SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

GGG scores violent KO in return to ring

Photo by Amanda Westcott/courtesy of DAZN

Former unified middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin made his return to the ring Saturday in New York, and showed the rest of the division that he is still a force to be reckoned with. Golovkin knocked out Steve Rolls in the fourth round of a non-title bout to end his nine month layoff away from the sport.

It was a vintage Golovkin performance in many ways. The 37-year old Kazakhstan native spent much of the first two rounds feeling out the relative unknown Rolls, who attempted to jump on Golovkin in round two with several flurries of punches. Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KO) turned up the pressure in round three, cutting off the ring and using his signature stalking style to control the pace of action. By round four Golovkin made his move. He landed a looping shot to the head, which badly hurt Rolls (19-1, 10 KO.) Then Golovkin pounced. Rolls tried to tie up Golovkin, but Golovkin refused to accept a clinch, continuing to apply pressure. Golovkin then landed a left hook to the jaw of Rolls which sent him to the canvas in violent fashion. Rolls went down face-first, and was unable to beat the referee's count.

It was the first fight under new trainer Jonathan Banks for Golovkin, who previously spent his entire North American career under the tutelage of Abel Sanchez. Golovkin didn't appear to make any major tactical changes. He worked behind a stiff jab, stayed in the pocket and seemed content to trade getting hit for dishing out a harder blow. The trademark power, which made Golovkin the middleweight boogeyman for nearly a decade, seems to have gone nowhere.

In addition to a change it trainers the fight was also a new beginning in other ways for Golovkin. It was the first fight of his six-fight deal with streaming service DAZN. It was also the first time since August of 2010 that Golovkin fought without possessing one of the four major middleweight world title belts. Golovkin lost his belts to Canelo Alvarez in September, and as you can imagine Golovkin seemed interested in regaining them. He told DAZN's Chris Mannix after that he intended to have a third fight with Canelo as soon as September. Golovkin added that he hoped the third fight in the trilogy would take place in Madison Square Garden, saying it was his preferred place to fight.


SATURDAY IN RENO: VALDEZ ROUTS SANCHEZ TO RETAIN FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE

WBO champ Oscar Valdez turned in the most well-rounded performance of his career, cruising to a unanimous decision victory over challenger Jason Sanchez. Valdez (26-0, 20 KO,) who made his name as a brawler, looked to be greatly improved defensively as he used superior head movement to inflict punishment to Sanchez (14-1, 7 KO) while suffering little in return. Valdez won by scores of 117-110 and 118-109 (twice.) SportsMap.com scored the fight a 120-107 shutout for Valdez.

Valdez send Sanchez to the canvas via a flash knockdown in round five. Following the knockdown Valdez continued to counter Sanchez, and repeatedly baited him into leaving his head open for Valdez's long looping hooks, which he landed at will.

By round seven Sanchez realized his best shot was to try to turn the fight into an old-school brawl, something a younger version of Valdez would have welcomed. But he didn't take the bait; As Sanchez attempted to take the fight to the inside Valdez stuck to using his jab and fighting off his back foot.

The fight was the second for Valdez under new trainer Eddy Reynoso, who is best known of training middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. Reynoso appears to have been instrumental in the remaking of Valdez' fighting style for the better. Following the victory Valdez said he was undecided as to if he would fight at featherweight again or move up to the 130 lb. weight class.

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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