By Keith Idec
Gennady Golovkin beat one of the most talented fighters on the 2004 United States Olympic Team to qualify for the middleweight final in Athens.
Golovkin doesn’t believe Andre Dirrell was the best boxer on the American team that year, though. The unbeaten IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion doesn’t think that distinction belongs to Andre Ward, either, even though Ward won the light heavyweight gold medal that year.
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin revealed this week that he remembers Vanes Martirosyan being the “best boxer” on the American team that year. Martirosyan, who’ll challenge Golovkin on May 5, lost to Cuba’s Lorenzo Aragon, 20-11, in the second round of the welterweight bracket at those Olympics.
“I remember [Martirosyan] from the 2004 Olympics,” said Golovkin, who had a rivalry with the since-retired Ward when there was rampant talk of them fighting a few years ago. “I know he is not easy. Vanes is a strong and active fighter in the ring. He is a good fighter. Vanes is a real guy, a real fighter. He is tall and strong. In 2004, I thought Vanes was the best boxer on the U.S. Olympic Team.”
In addition to Ward, Dirrell and Martirosyan, the 2004 U.S. team included Rau’Shee Warren (light flyweight), Ronald Siler (flyweight), Vicente Escobedo (lightweight), Rock Allen (light welterweight), Devin Vargas (heavyweight) and Jason Estrada (super heavyweight).
After defeating Dirrell, 23-18, in the middleweight semifinals in 2004, Golovkin lost to Russia’s Gaydarkbek Gaydarbekov, 28-18, in the middleweight championship match. The silver medalist turned pro in May 2006, six years before he came to the United States for his American television debut in September 2012.
The 31-year-old Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs) hasn’t been as successful as Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) as a professional. The Glendale, California, native has only lost, however, to former 154-pound champions Demetrius Andrade (split decision in November 2013), Jermall Charlo (unanimous decision in March 2015) and Erislandy Lara, who beat Martirosyan by unanimous decision in their 12-round rematch in May 2016.
Martirosyan hasn’t fought since his loss to Lara nearly two years ago. He took the Golovkin fight on less than three weeks’ notice because Golovkin’s original opponent, Canelo Alvarez, withdrew from their lucrative rematch due to a PED-related suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“I have watched some tapes of Vanes’ fights, his fights with Lara,” Golovkin said. “The minute the fight was signed, [trainer] Abel [Sanchez] brought new ideas to the gym workouts. And no, I am not going to tell you those new ideas. The fans at StubHub Center will be watching two Mexican-style fighters from the area.”
HBO will televise Golovkin-Martirosyan from StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.