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.

SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Manny proves age is just a number

Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquaio outworked, outsmarted and outslugged Keith Thurman on Saturday night in Las Vegas to claim the WBA Welterweight Super Title and re-announce his presence to the rest of the division. Pacquiao looked like his old self, especially early in the fight, to win a clear but competitive decision over Thurman, who entered the ring ten years Pacquiao's younger. Ringside judges scored the fight 114-113 for Thurman and 115-112 (twice) for Pacquiao. SportsMap.com also scored the bout 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who now splits his time between boxing and senatorial duties in the Philippines, looked like vintage Manny in the early going, landing a right hook near the end of the first round that sent Thurman sprawling to the canvas. Thurman was up quickly and didn't appear to be badly hurt by the knockdown. Pacquiao continued the quick start by landing the harder, more damaging punches throughout the first half of the fight. Pacquiao routinely initiated the action by pressuring Thurman with flurries of combinations. The knockdown, paired with Pacquiao's early success gave him an advantage on the scorecards he would never relinquish.

Thurman began to feel Pacquiao out as the fight moved into the middle rounds, timing Pacquiao's volume combinations with well placed counters. While Thurman snapped Pacquiao's head back at times, he never rose beyond competitive and never seemed to take the fight back over from Pacquiao, who laid claim to it following the knockdown.

If there was any doubt the 40 year old could finish off the victory, it was removed in round ten, when Pacquiao badly hurt Thurman with a body shot. The blow left Thurman covering up to the body and leaving his head vulnerable to combinations for the remainder of the round. Thurman bounced back with a nice round 11 but the damage was done. Entering the final stanza Thurman needed a knockout. But once again it was Pacquiao who landed the heavier work.

Thurman was gracious in defeat, saying he felt the fight was close but acknowledged that he had lost. It was the first defeat in Thurman's career. He expressed interest in making a rematch.

By winning Pacquiao once again has claim to being a top-3 welterweight in the world, along with PBC stablemate Errol Spence as well as Terence Crawford. A unification bout with Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, would be easy to make. However it won't be made in the immediate future. Spence is set to fight WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in September. Spence would be a heavy favorite over Pacquiao. Because of this fact, paired with Pacquiao's marketability, a fight between the two would likely only be made it what would be Pacquiao's last fight. After Saturday's performance Pacquiao's career doesn't appear to be anywhere close to finish, so I would expect Manny to be back in the ring in the fall against the mandatory challenger for his WBA title.

UGAS DOMINATES FIGUEROA

On the undercard Cuban national Yordenis Ugas has no trouble defeating Omar Figueroa, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-107 (three times.) SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-107 for Ugas.

Ugas won every minute of every round, beating Figueroa at his own game. Figueroa, content to fight on the inside, was a step behind the quicker, more technically skilled Ugas. He was repeatedly countered with uppercuts up the middle, and never made any adjustments that led observers to believe Figueroa could solve Ugas. The fight makes Ugas the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title. Ugas fought Porter for the WBC title earlier in the year and lost a controversial decision.

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