Gennady Golovkin made quick work of a late replacement opponent and made history all in one night. The unified middleweight world titleholder pulverized former 154-pound world title contender Vanes Martirosyan in the second round to retain his title for a record 20th consecutive time, tying the mark set by 160-pound legend Bernard Hopkins for the most world title defenses Saturday at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 KO's), came into the fight having never been knocked out, but also had not fought since May 2016. A combination of inactivity and not being a true middleweight probably did not factor very well into his chances.
Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KO's), 36, a Kazakhstan native based in Los Angeles, stunned the native Armenian with a colossal right hand and followed it up with two hard jabs, another hard right hand, and a vicious combination that sent Martirosyan down on his face. Martirosyan's right knee also touched the canvas before GGG delivered the final punch, which has disqualified fighters in the past, but it did not happen in this particular case.
Golovkin was initially slated to fight former two-division world champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on this night. However, that was all for naught as Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KO's), 27, tested positive for trace amounts of the banned substance clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20 in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. Canelo was suspended for six months on April 18 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and will be eligible to fight in August.
As a result, Golovkin was forced to find an opponent on short notice and Martirosyan was the only one that a majority of the sanctioning bodies were willing to accept. The IBF belt, which Golovkin has held since October 2015, was not at stake, as the organization refused to approve Martirosyan. On the other hand, the IBF has threatened to strip GGG over the fight, as he is also due to fight unbeaten mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
"It feels great to get a knockout," said Golovkin, who had gone the distance in his previous two fights, a unanimous decision against Daniel Jacobs and a much-disputed draw with Canelo in September that most ringside observers thought Golovkin won.
"Vanes is a very good fighter. He caught me a few times in the first round. In the second round, I came out all business after I felt him out in the first round."
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Golovkin landed 36 of 85 punches (43 percent) and Martirosyan, who admitted GGG was the hardest puncher he had ever faced, found the target on 18 of 73 (25 percent).
Earlier this week, Golovkin said there was about a "10 percent probability" of a Canelo rematch, but said tonight that he still wants to fight him.
"Absolutely," Golovkin said. "I want everyone. I have lots of belts. I challenge anyone to come and take my belts. I don't care who it is. Let's clean the division out. Happy Cinco de Mayo."