By Thomas Gerbasi
With a January win over Gabriel Rosado already in the books, Gennady Golovkin will be stepping back into the ring this Saturday to defend his WBA and IBO middleweight titles against Nobuhiro Ishida in Monte Carlo, making it clear that he’s not about posing and posturing, but fighting.
“My work is hard work every day, every night, in my gym and in my ring,” said Golovkin. “But I’m happy right now.”
He should be. The breakout star of 2012, Kazakhstan’s “GGG” has soared to the top of diehard fight fans’ must see lists, and for good reason. He knocks people out, his intention is to knock them out, and more often than not, his wishes are answered. Plus, he realizes that as a fighter, his job description is to fight, and while his intention of defending his title five times in 2013 may be wishful thinking, Tom Loeffler, managing director of Golovkin’s promoter, K2 Promotions, believes he can make a run at it.
“It will be three times through June, and we’re looking at least once or twice before the end of the year,” said Loeffler. “Four is probably more realistic, but five is definitely possible, and if he’s able to fight five times this year and make five title defenses, that would be a record year for him.”
It will also endear him even more to a fanbase that wants to see their heroes act like the legends of the past, fighting often against all comers, and not just two times a year. That’s why Golovkin’s title defense against a fighter in Ishida who has lost three of his last five (albeit against Paul Williams, Dmitry Pirog, and Rigoberto Alvarez) hasn’t raised many eyebrows. Simply put, this is a champion staying busy, and when you stay busy, not every opponent will be King Kong.
The Ishida fight does have its areas of intrigue though, in spite of Golovkin being a heavy favorite. The 37-year-old from Osaka has never been stopped in 34 pro fights, and when it comes to being an underdog, his first round stoppage of James Kirkland in 2011 proves that he doesn’t pay much heed to that label. And the champion is taking his challenger seriously.
“I saw him fight and I think he’s a good man and a good fighter,” said Golovkin. “I saw his fight with James Kirkland, and it was impressive. I also saw his fight with the champion Dmitry Pirog from Russia, and it was a very close fight. He’s not scared, he’s tall, and every time he fights, he’s focused.”
But will Golovkin be looking to make a statement by becoming the first man to stop Ishida?
“I hope,” he laughs. “He’s never been knocked out. But this is boxing. Every time and every fight is new, and I think this is exciting for me and for him. I can get the knockout, and he can get the knockout too. It’s a very dangerous fight.”
Golovkin’s last bout could have been dangerous, as he was hit with the flu just days before he stepped into the ring with Rosado in New York City.
“This is true,” he said. “I was very sick before the fight, and it wasn’t an easy fight for both of us. I didn’t feel my power, I didn’t feel my speed; I had my tactics and strategy, that’s it.”
It was enough, as he battered Rosado into a seventh round TKO defeat to successfully defend his title for the sixth time and lift his record to 25-0 with 22 KOs. The way he sums up the whole experience?
“This is like school for me.”
So is he ready to graduate? Ishida isn’t likely to answer that question, but fights against his fellow titleholders at 160 pounds (Sergio Martinez, Daniel Geale, Peter Quillin) will, and you can throw in a bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as well. Not that anyone is really calling Golovkin out at the moment.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’ve never seen anyone who has a world title and is a world champion be so avoided,” said Loeffler. “I can understand if he’s an up and coming fighter and doesn’t bring much to the table. But for a world championship fight, people just really go out of their way in order to not fight him.”
The old excuse was that there was too much risk and too little reward in fighting the 30-year-old knockout artist. Today, with HBO broadcasting his last two bouts and also expected to stay in the “GGG” business moving forward, his profile is getting higher and higher, making the risk/reward ratio a lot more palatable than it used to be. Add in HBO’s recent decision to not work with Golden Boy Promotions anymore, and it opens up dates for fighters like Golovkin.
“I think it can only be beneficial for Gennady because he’s developing as one of the top fighters now on HBO, and in the discussions I’ve had with HBO, they would have an additional date for him this year,” said Loeffler, who admits that after a long wait, he’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of his fighter getting the big bouts he’s craved.
“I’ve definitely seen a shift with both Martinez and Chavez, where before people didn’t even want to mention his name, and now, because of him being on HBO twice, and now fighting in Monte Carlo, now his name is clearly towards the top as a fighter at the top of the middleweight division. There have been no direct plans as far as the near future, but certainly down the road it looks like one of those fights could happen, and with the HBO relationship, they said they’re gonna push Gennady, and regardless of who fights him, they’re gonna build him, and that’s worked so far.”
As for Golovkin, his mindset remains unchanged when it comes to what’s on the horizon for him.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I want to fight everybody, it doesn’t matter with who. It doesn’t matter who’s next.”
And if it’s Martinez?
“It’s a good fight with Martinez, and not just for me,” he said. “It’s good for everybody – the fans, for the middleweight division, and it’s good for the sport.”
Good for the sport? With comments like that, Golovkin could give boxers a bad name. But all kidding aside, it’s that kind of attitude that sets him apart from his peers.
“You remember history, the fight with Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard?” he asks. “The fight with Sugar Ray Leonard and (Roberto) Duran? They were just great fights to see who is the best. This was great for the sport, great for boxing. This fight is to see who is number one, who is the best in the world. This is not for number three, number five, number seven. The fight with Sergio Martinez is to see who is the best in the world at middleweight, and it’s a great fight.”
One we’ll hopefully see sooner rather than later.