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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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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