By Francisco Salazar
Gennady Golovkin sure knows how to get fight fans’ attention, doesn’t he?
Train like a beast, Knock out a fighter, and flash a million-dollar smile.
Golovkin has repeated that cycle over and over, especially in the last year where American fight fans are now exposed to what he has done.
Truth be told, he has done this 27 times as a professional and may or may not be peaking at the age of 31.
Whatever the case may be, Golovkin is slowly making believers out of doubters in the past year, whatever the competition may be.
So far, he has fought modest competition and Curtis Stevens will be the next fighter who will attempt to beat that mystique of Golovkin on Saturday night.
The bout will headline a card inside the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The Golovkin-Stevens fight, along with the Magomed Abdusalamov-Mike Perez fight, will be televised live on HBO at 10 PM ET/ 7 PM PT.
Whether it be a cult following or curiosity, Golovkin has generated a buzz in the boxing world. What is it about Golovkin that gets fans to buy tickets or tune in to watch the hard-hitting Kazakh fighter?
Is it the power he displays in the ring, especially in his last fight against Matthew Macklin, where a left hook to the body looked as though he was hit by a cannon?
Or is that people think he is a flash in the pan, believing someone like Stevens could hurt and defeat Golovkin?
It could be those two things. Or it could be Golovkin has this knack of being a soft-spoken person outside of the ring who is quick to make a pun about something.
Maybe it is him speaking in English (which is improving) or his humbleness breaking through when speaking to the media.
Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs) understands what is in front of him on Saturday night. He is facing a dangerous puncher in Stevens, someone few people are giving a chance to defeat Golovkin.
That still does not allow Golovkin to let his guard down because all of the hard work throughout the past four years in Big Bear, CA, where he trains at Abel Sanchez, will all be for not.
“Curtis is a puncher and this is not an easy fight or me,” Golovkin told Boxingscene.com in a recent sit-down interview. “I respect him as I do any fighter.”
If there were those fighters who let their hands speak for them, Golovkin is one of those fighters. He does not trash-talk with any fighter. Sanchez, his trainer, has been the one who has exchanged pleasantries back and forth with Stevens and his camp.
Golovkin seems amused by what Stevens has said about him, at least publicly brushing off any criticism and smiling in front of the cameras.
Then again, does Golovkin hold what Stevens says within, eventually unleashing the beast within on fight night?
Many boxing writers and experts believe that the fight will not go 12 rounds. Then there are some that predict Stevens may be the puncher to least get Golovkin’s attention, especially early in the fight.
Whatever Stevens offers, Golovkin will be prepared.
“I put in a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in this fight, as I do all my fights,” said Golovkin, who fought over 350 times as an amateur. “I focused a lot on the technical part during my training. Lots of people will be watching this fight and it is a big fight for me.”
While Floyd Mayweather continues to draw big pay per view numbers, Golovkin could be that one fighter that even casual boxing fans or sports fans could hear often in the next year or two.
HBO is investing a lot to promote Golovkin and getting his name out there. The only challenge this could lead to the number of fights Golovkin could get against other top middleweights or world title holders.
One possible foe Golovkin could and would be interested in fighting would be Peter Quillin, who fights on Showtime because of the association with Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Quillin.
“I would love to fight him, even despite the networks. I’m ready. Kid Chocolate (Quillin) is a good champion and a good fighter.”
Then there is the possibility he could fight other titleholders in the division like Darren Barker, who holds the IBF middleweight title, while Golovkin holds the WBA/IBO titles.
Then there is the notion of Golovkin possibly facing Andre Ward, who fights two weeks from Saturday against Edwin Rodriguez in Ontario, CA.
Golovkin would have to go up in weight to face Ward, who fights at 168 pounds. That may fall on the backburner as Golovkin seems more interested in staying and fighting at 160 pounds.
“There are a lot of champions at 160 pounds. A fight with Barker would be interesting because it could be a unification fight. I would like to see who is number one at 160 pounds. Then I know it’s a business and a fight with Ward could be in the future. I respect him as a champion and because he’s number two pound for pound.”
Golovkin may receive a stiff challenge by Stevens on Saturday night. Or maybe he walks right through the fighter from nearby Brooklyn. Whatever the case may be, Golovkin has become that fighter that fans want to watch and media members travel hundreds or thousands of miles to cover.
His sincerity, honesty, and humbleness break through during interviews and allow those to get to know the personal side of him.
His family is back home on Kazakhstan, but Golovkin chooses to be in the isolated mountain of Big Bear to hone and perfect that craft every day.
“My family motivates me.”
The sacrifices he makes now could lead to bigger purses and bigger stages to fight on later. It could all be worth it, especially if he keeps winning. Fans will keep watching or even replaying highlights of knockdowns or knockouts on YouTube.
Then again, who wouldn’t?
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2002 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and Ring Magazine. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing