NEW YORK — Gennady Golovkin delivered yet another big drama show, and another one-sided one, as he knocked out David Lemieux in the eighth round to unify middleweight world titles Saturday night before a raucous, sold-out crowd of 20,548 at Madison Square Garden.
Golovkin methodically broke apart Lemieux in a supreme performance in which he scored his 21st knockout in a row. He retained his title for the 15th time, moving past Hall of Famer Carlos Monzon for second-most in division history and just five away from tying the great Bernard Hopkins’ division record of 20.
With presidential candidate Donald Trump among the celebrities at ringside, Golovkin accomplished his long-stated goal to unify belts. He also continued to make his case that he should be recognized as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement following his Sept. 12 rout of Andre Berto.
One of boxing’s best punchers and most technically sound fighters, Golovkin made it look easy against Lemieux, who many thought could match Golovkin’s power. But it was not close when it came to speed, skills and defense.
“I told you this was a very important fight. I give my fans and friends a big show,” said Golovkin, who was headlining his first HBO PPV event. “Thank you, my fans. Thank you, my people.
“Dave is a very good fighter. A strong fighter,” he said. “I can box him, too. I’m a boxer, too. I felt his power, but I was strong tonight, and my punches hurt him. He is a great champion, and I’m glad to beat him.”
Said Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter and the managing director of K2 Promotions: “Lemieux was trying to throw big bombs, and he landed a few of them and never was able to hurt him, and Gennady systematically broke him down.”
Golovkin dished out a massive beating to Lemieux (34-3, 31 KOs), 26, of Montreal, who never landed anything that troubled Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs), 33, who is from Kazakhstan and living in Los Angeles.
All Lemieux showed was a champion’s heart. When all of the top fighters in and around the middleweight division refused to entertain a fight with Golovkin, it was Lemieux who demanded the fight in his first title defense after winning a belt in June by unanimous decision against former titleholder Hassan N’Dam, whom he knocked down four times.
“I have a lot of respect for Golovkin as a fighter,” Lemieux said. “We prepared well for this fight, but I feel like I waited too long to take some shots tonight, and that really hurt me. I want another chance at Golovkin, and I will take advantage of it.”
Golovkin wasted no time going on the attack in the opening round, nailing Lemieux with right hands as he drove him into the ropes. Golovkin rocked Lemieux again with a left hook early in the second round as Lemieux struggled to get anything meaningful off. A right hand hurt Lemieux later in the second round as he went into the ropes and looked very unsteady on his legs.
Golovkin used a versatile attack, landing right hands, left hooks and in combination. In the third round, he connected with a hard hook to the body followed by a hook to the head.
With such a deep amateur background and very good technical skills, Golovkin outclassed Lemieux, who tried to land big right hands but missed with most of them.
Golovkin, who earned a career-high $2 million plus a piece of the profits from the pay-per-view, got Lemieux in huge trouble in the fourth round when he rocked him with a left hook and punished him for much of the round as the crowd went wild in what was looking like a pure mismatch.
Late in the fifth round, Golovkin finally dropped Lemieux, nailing him with a left hand to the body. Golovkin then hit Lemieux with a right while Lemieux was down on a knee and was lucky he didn’t lose a point for the foul. Golovkin bowed his head as if to say he was sorry and then continued to blister Lemieux with punches. He had Lemieux in big trouble again along the ropes as the round ended.
By the seventh round, referee Steve Willis was looking closely at Lemieux, who was bleeding from the nose and mouth. A minute into the round, Willis called timeout for the ringside doctor to examine Lemieux’s nose. Later in the round, Lemieux landed a solid right hand to Golovkin’s head, but he did not budge. Instead, Golovkin attacked and forced Lemieux into the ropes.
Golovkin continued to do as he pleased, hammering Lemieux, who made a career-best $1.5 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view profits, in the eighth round. Willis was close to stopping the fight twice, and then, when Golovkin pinned Lemieux on the ropes and rocked him yet again, Willis intervened and waved off the fight at the 1:32 mark. Golovkin was winning by shutout on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
“Now he has 21 knockouts in a row and an additional world title, and it goes back to what I have said about Gennady — you have to believe what you are seeing with him,” Loeffler said.
Lemieux, despite taking a shellacking, said he was upset by the stoppage.
“I feel like the referee called the fight too early. I am fine,” Lemieux said. “When he stopped it, I wasn’t even on the mat. I can keep going.”
Willis said he had no choice but to stop the beating.
“I had to do something,” Willis said. “David is a very competitive fighter, and as long as he was able to throw punches, he was going to keep on trying, but his chances of winning were decreasing as the fight went on. Against a guy like that, he was going to get really hurt, and I’m here to protect the fighters’ health, and that’s my top priority. I couldn’t let him continue to receive punishment. I gave him every chance I could, and I still hesitated too much. It was over.”
Golovkin landed 280 of 549 punches (51 percent), and Lemieux landed 89 of 335 (27 percent), according to CompuBox punch statistics.
The addition of a second major title is only part of Golovkin’s plan to acquire all four major belts. By virtue of Golovkin also holding an interim title, the winner of the Nov. 21 megafight between champion Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez is mandated to fight him. Whether it happens remains to be seen, but Andy Lee also holds a belt and defends against Billy Joe Saunders on Dec. 19. Fortunately, all of those potential fights are politically makeable.
But the fight Golovkin wants next is the Cotto-Alvarez winner, which would be the biggest fight in boxing, barring a Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao rematch.
“We always thought Canelo would be the more likely one to fight Gennady, but you have to give Miguel respect,” Loeffler said. “Gennady will be at their fight and looking to fight the winner.
“Canelo has proven that he is wiling to get in the ring with anyone, and Cotto has been very selective in his negotiations for being middleweight champion.
“Whoever wins that fight will clearly will be at the top of the sport, as Gennady is. Gennady has more belts than the winner of that fight, and it would be a huge unification fight for 2016. The plan is to see what happens Nov. 21.”
The Cotto-Alvarez winner has 15 calendar days to decide whether he will fight Golovkin. Of course, GGG hopes the answer is yes.
“My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division,” he said. “I’m a boxer, not a businessman. I want all the belts. I want to bring my fans big events. [Cotto and Canelo are] both great champions. I want who wins.
“I want all the belts; now I have two. The winner of Cotto-Canelo [next] for sure. I’m not sure who will win that fight, but I want to fight the winner next. I’m staying at 160 [pounds] until I have all the belts.”