By Jake Donovan
Even on the heels of a sensational 2013 campaign and a hectic schedule, complacency was never on the table for Genandy Golovkin.
The unbeaten middleweight titlist was last seen in the ring just 12 weeks ago, scoring his fourth knockout win in as many fights on the year with an 8th round stoppage of Curtis Stevens. The bout aired live on HBO from Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City, his third appearance on the network in 2013 (and fourth overall) and second on the year at the world famous NYC venue.
Understandably, there was disappointment expressed when his next fight – an upcoming title defense versus Osumana Adama this weekend in Monte Carlo, Monaco – would not be carried on American airwaves. The bout will still air live in several markets throughout the world, including BoxNation in the United Kingdom.
For fans in the United States wishing to legally catch more of “GGG”, they will just have to wait until his next fight. Pending an injury-free, cut-free performance on Saturday, Golovkin’s next stateside appearance is slated for April 26 in New York City, returning to HBO’s airwaves.
His handlers – K2 Promotions - get that fans in this corner of the world will be disappointed with the current blueprint for his 2014 campaign. However, it still fits into their plans for his continued development as an international superstar.
“We're bringing back the true definition of a world champion,” Tom Loeffler, K2 Promotions General Manager points out. “The significance of this fight in Monte Carlo—when he fights there he's prime time in Germany and in Kazakhstan and all of the markets in the former Soviet Union.
“It’s important to maintain his prime time presence in his home region. We will continue to market him in the United States, and proudly showcase him on HBO (in the future). The plan is to have him fight regularly in the United States, mixed in with one international fight per year to build his brand as an international superstar.”
The strategy worked to a tee in 2013, though with one subtle difference coming in the on-screen availability of his lone fight beyond U.S. borders. Golovkin made his first ever trip to Monaco last March, scoring a sensational 3rd round knockout of Nobuhiro Ishida in a bout that was made available via independent pay-per-view in addition to the networks in the international market.
Ironically, it was that very knockout that stood the test of time over the course of a year jam packed with highlight reel moments provided by the knockout artist from Kazakhstan.
“The significance of the Ishida knockout is he's a tough veteran never stopped,” Loeffler points out. “He's a vet you can't underestimate. It was impressive.”
It might have been a bit too impressive.
“It’s getting difficult finding opponents,” Loeffler admits. “(Matthew) Mackin was highly rated at the time he fought Gennady. He had a good performance against Sturm and Martinez. To stop him in three rounds in the manner in which he did was a huge statement. The higher profile, the more he steps up. He’s done everything you can to provide an exciting fight every time he steps in the ring.
“Our job is to keep him in the ring. So that creates our challenge of keeping him busy while trying to also make sure he remains in the public eye.”
Given this is the digital era, chances are that fans who truly wish to see Golovkin in action this weekend will find a will or a way. Those who will find a way will also get to better familiarize themselves with Adama in the ring.
“A lot of people arent familiar w/ Adama, but like Carlos Takam (who fought Mike Perez – also promoted by K2 Promotions - to a 10-round draw on HBO in mid-January) he has a great record. He lost a close decision to (former middleweight champ) Daniel Geale. It will be a good fight, and a good start in 2014 to build him up Gennady as an international icon.”
The starting point on the year for those plans actually took place well beyond the squared circles. Golovkin was a special guest at the Golden Globes awards, which honors the best in movies and television each year in Hollywood, Calif.
Despite still coming along with English as a second language, the boxer made quite an impression among the room of A-list stars – many of whom are now boxing fans in the making.
“Gennady was a big hit at the Golden Globes. That was part of our plan to cross promote him,” Loeffler states. “We brought him to world premiere at Boardwalk Empire. HBO never got so many requests for a TV fight from celebrities than after that session.
“He took pictured with Hollywood idols at the Golden Globes. It was a special treat for him and the exposure was tremendous.”
The visit to the awards show wasn’t very far from K2 Promotions headquarters in Los Angeles, as well as Golovkin’s training facility. Normal caps are set up in Big Bear, where he trains with Abel Sanchez. Kazakhstan (his birth country) and Germany (his current residence) rightfully remain closest to his heart, but both coasts of the United States have quickly become home way from home for the 31-year old flame throwing middleweight puncher.
“He fights and trains here. His trainer is in California and I'm here in LA,” Loeffler points out. “His appeal has risen from his first time on U.S. soil. They heard the legend of this Eastern European knockout artist and wanted to see proof.”
The whispers began as far back as his days as a stellar amateur, which also included a run as a silver medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics. It carried over into the pro ranks, where has barely lost more than a few rounds dating back to his May ’06 pro debut.
Golovkin enters this weekend having scored stoppages in 15 straight bouts dating back to 2008, including 10 coming with a major title (interim or otherwise) on the line. It took for his coming over to the United States to truly transition from a rumor to solidified star in the making, however his first hint at stardom came through an unexpected opportunity.
A planned Dec. ’11 middleweight title defense versus Lajuan Simon was supposed to serve as the chief support to promotional stable mate, lineal World heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in a voluntary defense versus Jean-Marc Mormeck. However, the bout was postponed by three months due to injury, with the rest of the show relocated from a massive stadium to an intimate ballroom.
Golovkin received headline status, and didn’t disappoint. Less than three minutes later, Simon – a sturdy-chinned middleweight from Philadelphia – suffered his first stoppage loss through 30 fights as a pro.
From there came his HBO – and stateside – debut some nine months later, when he faced Gregorz Proksa in upstate New York. Golovkin never gave the Polish middleweight a chance to catch his breath in their Sept. ’12 title fight, flooring him several times before putting him away in the fifth round.
It wasn’t until a month later when Golovkin attended the first fight between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado – an Oct. ’12 show that also included Nonito Donaire in the third stop of his 2012 Fighter of the Year campaign – when his team realized the appeal that came from that win.
“When he made his debut with the Proksa fight, the one thing that convinced me he'd be a crossover star was a month later we were at Home Depot Center (now the StubHub Center, in Carson, Calif.), the Mexican boxing fans were chanting his name,” Loeffler recalls. To ask for a picture is one thing. To chant his name was really touching, especially with the fighters on the card they were there to see.”
HBO has remained fully dedicated in branding the fighter as the centerpiece of the network’s current roster of stars. Efforts were made to pick up the feed, but fell through due to logistics. Still, April 26 isn’t very far away, with Golovkin slated to make his third appearance at Madison Square Garden in just over 15 months. Stoppage wins over Gabriel Rosado and – most recently – Stevens came in front of packed houses at the venue, only adding to his brand as a fighter everyone wants to see.
“New York City is the media capital of the world; it was always our goal to turn him into a household name there,” Loeffler says. “It’s more costly to fight in New York and organize a promotion, but well worth the investment. The exposure he’s gotten fighting there twice, being promoted in the area for the Macklin fight (which took place at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut) just really magnifies his performance in the ring.
“When you have your picture on a huge billboard on the Holland Tunnel and in Times Square in New York City, that’s great publicity. It’s really special, and it shows in the ratings. The only two higher rated fighters in 2013 were Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., both of whom are established stars in the sport. You have two fighters with crossover appeal, and then Gennady who heading into 2013 only had one fight on US TV. That’s quite a statement.”
The best part is that the story continues to be told, with the best potentially yet to come.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox