In my most recent contribution to ProBoxing-Fans.com’s series of fantasy match-ups, I explore what might have been had two superb middleweights from different eras met at the peak of their powers in the arena that is the squared circle.
Permit me to introduce Hungarian southpaw Laszlo Papp (27-0-2, 15 KOs), who fought from 1957 to 1964. In the other corner, we have Kazakh Gennady Golovkin (24-0-0, 21 KOs), who first entered the ring as a professional in 2006. Before we can find out if Golovkin is “the man” of this era, we take a look to see if he would prove his mettle against the tough Hungarian southpaw.
Papp is considered among the all-time best amateur middleweights. The first boxer to win three consecutive Olympic golds, he lost only seven of his 300 amateur bouts and won 55 of them by first-round knockout. Far from his beloved Hungary for his pro debut, Papp’s homesickness made him even more aggressive: ‘When I finally climbed into the ring, all I wanted to do was to kill my opponent. I won.”
Thanks in part to one of the most devastating left hooks in the history of the middleweight division, despite being a lefty, the Hungarian became European middleweight champ in 1962 by defeating Chris Christensen via a seventh-round TKO.
After six successful defenses of his crown, he was scheduled to face Joey Giardello for the world middleweight title in 1965. Forbidden to do so by the Hungarian government, cheated of his chance to win the big one, Papp retired after defeating Mick Leahy in 1964. But he returns to the ring tonight, youth and skill fully restored, to take on one of the most promising middleweights of our time.
Also impressive as an amateur, Golovkin won a variety of international titles, defeating the likes of Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell and Daniel Geale along the way, and took home a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.
Undefeated since turning pro six years ago, Golovkin’s most recent win was over Grzegorz Proksa by fifth-round TKO in September. His past 11 victories have been by KO or TKO; he last won by judges’ decision in 2008.
It’s the opening bell, and both men are too ferocious and aggressive to do anything but meet in the middle of the ring. Despite a rapid exchange of punches, they demonstrate an underlying and subtle caution. Papp has studied his opponent, and knows full well how skilled he is, and what a powerful hitter.
Golovkin is in even more of a pickle. He recognizes the challenge posed by the Hungarian. Papp is almost ambidextrous, a hybridization of southpaw and orthodox. Whoever heard of a lefty with a devastating left hook? And yet that is exactly the paradox the Kazakh must unravel if he hopes to emerge the victor. The first round’s action is more apparent than real. The savvier spectators recognize that the fighters are merely testing the waters…and each other.
In round two, Golovkin unleashes a flurry of blows, most of which are ducked, slipped, or picked off. The Kazakh expected no less. His purpose was not to launch an artillery barrage, but a smokescreen. With exemplary footwork, he moves in close, plants himself smack-dab on his opponent’s left, and throws a right uppercut. The punch is short and sharp, and catches Papp flush on the chin.
Stirred rather than shaken, Papp steps back just as Golovkin follows his uppercut with a straight right. Papp beats him to the punch with a hard left. Blood explodes from the Kazakh’s nose…he drops his guard…Papp pivots to his opponent’s right, ready to unload that famous left hook of his. He drops his shoulder just as the bell rings.
Golovkin’s corner works furiously on his nose, which is now the size of a sweet potato. It’s broken, sure, but his eyes are clear. The damage and pain are an incentive. At the bell, Papp moves straight toward the Kazakh. He pivots at the last moment and throws a right directly at his opponent’s nose. Golovkin jerks back, and the blow misses by no more than an inch.
The Hungarian is off balance, and Golovkin pounds his right side with rapid-fire, short, sharp lefts and rights. Papp hisses through his mouthguard. A rib’s been broken, maybe two. In no more than a heartbeat, the Hungarian turns and tosses a left. It catches Golovkin low on the forehead, and he’s hurled back. But the Hungarian makes a mistake.
Instead of positioning himself for a left hook that could very well kayo his opponent, he throws a clumsy right that goes nowhere near the Kazakh. Golovkin sends out a right of his own, as straight and on target as a guided missile. Papp is thrown back on wobbly legs, saved only by the bell.
The Hungarian knows that the fourth round is now-or-never. The Kazakh is in only marginally better shape. Both tough guys, they move toward each other slowly but inexorably. At the last second, Papp crouches and throws a right uppercut that starts at his ankles. Golovkin seems to levitate, and Papp follows up with a left hook that sends his opponent flying.
If not for the ropes, he would surely have found himself, Dempsey-like, in a fan’s lap. But the Hungarian is finished. A powerful puncher, yes, but with brittle bones. And he’s just broken his left hand high on Golovkin’s cheekbone. “Krisztus!”, says Papp to himself. His right side on fire, his left hand broken pain, the Hungarian moves forward, but slowly and on old man’s legs.
Golovkin is still seeing Jupiter and Mars, but manages to throw a massive right that catches his opponent flush on his neat mustache. Papp’s seat hits the canvas with a thud. He beats the count, but wanders off like an absent-minded professor. The ref stops the fight.
A fierce and seesaw battle, to be sure, but Golovkin TKOs Papp in the fourth.