NEW YORK -- Not long before fearsome middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin defended his belt against Curtis Stevens on Saturday night, he said, "I am bad boy. This is my show -- knock him down, knock him out."
Golovkin did exactly that in yet another brilliant performance, dropping Stevens in the second round and laying an absolute beating on him until the fight was stopped in Stevens' corner after the eighth round before 4,618 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
"I was able to use my array of punches we work on in the gym to break him down," Golovkin said. "He was strong, and I was a little cautious of his strength, but I felt comfortable in there and never felt like I was in any trouble.
"I give myself a grade of 10."
It was a festive atmosphere at the Theater as Kazakhstan flags dotted the crowd in honor of Golovkin's home country and his fans chanted for him in their native tongue. Stevens, from Brooklyn, N.Y., also had his fans, but they didn't have much to cheer about.
Stevens, a powerful puncher, had talked a good game and trash-talked Golovkin relentlessly in order to land the fight, then kept it up during the promotion. But Golovkin made him pay dearly with his heavy fists.
Golovkin retained his title for the ninth time, including for the fourth time this year, and recorded his 15th consecutive knockout. He hasn't gone the distance since an eight-round decision win in 2008.
"I think Stevens showed a better chin than I thought he had," said K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler, Golovkin's promoter. "He took a lot of Gennady's shots early. It was impressive how he could withstand his shots. But I give Gennady an 'A.' It was an exciting fight, the crowd loved it and he dominated and got the knockout."
Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs), who still has the highest knockout rate (89 percent) of any active titleholder, established his jab right away in the first round, and he kept pumping it throughout the fight. Although the jab was his foundation, he shook Stevens up many times with powerful left hooks and right hands, and also went to the body.
Golovkin's most fearsome weapon is his left hook, and he landed two clean ones in the second round, badly hurting Stevens (25-4, 18 KOs) and dropping him flat on his back late in the frame.
It was impressive that Stevens could even beat the count, but he did and showed huge heart to continue. By the fourth round, Golovkin had Stevens in survival mode. Stevens was covering up along the ropes as Golovkin stalked him, but late in the round, Stevens connected with a couple of stinging right hands that got Golovkin's attention.
Stevens, however, could land only one or two shots at a time. Golovkin, meanwhile, remained poised and calm, staying in a relentless attack mode -- the kind that has made him one of the most exciting fighters in boxing.
Golovkin had Stevens in deep trouble throughout the sixth round. He was hammering Stevens with right hands as Stevens covered up along the ropes. Methodically, Golovkin kept firing and dishing out punishment, to the point that Stevens' mother briefly left ringside.
From corner to corner to corner to corner -- literally -- Golovkin battered Stevens all over the ring in the eighth round. The challenger was in deep trouble, but he was firing back just enough to keep referee Harvey Dock from stopping the fight.
Dock was very close to stopping the fight late in the eighth as Golovkin, 31, who lives in Germany and trains in the United States, was crushing Stevens. With only a few seconds left in the round, Dock let it go. But he walked to Stevens' corner after the round, quickly consulted with Andre Rozier, Stevens' trainer and uncle, and then waved off the fight.
Golovkin was far ahead on all three scorecards, leading 80-71, 79-71, 79-72.
The CompuBox statistics showed just how one-sided the fight was: Golovkin was credited with landing 293 of 794 punches (37 percent), while Stevens landed just 97 of 303 blows (32 percent). Golovkin also landed 49 percent of his power shots.
Stevens, 28, showed a lot of fortitude to fight as long as he did, but he was nonetheless a thoroughly beaten man in his first world title shot.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of," Stevens said. "I'm better than anyone gave me credit for. I showed more in this fight with a loss than most people show in a win. This is not the end for me. I will learn from my mistakes and I will be back."
He had irritated Golovkin with his trash talk, though.
"Gennady was mad," said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's trainer. "He doesn't want to admit it, but he was mad coming into the ring."
Said Golovkin, referring to Stevens' foul-mouthed promise to hurt him: "My last question for him [at the final news conference] was, 'Are you serious?' I'm serious. I respect everybody. This is a sport for me first, but I know I am champion and I showed I am champion."
As one of the best fighters in boxing, Golovkin wants to fight the best.
"I am ready to fight anybody, but, specifically, I want to fight [lineal champion] Sergio Martinez," Golovkin said.
That is highly unlikely. Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella, has said he has no intention of making the fight. Besides, Martinez is coming off knee surgery and won't be back until the spring at the earliest. And when he does return, he likely will defend against Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto in what would be a major pay-per-view fight.
While Golovkin, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, waits to land a major fight, Loeffler said he has a deal already set for Golovkin to fight Feb. 1 in Monte Carlo, where he also fought earlier this year. There is no opponent set yet.
"Longer-range, Gennady has always wanted to fight Martinez or [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr.," Loeffler said. "Chavez says he can't make 160 pounds anymore, which is fine. We would fight him at 168 if that's what he wants. Gennady believes he is the best middleweight champion right now and he wants to prove it."
He is doing that already, one devastating performance at a time.