SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

GGG scores violent KO in return to ring

GGG scores violent KO in return to ring
Photo by Amanda Westcott/courtesy of DAZN

Gennadiy Golovkin lands a body shot during his knockout victory over Steve Rolls.

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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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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