Gennady Golovkin, a 33-year-old middleweight from Kazakhstan, scored an eighth-round technical knockout over David Lemieux of Canada on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in a title unification bout.
A raucous announced crowd of 20,548 appeared ready to anoint Golovkin as boxing’s next big star, chanting his name at regular intervals, and then exploding after the referee Steve Willis stopped the bout at 1 minute 32 seconds of the eighth.
“I was strong tonight,” Golovkin said. “My punches hurt him.”
Golovkin knocked Lemieux down with a left hook to the ribs in the closing seconds of the fifth round. Lemieux rallied briefly, but Golovkin’s accurate punching throughout the fight earned him the victory. According to the statistics tracking website Compubox, Golovkin landed more than half of his punches, 280 out of 549 punches total.
Golovkin cited his jab — which he landed 170 times out of 359 thrown, according to Compubox — as the key to his victory.
“Every jab, I touched him,” Golovkin said.
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer, said his fighter’s jab was the “best I’ve seen it in a fight.”
“The jab was magnificent today, and he controlled the fight,” Sanchez said.
Lemieux’s best moments came in the third and sixth rounds, but over all, he could not sustain the offensive momentum necessary to keep up with Golovkin. He lost every round on all three official scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
“We prepared well for this fight, but I feel like I waited too long to take some shots tonight and that really hurt me,” Lemieux said.
Before Saturday night’s bout, Golovkin had last fought at the Garden on July 26, 2014, when he knocked out Daniel Geale of Australia in the third round. In an interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight, which was broadcast over the Garden’s public address system, Golovkin memorably invoked a phrase that has defined his climb up the boxing ranks.
“This is big drama show,” he said, smiling.
Thanks to the excitement generated by the Geale fight and three subsequent knockout wins, the big drama show is now taking place before a wider audience. Compared with a crowd of 8,572 at the Geale fight, Golovkin’s bout against Lemieux was announced as a sellout.
Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts) has now knocked out 21 consecutive opponents, 12 of them within three rounds. In the process, he has captured the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Organization championships, and now he has won the International Boxing Federation championship, which Lemieux held.
Until Saturday, Golovkin had been unable to get a highly respected opponent to challenge him. But Lemieux (34-3, 31 knockouts) was widely thought to be a significant upgrade. Ranked the No. 4 middleweight contender by Ring magazine, Lemieux captured the I.B.F. title in June when he defeated Hassan N’Dam of Cameroon.
“This is the biggest test for me,” Golovkin said before the fight. “He’s the I.B.F. champ. It’s a big situation, unification.”
Saturday’s card was seen by many in and around boxing as an opportunity for the sport to move beyond the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao era. The May 2 showdown between those superstar welterweights was a hit at the box office, but the bout’s relative lack of action left many viewers disappointed.
The Hall of Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya — the chairman and chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Lemieux — said he thought Mayweather’s championship reign harmed the sport.
“Boxing was a little dull there for a while, with Mayweather,” De La Hoya said. “With fights not
being exciting, with matches being uneven. So we turn the page and look forward to the future.”
Enter Golovkin’s big drama show. With Mayweather having announced his retirement, and Pacquiao winding down his career, Golovkin — thanks largely to the offensive style he displayed against Lemieux on Saturday — has been pegged as a top contender to carry the torch for the sport.
Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions, which promotes Golovkin, said it was important for Golovkin to fight in a crowd-pleasing style.
“If a fan buys a ticket, or a fan buys a pay-per-view, he has to provide excitement for those people who are spending money to see him fight,” Loeffler said.
Next month in Las Vegas, Canelo Alvarez of Mexico is scheduled to take on Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico. The winner of that bout could meet Golovkin before long. Golovkin wants to make that fight soon.
“I want all the belts,” he said. “Now I have two. The winner of Cotto-Canelo for sure.”
De La Hoya sees an eventual meeting between Golovkin and the Alvarez vs. Cotto winner as the only way to bring back fans who may have felt shortchanged by Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
“If you build it, they will come,” De La Hoya said. “If you put the best against the best, then you will slowly but surely build up boxing’s fan base.”
More fights like this one certainly would not hurt.