The hard jab landed for Golovkin early in the second. A Golovkin right was blocked again but he worked a body shot around the guard of Stevens, who waited a little too much in the onset. The left side of Golovkin’s face already began to redden but his jab continued landing while Stevens hesitated. Both buckled a little after eating each other’s shots but Stevens fell hard off a Golovkin left hook, seemingly landing on the temple. Stevens seemed shocked but he got up quick and moved away to the ropes. Golovkin opened up but Stevens landed a left hook, equally rocking him and giving him pause to end the round.
With excess grease all over his face, Stevens was not quite together to start the third as Golovkin pressed with the jab. Stevens, who appeared to accept going out swinging if he had to, landed a left hook, jabbed and moved while Golovkin probed with his own jab. Stevens lay on the ropes behind his guard and his eyes still looked sharp as he moved forward and ate a Golovkin uppercut. “GGG” looked as intent as ever as he moved in and gauged distance with the jab but didn’t hit the gas. Golovkin landed his lead right as Stevens again hesitated on the ropes. Stevens let a lead right of his own go after his left hook found a home.
And the chants of “Kazakhstan!” began and the room came alive.
Stevens seemed to be either waiting for his moment or trying to weather an early storm. Either way, Golovkin worked the body again and again, digging with a long right and the left hook, finding the holes in Stevens’ game.
To start the fourth, Golovkin was coming downhill, leaning on his front foot. He shot the jab, worked in the short right to the body and turned right in front of Stevens. Stevens threw his jab in turn, then got behind his guard. He landed a right hand but “GGG” looked unaffected. By the same token, Stevens seemed to find a little something, backed Golovkin up and let his hands go. Confidence fuels this fighter and he was desperately looking for the opportunity to refill his own tank. Both traded light shots, looking to turn an off-speed pitch into a fastball. Golovkin simply worked within that frame, connecting to the body, then shooting a lead right, uppercut and a corralling left hook. A hard right to the body was answered by a one-two by Stevens and a hook, landing flush on Golovkin. A right near the bell got the crowd going but Golovkin’s expression and resolve seemed unaffected.
Golovkin went right back to the jab to start the fifth and Stevens stayed in the high guard. A hard right off a Stevens miss landed for Golovkin but Stevens answered with a right of his own a moment later. A right by Stevens moved Golovkin off his stance. Golovkin kept peppering with the jab despite the thunder intermittently landing for Stevens.
They started the sixth trading jabs and Stevens even landed some harder ones. His problem was not throwing his jabs consistently and/or getting hit often but within that war, Stevens landed a hard right and began to back Golovkin up. Stevens then landed an uppercut on the inside and a body shot but Golovkin came back with three hard rights and a left to the body. After taking the fight to the ropes, Stevens got off a hard left.
Golovkin then began to turn up the heat on his shots in terms of velocity and volume. Stevens kept living on the ropes and it played to his advantage.
But Stevens began to show the signs of decline. Legs a little weary. Face discouraged. Whatever solutions he had come up with, they likely ran out over the last round. Stevens tried exploding at the 10-second mark but this time, Golovkin moved away just enough and fired hard punches of his own. Even without that previous knockdown, the round was Golovkin’s most dominant to that point. He ramped up his violence to a level that Stevens, for the first time in the fight, did not come close to matching.
Stevens’ left eye was swelling from Golovkin’s short rights and jabs at the top of the seventh. Golovkin was warned by referee Harvey Dock for measuring and a low blow in the round. It didn’t matter. Stevens tried working at Golovkin’s guard with the uppercut from either side, then landed a right hand that backed Golovkin up. However, the champ was mixing in hard shots and overwhelming Stevens with power. Still, Stevens’ will and willingness to defend New York was entirely gone. He waited on the ropes for his moment, eating more leather than the Surgeon General recommends. A hard combo for Stevens landed late in the round but it was not enough. Golovkin showed respect for Stevens’ power but his boxing skill was simply too much for Stevens to overcome.
Early in the eighth frame, Golovkin found purchase for the right hand outside the guard of Stevens, who pressed forward while Golovkin landed a left to the body. Stevens was clearly hurt, legs unstable and heading toward the ropes. “GGG” sensed the end and pressed forward, working toward the finish throwing punches to either side at a time. Stevens retreated, looking for a left hook opening that never came. Golovkin raked him with shots and Stevens fought back but his were self-defense counters as opposed to actual offense. A hard right landed flush and Golovkin opened up. Dock talked to Stevens, asking him to fight back. To no avail, “Showtime” attempted to comply.
The bell sounded and Stevens’ trainer, Andre Rozier, stepped up the stairs and informed the ref his man had enough. And that was that.
While many gave Stevens no chance in this fight, he helped provide answers to some honest questions about Golovkin. Golovkin hadn’t been hit by a hard puncher who was a real middleweight. On this night, he ate some serious hard shots with full leverage from Stevens, who can punch. That said, Golovkin’s chin held up. Some critics said Golovkin hadn’t dealt with adversity or an opponent who came to win. On this night, Stevens put him in some uncomfortable positions, landed good shots and clearly came to win. Through his reign, a champion such as Golovkin (he won a vacant “interim” belt as opposed to wresting a “real” title from a defending champion) changes the mind of such challengers and turns them back.
Perez vs. Abdusalamov
As one reader, @StevenStozz, tweeted me during the 10-round heavyweight fight between Mike Perez, 20-0 (12), and Magomed Abdusalamov, 18-1 (18), “2 heavyweights. Undefeated. Heavy hitters. Southpaws. In shape. What the hell am I watching?” This was as good a heavyweight scrap as I have seen in some time. From the opening bell, the two top heavies went at it, “Mago” with his heavier but slower hands and Perez with the sharper combos and more diverse attack. Perez used footwork, early body work and a sharp right hook to swell and bloody Abdusalamov while turning him most of the night. Abdusalamov had his moments, particularly with Perez on the ropes later in the fight. This fight was a test of mettle for two heavies hoping to go to the next level. Perez passed that test, fighting back each time “Mago” got aggressive and landed a hellacious shot or two. Perez would fight right back, working back Abdusalamov with a sharp right jab and a hook followed by a hard left to the face.
In the end, the judges had it 97-92 (twice) and 95-94 for Perez, who had a point deducted in the ninth for a low blow.
Fan favorite Joel Diaz Jr. got in great work against Bryne Green, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 60-52 across the board. Diaz dropped his man twice in an all-action fight.
Dusty Hernandez Harrison took his record to 18-0 (10) and picked up a WBC Youth title at welterweight by scoring a unanimous decision over Josh Torres, 12-3-1 (5), by 100-90 and 98-92 (twice).
Ola Afolabi, 20-3-4 (9), won the vacant IBO cruiserweight title by outpointing Lukasz Janik, 26-2 (14), by scores of 114-114, 117-111 and 115-113.
Issa Akberbaev, 11-0 (7), defeated Brian Clookey, 4-1-2 (2), via unanimous decision by 40-32 on all three ringside judges’ scorecards.
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