MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Gennady Golovkin served notice once again to the middleweight division: Fight him only if you dare.
Matthew Macklin, an experienced top contender in his third world-title fight, felt his wrath in a major way as Golovkin beat him up and then knocked him out with a clean left hook to the body in the third round on Saturday night before 2,211 at the MGM Grand Theater at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.
It was as impressive a performance as Golovkin could have asked for in what many believed would be his toughest fight. It turned out to be one of his easiest.
"I felt great. This was an easy fight for me," Golovkin said after notching his eighth title defense. "Everything I wanted to do I was able to do in the ring. He never hurt me. I want to fight again as soon as possible.
"I expected a tougher fight. The left hook is something we work on in the gym. When I saw he was open for it, I drilled him with it, and I knew he wasn't getting up. I gave him a couple of chances earlier in the fight to see what he had, but I knew it would be an easy fight."
That is not an understatement. Golovkin opened the fight strong and didn't let up until Macklin was laying on the canvas writhing in pain from the brutal body shot that ended the fight.
Golovkin hurt Macklin with a clean right hand that sent him reeling into the ropes late in the first round. The ropes appeared to hold Macklin up, and referee Eddie Cotton could have ruled it a knockdown but didn't.
It hardly mattered, as Golovkin continued his attack on Macklin in the second round, landing right hands and cutting him over the left eye. Golovkin looked so much bigger and more powerful than Macklin that it appeared it would be only a matter of time until Golovkin added to his knockout record.
That came in the third round when Golovkin landed a right uppercut followed by a deep, digging left hook to the body that was audible at ringside. Macklin (29-5, 20 KOs), 31, an Irishman from England, dropped to the canvas in agony, and Cotton counted him out at 1 minute, 22 seconds.
"I heard that shot," Lou DiBella, Macklin's promoter, said. "It sounded like something cracked. That was the hardest body shot possibly I've ever seen."
Macklin was down on the mat for several minutes as Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs), 31, who was born in Kazakhstan, lives in Germany and trains in the United States, increased his boxing-best knockout percentage among active titleholders to 88.9 percent.
"He's the best I ever fought," said Macklin, who also was stopped in the 11th round of a 2012 world-title fight by lineal champion Sergio Martinez and lost a heavily disputed split decision in Germany to Felix Sturm in a world-title bout in 2011. "He never really let me get started. It was a great shot he landed.
"The left hook to the body is personally one of my favorites. I tip my hat to him. He's a great champion. He has clubbing, solid power, and you can feel the weight of every punch he throws."
DiBella said the knockout reminded him of Roy Jones' memorable one-shot body punch knockout of Virgil Hill, which caused a broken rib.
"That was one of the hardest body shots I've seen since that knockout," DiBella said. "Golovkin is a beast. He's an animal. This kid is going to demolish people for awhile. In terms of ability, he is an absolute animal. Matt was game and fighting, but Golovkin is super strong. He's a great fighter. I give him all his props. He needed to show it against a real guy. That was one of the great body shots I've ever seen, and I've been around this game for 25 years."
With Macklin dismissed, the question now is who will fight Golovkin, who has said often that he will fight anyone from junior middleweight to super middleweight.
Martinez is out until at least the spring because of injuries, so that isn't happening. DiBella, who also promotes Martinez, said he had no interest in the fight even if Martinez was healthy and ready to go.
"There is no sense," DiBella said, realizing that he has an aging fighter and that Golovkin, who earned $350,000, is coming into his own.
Golovkin's plan is to fight five times this year in a push for fighter-of-the-year honors. He is 3-0 so far, winning each bout by knockout.
But the way Golovkin took out Macklin, who made $300,000, was a surprise, especially to his own promoter, Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions.
"I was very impressed," he said. "I thought Gennady would win by knockout but not that fast. I thought Macklin would be more durable. He has heart and was in great shape, but the way Gennady was able to break him down and stop him really impressed me. I think now, with HBO behind us, I think Gennady will take on a life of his own in terms of momentum. I think this performance proves that he is the best middleweight in the world. Not taking anything away from Sergio, but I think Gennady is clearly the best middleweight in the world."
Loeffler said Golovkin will likely fight twice more this year, possibly as soon as August.
"We are on track for five times. I think the ideal fight would be [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr.," Loeffler said, knowing there is no chance of the fight happening.
"But that's who we would want. Really, any of the champions or big names. A performance like this, though, might make people who didn't want to fight him before really not want to fight him. This was a big statement fight."
Super middleweight champion Andre Ward, who was ringside to call the fight on HBO's broadcast, does see Golovkin as a future opponent and said he would be willing to fight him down the road.
"It's a no-brainer," he said. "I don't have a problem fighting anybody. Look at my track record. But if you ask Golovkin's team, they'll tell you it's a year or two away. But I'm used to fighting the boogieman. It doesn't faze me."
Golovkin sounded ready for anything, as though he could fight again tomorrow, against Ward or anyone else.
"Any top fighter, any belt holder, any champion, I will fight them," Golovkin said without hesitation. "Any time, anywhere. I am here."
He is here, and he doesn't look like he is going anywhere.