Abel Sanchez (left) prepares WBA middleweight beltholder Gennady Golvokin for a round of sparring in preparation for the Kazakhstan native’s title defense against Gabriel Rosado on Saturday. Photo / Miguel Salazar
Gennady Golovkin’s U.S. debut occurred later in his career than he wanted it to but the good news for the 30-year-old Kazakhstan native is that he can punch – which is often the best PR a prize fighter can have.
Golovkin dropped durable contender Grzegorz Proksa three times en route to a fifth-round TKO last September in Verona, N.Y. It was his first fight on American soil and on HBO. The one-sided drubbing, which was the undefeated WBA middleweight beltholder’s 21st knockout in 25 bouts, made Golovkin an instant hit among hardcore fans and the boxing media.
However, the bad news for Golovkin is that the same string of knockouts – which was extended to 11 with the Proksa stoppage – that turns the heads of fans and boxing media will also make it difficult for the affable puncher to get high-profile fights against the “name” fighters of the 160-pound division, such as middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Right now Golovkin represents too much risk and not enough reward for those two seven-figure purse earners.
Golovkin’s penchant for quickie KOs may also make it difficult for some fans and boxing writers to give him much credit for beating his next challenger, Gabriel Rosado, who he fights Saturday in an HBO Boxing After Dark co-feature at Madison Square Garden’s Theater in New York City.
If Golovkin wipes out the tough junior middleweight contender from Philadelphia, as many expect him too, the quality of his opposition will be slammed by “Twitter-commentators,” who may also question his boxing ability and stamina.
If Golovkin doesn’t wipe out Rosado, who is on a seven-bout win streak, the same social-media know-it-alls will declare him to be “overrated,” the product of media and network hype.
Saturday’s catch-22 situation doesn’t bother Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez, who is looking at the big picture for arguably his most talented fighter since junior middleweight champ Terry Norris.
“If that happens, if Rosado is able to take Golovkin rounds – and I don’t think it will – but if it does, maybe we’ll get the other middleweight champions to take a chance on him,” Sanchez told RingTV.com at a well attended media luncheon in Los Angeles last week.
The veteran trainer isn’t bothered by criticism and skepticism from some fans, who view Golovkin as a one-dimensional puncher or a defensively challenged plodder.
“Fans can only go by what they saw in the Proksa fight and what they’ve seen on YouTube,” Sanchez explained. “The one fight that went rounds, the [Kassim] Ouma fight, was not Golovkin at his best. There are reasons for that, consequences of a traveling snafu that made Gennady have a hard time getting started before he took over [the fight].
“So I can see how some fans would doubt him. He’s been so destructive in his other recent fights that you don’t get to see what he does so well.”
Sanchez, who has trained many world titleholders over the past 30 years, assures the media that Golovkin – a 2003 world amateur champ and 2004 Olympic silver medalist – does many things well and the diligent fighter continues to work on the finer points of boxing at his mountain-top gym in Big Bear, Calif.
“He gives himself to the gym and training,” Sanchez said. “In past camps, he sparred with big, aggressive guys to help him learn a more aggressive American and Mexican style of boxing. But for this camp, I brought in two Philly fighters – faster guys, younger guys – to give him a look at a different style.”
“We have evolving themes in each camp. He didn’t work on pressure and power for this camp. It was more on movement, defense, footwork, technique.”
Tom Loeffler, the managing director for K2 Promotions, which signed Golovkin last year, believes a busier schedule and more TV exposure will give fans an opportunity to see the fighter’s versatility while building a case for him to face the stars of the middleweight division.
Loeffler, who advised Shane Mosley early in the American’s career, sees similarities between Golovkin and the future hall of famer.
“Exposure on HBO is going to get Gennady over the hump,” he said. “Just like Shane Mosley, who was an underground sensation, but underrated by the mainstream press prior to fighting [Philip] Holiday on Boxing After Dark in ’97.
“Once Shane was on HBO the ball started rolling and it wasn’t too long before he was given an opportunity against Oscar De La Hoya.”
Activity is a key component in K2’s plan to net a “Golden Boy” for Golovkin. After outpointing Holiday for the IBF lightweight title, Mosley defended that belt eight times between November of ’97 and April of ’99 – mostly on HBO, but sometimes on other networks, such as ESPN or FX. The dynamic Californian fought five times in 1998, the year the Boxing Writers Association of America voted him the Fighter of the Year.
Loeffler’s goal is for Golovkin to fight five times in 2013. Is that realistic in an era of limited U.S. TV dates? It is, he says, when promoting a fighter who has international appeal and is willing to travel.
“Golovkin is not afraid to fight anyone and he’s not afraid to go anywhere,” Loeffler said. “He’ll go to Australia to fight [Australian IBF titleholder Daniel] Geale. He’ll go to England to fight [British contenders] [Matthew] Macklin and [Darren] Barker. He’ll even go to Argentina to fight Martinez.
“If he fights five times this year, they can’t all be on HBO, but three would be in the U.S., and those can be HBO bouts. HBO would have first option on the other two bouts that would take place overseas. Gennady can fight in Germany, where he lives, and in Russia, where he has a fan base.”
In the meantime, Loeffler hopes to build a fan base in New York City, which is home to the largest Russian population in the U.S. Loeffler says ticket sales for Saturday’s show, which is co-promoted by Top Rank and headlined by the Orlando Salido-Mikey Garcia featherweight championship, are on par with last year’s Martinez-Macklin card that sold out the 5,000-seat Theater.
If K2 is able to lure Macklin into the ring this year or next year, Loeffler thinks Golovkin will prove that he’s ready to headline major cards and fight Martinez for the middleweight championship.
“We think Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world,” he said. “Martinez is the recognized champ, but with all due respect, I know that Golovkin would never get knocked down by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Matthew Macklin. In time, he’s going to prove that he’s the best. I hope he does so against Martinez.”
So does Golovkin.
“Right now, I think Sergio is the real champion,” he said. “His time is now. After two years? No, I don’t think so. It will be my time.”
Photos / Miguel Salazar
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