Gennady Golovkin

What Marco Antonio Rubio Must Do to Beat Gennady Golovkin

Gennady Golovkin Marco Antonio Rubio Naoki Fukada
Photo by Naoki Fukada

This weekend fight fans are gearing up as Gennady “GGG” Golovkin faces off against the lesser known, but battle tested, Marco Antonio “El Veneno” Rubio in what should be a highly entertaining middleweight unification bout.

“The Good Boy” (as some refer to him) Golovkin has a reputation that precedes him, in the same manner as mid-to-late 2000’s version of Manny Pacquiao; a uniquely skilled and devastating puncher inside the ring with a meek innocence and implied purity outside it.

The difference is that Golovkin has yet to achieve the same lucrative earning power that Pacquiao has, despite being a notable fan favorite, somewhat explaining why he’s been the most avoided of the middleweight titlists.

As Carl Froch once alluded to on social media, fighting Golovkin is simply not worth the risk. The Kazakh has displayed Tyson-esque power in both hands, with a knack for measuring range. He also incorporates impressive footwork and a consistent use of his jab; things that are unique when compared to the sport’s biggest punchers. Considering the business aspect of the sweet science, Golovkin justifiably has the top ranked fighters in surrounding weight classes looking elsewhere for opponents.

Rubio, on the other hand, is a hard hitting boxer-puncher. Rubio is not going to dazzle with fancy movements or blazing hand speed in his combinations; he is going to utilize his reach by keeping distance, set up off his jab, and throw hard punches in combinations of two or three until he breaks down his opponent.

51 of Rubio’s 59 victories have been by way of knockout or stoppage. Rubio also has shown the ability to change the direction of a fight in a moment’s notice with his right hand, evidenced in his upset stoppage of the Canadian upstart David Lemieux–who is now the NABF Middleweight Champion.

For El Veneno, this is a great opportunity for his career. As the interim WBC Middleweight champ, he has had plenty of experience at the championship level. Despite plowing through gatekeepers, fringe contenders and prospects on the bubble; Rubio’s successes have not yet culminated in victories in his most publicized fights with former undisputed middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik or Julio Caesar Chavez Jr.

So, what does Rubio need to do in order to end the losing streak in big fights and best Golovkin?

First; Rubio needs a helmet, some phonebooks taped to his torso and indomitable spirit. Unfortunately for Rubio, only one of the three is acceptable for a professional boxing match.

All jokes aside, for Rubio to win he needs to keep Golovkin in front of him by doubling and tripling his jab. He also needs to add more punches and variation to his combinations, and he’s got to stay off the ropes and out of the corners of the ring.

The smartest thing Rubio can do in this fight is utilize ring generalship. He needs spacing for the best use of his long reach. This can be achieved if he can keep Golovkin at the end of his jab. Golovkin is skilled as a counter puncher, but he is very aggressive and will look to pummel Rubio during any stretches of inactivity.

Rubio is faithful to his long jab, which has made him successful in boxing.  By changing his jab’s rhythm by doubling and tripling, Rubio can smother Golovkin’s aggression and footwork enough to create a home for his signature overhand right.

Adding more punches and better variation to his combinations would greatly serve Rubio’s chances. It’s rare to see Rubio throw more than three punches in succession before readjusting his spacing. Rubio is very repetitive–to the point of a robotic like commitment–which has worked for him thus far.

He is very comfortable on the outside throwing jabs and working in the straight right, sometimes leading with the right or even a left hook. When he’s in-fighting, he tends to throw more power shots like body hooks and uppercuts.

I’d like to see Rubio throw jabs to the body and finish with hooks and/or straights to the head, or start high with a one-two combination and end it with a power shot to the body.  This doesn’t mean that Golovkin won’t adjust, but given the level of competition GGG’s faced thus far, it would be to Rubio’s advantage to force Golovkin to prove that he has the ring IQ to make those adjustments.

The most important of things Rubio must do to last in the fight is to stay out of the corners and off the ropes. Golovkin is very good at walking his opponents into traps, where he can beat on them with impunity without response.

They’re too busy trying to avoid the pain of his punches to be concerned with anything else.  That is the most dangerous scenario for any Golovkin opponent. Considering Rubio likes spacing, he needs to use that to his advantage in this matchup.

It seems this compensates for Rubio’s defensive weakness, for example his lack of speed and head movement. With Golovkin having the upper hand in both of those departments, Rubio’s footwork will be of the utmost importance in prolonging his ability to stand upright.

This is an uphill battle for Rubio, make no mistake about it. Golovkin has almost all of the advantages, whether it’s speed or technique. Golovkin is heavily favored in this unification bout, and rightfully so.

Rubio, however, cannot see the matchup that way going in. Hopefully, his preparation has given him the mindset to look beyond the analytics and believe in his own abilities. If he does, and I believe he will, combined with the things he must do to win, then Rubio can win this fight.

Despite Golovkin being the favorite, as the old saying goes, “anything can happen in boxing.” Let’s see if Rubio can make good on that cliché and shock the world.

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