By Jake Donovan
It’s tough to separate yourself from the pack in an era of splintered titles. It’s even tougher when the alphabet version of the title you own is shared by two other fighters.
Still, Gennady Golovkin marches on with the intent of leaving his mark in the middleweight division.
The 2004 Olympic Silver medalist has a terrific opportunity to make some noise Saturday, when he faces Makoto Fuchigami in Brovari, Ukraine. The fight is the most relevant among an extremely thin boxing weekend in terms of relevance, even if few outside of the boxing hardcore have ever heard of either fighter.
There’s not much that can be done to shine a light on Fuhigama (19-6, 10KO), a southpaw from Japan who rides a nine-fight win streak into this week. But big plans are in store for Golovkin, with the hope that 2012 serves as a breakout campaign.
“We’re excited about Gennady’s fight against Fuchigami and we have big plans for him in 2012 and beyond, particularly to make him more familiar with American boxing fans,” states Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, who has handled Golovkin’s career since his pro debut in 2006. “The key is exposure; he’s got a very exciting style with big punching power that endears him right away to those who have seen him fight.”
Golovkin (22-0, 19KO) showed that much in his last fight, a scintillating first-round knockout of LaJuan Simon last December. The win itself doesn’t look like much – a title defense against a fringe contender. But it was a night where Golovkin made a statement and had the chance to play the hero.
The bout was originally slated to serve as the chief support to Wladimir Klitschko in a heavyweight title defense against Jean-Marc Mormeck. Those plans changed once Klitschko suffered an injury and was forced to withdraw.
Rather than cancel the entire show, the promoters got creative. The event moved from a massive stadium to an intimate hotel ballroom, more befitting of a show in which its remaining portion was initially supporting bouts.
Golovkin delivered a feel to the show that evening, becoming the first to drop and stop Simon and with more than 11 rounds to spare. Quite a bit was revealed of the defending titlist, who fought in his adopted Germany.
Patience was exuded early on, relying on counter opportunities whenever Simon came forward. When it was time to take the lead, Golovkin unleashed a left hook that proved to be a game changer. The first one froze his opponent, with the follow-up bringing an abrupt end to the fight.
The win was the third defense of a belt that is also shared by Felix Sturm (super champion) and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. That’s not to include all of the other fighters in the middleweight division claiming to be a champion.
Dmitry Pirog and Daniel Geale also actively participate in bouts where “championship” is part of the tagline. Then of course, there are the two biggest names in the division – unbeaten titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and the lineal world champion Sergio Martinez.
Chavez Jr. is set to face Andy Lee in a fight in which the winner may or may not (depending on who you ask and at what time of the day) face Martinez in the fall.
By that time, Golovkin hopes to have racked up one more title defense and head into a showdown with Sturm in an effort to help clear up some of the alphabet clutter. Before he gets there, Golovkin still has to take care of what awaits him in the present. But that doesn’t prevent the Kazakhstan native – now based out of Stuttgart, Germany – from eyeing the future, whether at middleweight or its neighboring divisions.
“I feel comfortable at 160 but I’m willing to go down to 154 or up to 168 to fight the best in the world,” insists Golovkin, who has spent his entire career at middleweight but boasts the frame to either shed or add weight, depending on the opportunity. “There are many big names in all three weight classes and I’m willing to travel anywhere to fight these other champions.”
Golovkin has proven that for as long as he’s been an alphabet titlist. Saturday will mark his fourth bout in as many countries. The past two have taken place in locations near and dear to his heart – his adopted Germany homeland and his native Kazakhstan before that.
Prior to the homecomings, Golovkin traveled to Panama to obtain title status, knocking out Milton Nunez in less than a minute.
The biggest name since then has been Kassim Ouma, whom Golovkin stopped in the 10th round of their June ’11 bout that served as his first in his Kazakhstan birth land since turning pro. The majority of his career had taken place in Germany, but his recent stretch has helped put the ‘world’ in world champion.
If all goes well on Saturday, the hope is that the United States is the next stamp on his passport. Until then, additional exposure on this side of the world is the plan, whether it’s web streams, independent pay-per-views or even an appearance on EPIX, who has stepped up to showcase European talent when American cable giants HBO and Showtime has shown reluctance for certain bouts.
Whatever the plan calls for, Golovkin’s handlers are confident that their charge will dive in head-first.
““Along with being a world champion at middleweight, Gennady had an extraordinary amateur career travelling all over the world beating Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell and Andy Lee among many others,” points out promoter Tom Loeffler. “I don’t know of any other fighter that has Gennady’s willingness to move up or down in weight and travel anywhere in the world to challenge the other world champions.”
“We truly believe that Gennady is the best middleweight in the world today and he is willing to prove that by fighting anyone that will get in the ring with him.”
When that day comes, Golovkin will be that much further in his quest to advance from just another middleweight titlist in the pack to the middleweight to watch.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]