Gennady Golovkin: Is quality of opposition, age or something else impacting dominance?
Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO) struggled mightily at times against the Ukrainian, edging him on points 114-113, and 115-112 twice.
In fact, some observers believed Sergiy deserved the nod. But win or lose, it was still worthy of a nomination for Fight of the Year.
It was that good.
And yes, a fella who once steamrolled opponents in violent fashion look all too human. We saw Golovkin hurt to the body, take a lot of shots to the head, retreat after punch exchanges and miss a lot of shots most previous opponents couldn't avoid.
Is GGG slowing down?
The axiom 'get old overnight' refers to aging fighters who appear to be in top form and then, in one fight, look like a shell of themselves without prior warning.
Most aging fighters, of course, decline gracefully and over time a la Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya. But yes, fighters have been known to 'hit a brick wall' when no one saw it coming. Roy Jones Jr is a fine example.
Is Father Time catching up with the 37 year old?
... Or is wear and tear a factor?
Often overlooked and sometimes mistaken for advanced age is the accumulation of wear and tear on a fighter's body, which arguably plays an even bigger role than age in his demise.
Fighters with long amateur careers such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Pernell Whitaker and Roy Jones, Jr, tend to slow down in their mid 30s while fellas with brief amateurs stints, like Bernard Hopkins, seem to have more in the tank at advanced ages.
Let's not forget the 37 year old Golovkin had over 350 amateur fights.
Today, fans see the pro bouts but don't see all of the training and hard work fighters do to prepare in between fights, including the many rounds of sparring.Now, consider all of the training and sparring Golovkin did in his amateur career alone; 350 amateur fights, even if only for a maximum of three rounds, is nothing to sneeze at.
The case can also be made Golovkin's lack of ring dominance of late has more to do with the higher level of competition he's been facing.
Let's not forget Sergiy Derevyanchenko is a very well-schooled, athletic fighter with a strong amateur pedigree who fought tooth and nail with Daniel Jacobs and was much better than his 13-1 record indicated Even Gennady previously stated he was a little afraid of him.
Derevyanchenko is on 'that level' and would give anyone problems from super welterweight to super middleweight, Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith included.
Derevyanchenko was a more formidable foe than previous Golovkin opponents such as Dominic Wade, Willie Monroe, Jr, Marco Antonio Rubio, Martin Murray, Daniel Geale and even KO artist David Lemieux.
Taking nothing away from heavyweight legend Mike Tyson, he also looked like a world-beater until he faced experienced, elite heavyweights such as Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Razor Ruddock, Frank Bruno (first fight) and Bonecrusher Smith.
Mike beat some of those opponents but was tested fiercely in the process.
In the last three years, GGG has fought fight times against elite-level opponents.
Kell Brook was the consensus No.1 welterweight at the time and considered a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter. And Canelo, Daniel Jacobs and Derevyanchenko could all be undisputed middleweight champions if not for each other and GGG.
Golovkin's last 7 fights... Not a cakewalk
Won UD 12 Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Oct 5, 2019
Won KO 4 Steve Rolls
Jun 8, 2019
Lost MD 12 Canelo Alvarez
Sep 15 2018
Won KO 2 Vanes Martirosyan
May 05 2018
Draw SD 12 Canelo Alvarez
Sep 16 2017
Won UD 12 Daniel Jacobs
Mar 18 2017
Won KO 5 Kell Brook
Sep 10 2016
Some insist Golovkin's presumed descent started with Kell Brook three years ago. In that bout, GGG earned an impressive KO but not before eating a lot of hard shots from the naturally smaller, quicker Brook.
But others would also insist Golovkin was robbed against Canelo twice - especially in their first bout. And let's face it, no one should have expected Golovkin to humiliate Canelo like he did Monroe, Lemieux and the others.
And sure, Jacobs was a tough customer against GGG but the latter entered that bout 32-1, 29 KOs. Not exactly chopped liver. Moreover, some think Jacobs deserved the nod against Canelo in May in what was a very close affair.
The only non elite opponents GGG has faced since September 10, 2016 are Vanes Martirosyan and Steve Rolls, fighters Golovkin dispatched easily.
Golovkin appears to be slowing a bit but Brook (the 2016 version), Canelo, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko are a cut or two above opponents GGG had faced previously and were certainly more likely to give Golovkin trouble.
The tenacity Gennady showed against a polished, strong, hungry opponent Saturday night proves he still has a lot in the tank, whether he's still in his prime or a bit passed it.
Fact: Muhammad Ali's most memorable bouts occured when he was past his prime and the playing field was more even.
Perhaps GGG, like Ali in the 1970s, has entered a phase where he's still the best but not as dominant?
He was able to weather a few storms and was effective enough, offensively, to win a Fight-of-the-Year caliber bout. And let's not forget, in the eyes of some his real record is 42-0.
That stated, one has to consider his long amateur career and those 350 amateur bouts. At some point, especially given the rise in competition, his body, abused by the many years of training and sparring, won't respond the way it should.
Perhaps Gennady's lack of dominance is a combination of all the physical wear and tear over the years and much better opponents?