One by one, unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin tore through one challenger after another.
In his 19 successful title defenses -- one shy of tying Bernard Hopkins' 160-pound division record of 20 in a row -- Golovkin has knocked out 17 of his challengers with only Canelo Alvarez (in a disputed draw in September) and Daniel Jacobs hearing the final bell in his two most recent defenses.
With Alvarez suspended for failing two tests for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol in February, GGG will instead take on late replacement opponent Vanes Martirosyan on Saturday (HBO, 11 p.m. ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's longtime trainer, doesn't sound like he thinks all that much of Martirosyan, a middling junior middleweight coming off a loss, a two-year layoff and moving up in weight for the unexpected opportunity.
"In looking at some of the tapes -- I have followed him since I have other fighters at 154," Sanchez said this week. "The strange thing about Gennady is that everybody that fights Gennady has to adapt to what Gennady does. So no matter what Vanes has done in the past against other fighters, he won't be able to do that against Gennady. He's got to adapt to what Gennady is going to bring into the ring. He will never be the same after this fight. None of the fighters that Gennady has fought were ever the same."
Sanchez has a point. Several of Golovkin's past victims never came close to their past form after facing GGG's wrath. Daniel Geale, a former titleholder blown out in three rounds, got knocked out in two of his next three fights and retired. Marco Antonio Rubio, obliterated in two rounds, lost his next fight and retired. Mandatory challenger Dominic Wade, taken out in two, hasn't fought since. Kell Brook suffered a severe injury -- a broken orbital bone -- and then got stopped in his next fight with the same injury on the other side of his face.
And even Jacobs, though he went 12 rounds with GGG in a competitive fight 14 months ago, has not looked sharp in his two fights since, going the distance in a unanimous-decision win against inexperienced Luis Arias and struggling this past Saturday in a decision over Maciej Sulecki.
"Jacobs looked terrible in his last fight. Why? Because he went 12 rounds with Golovkin," Sanchez said. "I always prepare my guys to be the best they can be, and the other guy is going to have to adapt to them. Obviously, we know that [Martirosyan] has a very good right hand. He's taller than Gennady. He's probably going to be a little faster at the beginning because he is a junior middleweight. He has decent punching power.
"If I try to formulate what he is going to bring to the table, it would change after he gets hit with the first shot. We are looking for the elite fighter that Vanes is but we are going to take it to him, and if he comes forward the fans are going to be treated to a great fight. It's not a matter of giving away the game plan; it is a matter of what Vanes is willing to expose and what he is willing to put himself through in a fight."
Despite Sanchez believing that Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) is going to severely punish Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs) for as long as the fight lasts, he did give him credit for his willingness to fight him.
"For this guy to want to step up and make this fight in two and a half weeks, you have to give him credit, one, that he took the fight, and two, that he thinks he can win," Sanchez said. "It's an opportunity to make history."
Despite Martirosyan's willingness to accept the fight with Golovkin, Sanchez said it won't change what he believes is the inevitable outcome.
"It's not only Jacobs. If you go back to [David] Lemieux, to [Curtis] Stevens, to Wade, to Willie Monroe, they are never the same. [Martin] Murray also," Sanchez said. "They are never the same after they go rounds with Gennady. Jacobs was supposed to demolish Arias and he had a difficult time with him, which was his first fight after Gennady, and now the fight with Sulecki he looked terrible. He gets hit with everything in the book and the reason being, in my opinion, is once you [fight] Golovkin, you are never going to be the same."