Gennady Golovkin rides popularity wave into Martin Murray fight
It almost seems like yesterday when Gennady Golovkin was making his United States debut against Grzegorz Proksa in September 2012. Outside of the boxing media and hardcore fans, few knew anything about the 32-year-old middleweight puncher.
Now casual fans know about “GGG” and he is everywhere.
People cannot get enough of the Kazakh fighter, who has taken it all in stride. Whether it is his humility or devastating knockout power, Golovkin is garnering more attention while asserting himself as a fighting champion who wants to face the best.
Golovkin will fight a worthy and challenging opponent in Martin Murray on Saturday at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The bout will be televised live on HBO at 5:45 p.m. ET/ 2:45 p.m. PT.
It is hard to think of another fighter who has experienced a popularity spike as fast and steep as Golovkin. His fights on HBO have garnered impressive ratings and he has drawn significant crowds to live events on either side of the United States.
His July 26 win over Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden in New York City drew approximately 9,000 fans, while his Oct. 18 win over Marco Antonio Rubio at the Stubhub Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson drew over 9,200. That attendance number set a record as the largest crowd to watch a fight inside the outdoor tennis court stadium.
While barely about 900 fight fans will cram inside a hall in Monte Carlo for Saturday’s fight, fans want to see more of Golovkin. HBO expects significant numbers since the fight will be shown in the late afternoon in the United States.
Murray figures to be a formidable foe, considering his only defeat was against then-middleweight champ Sergio Martinez almost two years ago, a fight many thought the British challenger won. Murray also fought to a draw against then WBA beltholder Felix Sturm in 2011, another fight many thought Murray won.
While some think Golovkin will win convincingly against Murray, he is not overlooking the British fighter.
“I’m ready to fight,” Golovkin told RingTV.com in a recent interview. “I respect my opponent, Martin Murray. He’s a big guy, strong guy. I’ve seen all of his fights. I remember his last fight with Domenico Spada. I have a plan with my coach, Abel Sanchez. We have a plan and I’ll show it during the fight.”
While Golovkin has become a hit to most fight fans and makes himself readily available to the media, the Kazakh fighter has drawn some criticism. Some wonder whether Golovkin has faced the toughest of opposition, even though he has faced top-10 contenders, such as Geale, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens.
Golovkin and his team, which includes K2 Promotion’s Tom Loeffler, have pointed out they have offered fights against the top fighters in the middleweight division. One fighter Golovkin has called out repeatedly is RING champ Miguel Cotto, who also holds the WBC title he won from Martinez last June.
Golovkin believes in fighting the best in the division and has made it clear he would like to unify the middleweight division. Fights against super middleweights such as Andre Ward and Carl Froch can wait after he attempts to fight the best at 160 pounds.
“Everybody is a strong challenger,” said Golovkin, who is looking to find a home in Southern California. “For me, it doesn’t matter. I’m ready for everybody. I’m open for everyone. Just for me, it is very important to see who is number one in the world (at middleweight). Who’s the best in the world? I’m ready for everybody.
“Right now, my focus is on Martin Murray. First, I think (I will focus on) the WBC, because I have the WBC interim (belt) and Miguel (Cotto) is the champion. My focus right now is on Martin Murray. In the future, I think (a fight against) Miguel Cotto.”
One could tell Golovkin relishes the spotlight as much as he is grateful to meet fight fans. Golovkin spends hours signing autographs or taking pictures at fight cards where he sits ringside. That was evident on Jan. 23, when Golovkin took in the fights at a club show in Montebello, a suburb of Los Angeles. In the predominantly Latino area, fight fans patiently waited in line to meet the fighter known as ‘GGG.’
K2 Promotions’ plan has been to have Golovkin in high-profile areas, where he can be seen and is accessible to sports fans. He watches an occasional Laker game at Staples and has attended high-profile awards shows, such as the Golden Globes in Los Angeles.
While he enjoys those perks, along with meeting boxing fans, he acknowledges how far his career has come and where he would like to be in the future.
“I’m very happy because I love boxing,” he said. “I (would) watch television a long time ago when I was a kid. This is my dream. To (have fought) in the biggest arena, Madison Square Garden. Maybe in the future, (I will fight at) Staples Center (in Los Angeles), The Forum (in nearby Inglewood), MGM Grand (in Las Vegas). This is my dream because this is my career. (It is) very important for my career, for my team, for my friends, for my fans. I’m very happy.
“Who is number one? That is very important to me. Right now, I’m ready for everybody.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing