserves it!
    you can watch the fight with Russian commentators on allthebestfights

  16. Don from Prov 11:43am, 05/17/2015

    I didn’t really see doubt, but I certainly notice that Golovkin seemed tired.
    And I also took notice of his promotion campaign—As you say, there is
    nothing wrong with self-promotion, but it’s always calculated, measured,
    and one can misjudge.  While I wouldn’t use the word arrogance, I would
    say that it’s not impossible that GGG can become too sure of the “big show"because he is not facing competition that forces him to understand what he is and what he is not yet earned; again, not his fault that his division doesn’t offer up much at the moment, but if he has greatness in him that dearth of challenge may leave him short of ever reaching it.  But that is my little shtick—you may not have been even thinking of such.  Anyway, this is a very good article, Mr. Berlin.

  17. Koolz 11:37am, 05/17/2015

    I just watched the fight again…This writer has lost it.

    well since GGG isn’t putting on a show anymore line up I say, line them up!

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