Some fights look like real mismatches on paper and this weekends biggest fight was one such bout as Kazakhstan's Gennady Golovkin (28-0, 25) entered as an 11-1 favourite against American Curtis Stevens (25-4, 18). Surprisingly however Golovkin didn't often look like such a big favourite through out the bout as he struggled to live up to the hype, despite successfully defending his WBA Middleweight title.
The fight started in a very quiet manner. Golovkin tried to get his jab going but Stevens was showing good defensive skills and making the champion struggle to land cleanly. The quiet 2 minutes 30 seconds of the first was only really changed late in the round as Stevens connected with a few hard shots that may have stole him in round.
Golovkin's struggles continued through much of the second round as Stevens covered up well and gave very few opportunities to the champion. The success of Stevens in neutralising Golovkin raised a "USA" chant from the Madison Square Garden crowd though unfortunately this immediately backfired as Golovkin connected with a glancing left hook followed by a solid left hook that dropped Stevens for an 8 count. It was obvious from this point that Golovkin's power could hurt and drop Stevens.
Unfortunately the knockdown seemed to kill off what confidence Stevens was building and the challenger fought very much like a scared fighter in the following round backing up, covering up and trying to survive. This saw Stevens having some success in little bursts on the counter but on the whole Stevens's success in round 3 was very limited.
Despite beginning to look like a beaten man in round 3 Stevens had his best round in the fourth as he landed several hard counters and backed up Golovkin late in the round. It appeared that Stevens had forgotten about the knockdown and thought his best tactic was fighting off the ropes looking to land his highly regarded left hook. Unfortunately when Stevens did land the best he did was force Golovkin backwards for a few seconds before he came right back Stevens.
Golovkin started to have more and more success from round 5 onwards. He seemed confident in his ability to take Steven's best shots and applied constant calculated pressure. The champions successes were still somewhat limited but the challenger was doing next to nothing to make a claim for the rounds. Stevens was doing so little that he was being out worked even if Golovkin was struggling to land too many clean shots.
The success of round 5 grew the following round and then again in round 7. Steven's corner were trying to buoy their man and telling him to stand toe-to-toe with Golovkin, unfortunately when he did this he was forced on to the back foot with Golovkin's crisp punches forcing him back on to the ropes. By the end of round 7 it appeared that Stevens's only hope was to land a knock out punch, something that was becoming less and less likely.
By the start of round 8 Golovkin had really started to take over. Stevens's assaults were becoming less frequent and through the eighth Golovkin himself had started to find his range, especially with his body shots which landed numerous times through the round. Stevens's defenses, whilst still solid were beginning to be cracked more and more frequently by Golovkin who finally turned things up a gear and went for the kill.
Although Stevens managed to see out round 8 his corner had seen enough and immediately called for the referee to stop the bout. It hadn't been a real beating for their man but it appeared that he was on the verge of receiving one as Golovkin began to really show his class. The stoppage may feel to some as though Stevens quit though in all honesty it appears that his corner knew things were only going to get worse and saved their man from what could have been a career and health altering beat down. A wise move considering the way the bout had began to turn.
Although Golovkin hadn't looked like the 11 to 1 favourite for much of the bout he was safe money in the end.