By Francisco Salazar
When Nobuhiro Ishida stepped inside the ring at the MGM Grand to face hard-hitting James Kirkland on April 9th, 2011, many writers and fights fans wondered how long it would take Kirkland to stop Ishida.
It was not fair to Ishida, considering he had never been stopped or knocked out in his professional career. But Kirkland had destroyed his opposition up to that point.
Less than two minutes into the fight, it was Ishida celebrating a knockout win, while Kirkland has had to deal with personal issues that have dogged his career.
Less than two years later, Ishida finds himself in familiar territory. He is facing a stronger and dangerous opponent in Gennady Golovkin, a fighter who has emerged as an unbeatable force in boxing thus far.
Will Ishida pull off another improbable upset over the favored fighter in Golovkin? Or does the boxing world err on logic in that the Kazakh fighter will add another victory to his record and remain unbeaten?
Both fighters will square off at the Salle des etoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco with Golovkin’s world title belt on the line. Golovkin will attempt to make the seventh defense of his title that he won on August 14, 2010 against Milton Nunez.
Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOs) has created a buzz with his aggressive and hard-hitting style. It has resulted in him stopping his last 11 opponents in a row, including junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado in his last fight on January 26th.
After laying the foundation of his popularity on the boxing scene in Europe, Golovkin has fought his last two bouts in the United States, including his debut on American soil on September 29th. He has hired the services of longtime Southern California trainer Abel Sanchez, whose gym in Big Bear has drawn fighters there from abroad.
He faces a unique challenge from Ishida, a 37 year old fighter who may have seen his better days and has lost three of his last five fights. In his last fight on May 1st, Ishida lost a 12 round unanimous decision to Dmitry Pirog.
Despite the loss to Pirog and the fact that Golovkin is often mentioned as one of the best at 160 pounds, he is not taking Ishida lightly.
“I respect him as a person and he’s a good fighter,” said Golovkin at a recent luncheon in Manhattan Beach, CA to promote the fight. “This is not an easy fight. I’ve watched him on television and he gives good fights. I’m looking forward to this fight.”
It is hard to not overlook the Ishida fight and forecast what Golovkin’s future holds. There is talk of Golovkin fighting on a card that will be televised by HBO. But that depends on how the fight with Ishida plays out.
According to K2 Promotions Managing Director Tom Loeffler, Golvokin’s stock will continue to rise as he fights often. However, that is the one catch. Loeffler has had a hard time finding opponents for Golovkin, as either the top contenders that are sought have fight commitments or have turned down the opportunity to fight Golovkin.
“There was a great response to his last fight in New York City, as there is a strong Kazakh population there. It was a dream of Gennady to fight at Madison Square Garden. I know that he is ready to fight anyone and anywhere. The fans want to see it. However, some fighters have turned down that opportunity to fight Gennady.”
Despite there could or could not be possible fights with the best at 160 pounds in the near future, it has not stopped trainer Abel Sanchez from doing the best possible job. Sanchez has worked as Golovkin’s trainer for the last two and half years and has succeeded to adapting to the style he feels will benefit Golovkin.
To maximize what he wishes Golovkin will get in training, Sanchez has even had Golovkin spar with heavyweight prospect Vincent Thompson and cruiserweight contender Ola Afolabi. However, Sanchez does mix in sparring with junior middleweights and middleweights to acclimate Golovkin to the quickness of his weight class.
“Gennady is one of the most dedicated fighters that I have trained,” said Sanchez, who also trained Tavoris Cloud for his recent fight to Bernard Hopkins. “The chemistry that we have developed shows in and out of the ring. It’s fun training him because he has adapted, working more to the body than to the head during training camps.”
As Sanchez trains a machine of sorts in Golovkin, it may not bode well for Ishida. However, people made the same arguments when the Japanese fighter, who held an interim world title belt a few years back, stopped Kirkland.
Whether it remains to be seen how much of a punch Golovkin could take, Ishida plans to go all out on March 30th.
“I thought I did well that night (when I knocked Kirkland out),” said Ishida through an interpreter. “I’m not scared of Golovkin. I know that Gennady is the harder puncher. But I’m going to have the same mentality as a samurai. They fight until the death and I will have to do that in this fight. If I lose, I will retire from the sport.
Ishida, who will turn 38 in August, is trained by Rudy Hernandez.
So a fighter with a samurai mentality against a fighter who has destroyed strong opposition in the last couple of years is set to square off on the 30th. While few pick Ishida to do anything significant on that day, it is still intriguing to see this fight.
Francisco A. Salazar has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. His twitter handle is Salazar_soccer and he could be reached at [email protected]