By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
A week on from Andy Ruiz’s mammoth upset of the odds at Madison Square Garden, Steve Rolls will hope the Mexican’s good luck is still lingering in the air come Saturday night when he comes up against Gennady Golovkin. The undefeated (19-0) Canadian will test his luck over twelve rounds against the former Kazakh kingpin of the middleweight division in the first step up of Rolls’ career; Golovkin, meanwhile, is looking to set up a tantalising third fight with Canelo Alvarez.
For the first time since Golovkin was 18-0 – way back in 2009 – this fight has no belts on the line and is purely being used as a means for Golovkin to avoid ring rust: particularly at this late stage in his career. The 37 year old has seen his reputation fade slightly in the aftermath of the Canelo rematch in part due to the fact he stagnated whilst Alvarez fought on an upward trajectory but, equally, because there is that feeling that he’s battling away for one last shot at the limelight and redemption against his arch nemesis.
A bruising fighter who has traditionally been capable of breaking down his opponents with wilting attacks to the body, you suspect that Jonathan Banks (Golovkin’s new trainer) will be looking to roll back the years and re-energise his charge – given how, in his latest fights, Golovkin has almost become reliant on that power to see him through. When guys like Canelo and Daniel Jacobs have started to stand up to him and ride the crest of that explosivity then we’ve seen him become a little unstuck: by no means does he look swamped or lost but Banks will be looking to keep him busy in each round with an increased variety as well as that menacing power.
There’s definite believe that Banks is the man to eek every last ounce of youthful energy and exuberance out of the ageing fighter but then you have the critics who say ‘if it’s not broke, why fix it?’. And it, largely, wasn’t broken – Abel Sanchez and Gennady Golovkin were like the Ant and Dec of boxing having amassed twenty consecutive world title defences (Ant and Dec have scooped gongs at nineteen straight National Television Awards) and there were no particular frailties to Golovkin: just areas to hone and refine.
No such background changes for Rolls, the nominal challenger, who has stuck loyally by Tommy Howat for forteen years and who’s guidance saw Rolls transition onto the Canadian national team for 2009 and 2010. Having turned professional in 2011 there have always been bumps of inactivity – despite six fights in 2013 – and the Toronto fighter has seen himself limited to just two outings in each of the previous three years. Whilst Golovkin’s style seemed to plateau, albeit at a very high level, Rolls has stagnated in mediocrity with his first ten rounder only taking place in December.
Quite an orthodox fighter this could be a stark contrast of styles between the flash and flair of Golovkin and the more traditional round-collecting jabbing nature of Rolls. That said we’ve yet to see how the Canadian responds when facing someone as ‘in your face’ as Golovkin but he has sparred with Adonis Stevenson and Billy Joe Saunders so certainly has experience in the back pocket.
Naturally there are some very real questions as to just whether he should be in the same ring as Golovkin but, as Ruiz proved, anything can happen. The main danger is that the 35 year old is such an unknown quantity: is he the Rolls-Royce Phantom or is he just a Nissan Micro?
It’s hard to tell at this stage but he reminds of me a family sized Ford Fiesta – hard-wearing and capable of doing the job but nowhere near as flash as some of its more exotic competitors.