By Thomas Gerbasi
The big names continue to elude IBO/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, but it may be safe to say that despite this, the Kazakhstan native has achieved that rare star status in the sport simply because he’s already got his own catchphrase.
Come on, you know it – “Good Boy.”
“I say that to the fighters who are young and trying to get better and better,” said Golovkin of the phrase that has taken on a life of its own on social media and boxing message boards. “I like them and respect them as professionals, and I think they will have a good future. I say good boy and not nice boy or nice guy because I think they’re not there yet.”
And while he never expected to see such a description of his foes emblazoned on t-shirts and prompting the creation of the “Good Boy Nation,” he’s embracing it fully.
“I see that the phrase “good boy” unites all my fans and all these people,” he said. “It’s something very uniting and I like that and I know that it’s very popular. It’s kind of like smart humor.”
Clearly, Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs) gets it. Being a world-class fighter is nice, and being an exciting knockout artist is even better. But unless you have the personality to reach people with more than just your performances on fight night, you’ll be treading water forever. And Golovkin has no intention of remaining just a cult hero. He wants the big fights and the big names, everywhere from 154 to 168 pounds, and even if they want nothing to do with him at the moment, he’s not losing any sleep over such a development.
“I’m not that disappointed and I’m doing what I have to do,” he said. “Every opponent to me is a big fighter, and every fight is a big fight. And I hope in the future that I will fight the names that don’t want to fight me right now. But I’m not worrying or disappointed about that now.”
This Saturday, Golovkin will return to Monte Carlo for his second fight in a year in that locale, defending his WBA and IBO titles against Ghana native Osumanu Adama. The 22-3 challenger isn’t expected to win, but he’s never been stopped as a pro, so he may give Golovkin some rounds. Yet the challenger isn’t really the big story at this point for the 31-year-old champion; it’s that “GGG” remains one of the busiest titleholders in the sport today.
In 2013, Golovkin made the walk to the ring four times, stopping Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin, and Curtis Stevens. He wants to fight four more times this year, and his aim is clear: if the other champions at 160 pounds (Sergio Martinez, Peter Quillin, Felix Sturm) or big names above and below middleweight (Andre Ward, Floyd Mayweather, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.) don’t want to fight him now, he’ll keep winning and keep knocking people out until the fans demand that he gets the fights he wants.
If it’s a familiar-sounding scenario, maybe it’s a middleweight thing, since 160-pound greats Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins both went down similar paths in their careers once winning their title. Each was respected by the fans and media, avoided by the big names, but after clearing out their division, there was no place left to run. For Hopkins, his coming out fight was against Felix Trinidad in 2001; for Hagler, a 1983 win over Roberto Duran took him from being the hero of the hardcore to a legitimate mainstream attraction. And when you mention Hagler to Golovkin, he lights up.
“I respect him a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to me that there are comparisons between me and Hagler, and I think the time will come when I fight those names.”
In the meantime, it will be foes like Adama, but Golovkin is aware that this is the price he has to pay at the moment, so he will continue to pay it.
“I’m a boxer first of all, and at this point I’m in my best shape and I love to fight, so I love to be very active,” he said. “It’s what I do as a boxer.”
Such a schedule can take a toll on a fighter though, not necessarily physically, but in other ways, such as Golovkin being separated from his family for long periods of time while he trains away from home in Big Bear, California.
“Obviously, I miss my family because I don’t have too much time to spend with them,” he said. “All my time that I have between my fights when I’m not training I spend with my family, and that’s my main thing. But other than that, I don’t sacrifice a lot.”
As for keeping his game on point mentally, he gives the credit to trainer Abel Sanchez for keeping things fresh for him throughout these seemingly endless training camps.
“I’m very thankful for my coach because he’s the person who’s motivating me,” said Golovkin. “Every day he has something new, some new ideas, and it keeps me very interested. That’s why I’m happy to be in the gym every day.”
And happy to fight. What a bizarre concept these days. Maybe it’s no surprise that the “Good Boy Nation” is growing with each knockout.