By Francisco Salazar
Gennady Golovkin has it pretty good, doesn't he?
He fights on a premium network, has a growing fan base, and is slowly emerging as one of the top fighters and draws in boxing.
Whether it is his devastating power that paralyzes his opponents or his infectious smile that draws people to him, the Kazakh-born Golovkin has been able to balance confidence and humbleness really well.
While there are those who believe Daniel Geale is a small obstacle in the way of more-lucrative fights, Golovkin knows the game all too well. He may be the favorite, but the last thing Golovkin is doing is overlooking a worthy challenger.
Golovkin will face Geale in a 12 round bout at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y. on Saturday night. The bout, along with the heavyweight showdown between Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez, will be televised live on HBO at 9:30PM ET/ 6:30PM PT.
Golovkin was already a world champion when he first fought on American soil almost two years ago. It was not so much that he defeated Grergorz Proksa that night, but in the manner of how he dominated and brokee down a modest opponent.
After victories over Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, and Matthew Macklin, Golovkin faced a strong and dangerous test in Curtis Stevens. Where some in boxing thought Stevens would be a formidable challenge or come out victorious, Golovkin was too much, stopping him after the eighth round.
In his last bout on February 1st, Golovkin stopped Osumanu Adama in the seventh round in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
He faces Geale on Saturday night, an Australian-born fighter who is effective as a boxer, but can also fight aggressively when need be. He demonstrated that in his close split-decision loss to Darren Barker on August 17th, even scoring a knockdown over Barker.
Geale does hold impressive victories over Roman Karmazin, Sebastian Sylvester, Felix Sturm, and Anthony Mundine. However, few in the boxing world give Geale a realistic chance of defeating Golovkin, who can make a claim that the is the top middleweight in the world.
Both faced one another as amateurs at the 2001 Asian Games, where, according to Golovkin, he came away with a four round decision.
"It was not an easy fight," remembered Golovkin about that meeting.
While unbeaten fighters could get caught up with what the media or fans say about weak challengers, Golovkin does not get caught up in that. Taking a "If it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality, Golovkin still praises Geale as an opponent with worthy credentials.
"I respect him," said Golovkin during a recent open workout in Santa Monica, Calif. "He's an ex-champion. He has a different boxing style. He throws a lot of punches and my style has been about power. I think it won't be an easy fight for me. It'll be a great fight for me, for us, for boxing, for TV. I'm ready. I think it'll be a great fight.
"I'm not looking for the knockout. He's a champion. It's important for everyone, not just me. I think it'll go the distance."
Those are surprising words coming from a fighter who possesses extraordinary strength and power for a middleweight. His workouts at The Summit Gym in Big Bear Lake, Calif. were once described as folklore, but can now be labeled as legendary.
Golovkin spars against cruiserweights and heavyweights, where some of those sparring partners show bruises or redness, even describing the impact felt from Golovkin's punches.
Even his trainer Abel Sanchez is not immune to the impact of the punches Golovkin lands to his mitts during workouts.
While Golovkin has received an abundant of press and is sought after for autographs and photos with fans, he does not forget those who have helped make him the star he is today. It is that attitude that keeps him humble, yet keeps him motivated during each training session throughout camps.
"I respect Abel and I thank him for the hard work," said Golovkin, who has trained in the Southern California mountain resort with Sanchez for about four years. "I have a lot of sparring partners and I get great sparring. It's been a great camp. It's hard work every day. I understand the (boxing) business and the hard work. It's very important."
That hard work has gotten Golovkin an opportunity to fight in the United States and abroad, but in the number one market in the United States.
The Geale fight will be the third time Golvokin will fight at Madison Square Garden. His previous two fights were fought inside the Theatre, which seats about 5,600.
Saturday night's fight will be fought inside the arena at Madison Square Garden. While the arena seats almost 20,000 for basketball and boxing events, seating will be scaled down to the lower bowl of the venue.
While ticket sales have been reportedly modest and there have been numerous advertisements put around the greater metropolitan area, Golovkin fighting inside the arena could be a measuring stick of his popularity and what could lie ahead.
For Golovkin, it is a dream come true to fight in the same venue where some of the best fighters have fought.
"It is my first time fighting in the arena and it's important for me because it is my first big test," said Golovkin, who is promoted by K2 Promotions. "There's no added pressure in fighting there. I'm happy to be fighting there. I love Madison Square Garden. It's the best arena because of all the big fights. I watched videos of greats like Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard, and (most recently) Miguel Cotto fighting there. Like Cotto, fighting at Madison Square Garden has been like a him for me."
Should Golovkin come out victorious, Cotto has been mentioned as a possible opponent. Then there are other fighters who could step in the ring with Golovkin, as well.
Names such as Andre Ward and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. have surfaced as possible opponents, even though they are super middleweights.
There was a possibility Golovkin and Chavez were to meet on July 19th at The Forum in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. To the surprise of man in boxing, Chavez turned down a reportedly five million dollar payday to fight Golovkin.
Recently, Ward stated he believed Golovkin was ducking him.
While those fights are lucrative and appealing, it is not on the mind of Golovkin. Instead, it is Daniel Geale and to see who the best fighter is at 160 pounds.
"I'm not ducking him (Ward). My focus is on Daniel Geale. It's very important to me."
"My focus is 160 pounds. It's very important for me to see who's the best middleweight. There's four champions: (WBC champion Miguel) Cotto, (WBO champion) Peter Quillin, (IBF champion Sam) Soliman. I need unification fights. It's very important for me to see who's the best middleweight through unification."
Golovkin has lived up the hype thus far, but he wants to prove that he is the real thing. He has done that thus far and believes the tougher fights will come his way.
Then again, he does not want to be a flash in the pan. A one and done. While he could fight in huge crowds in Kazakhstan or Germany, where he resides, the path to success, in his opinion, is in the United States.
And why not? HBO get high ratings on telecasts when he fights. Not to mention, he has endeared to the number of boxing fans in the United States.
It must be good to be Gennady Golovkin. While that may be the case, Golovkin is still seeking that breakout fight where he could become well-known to casual boxing fans.
In the meantime, people have gotten on board the Golovkin train. The best could be yet to come.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing