The arrival of Gennady Golovkin
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“If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.”
That verse from the classic Frank Sinatra song, ‘New York, New York,’ is catchy and something that the residents of that city take great pride in.
It fits perfectly with Gennady Golovkin. While he may not be a resident of the city, the Kazakh-born fighter as made it in the sport of boxing since he made his United States debut in Sept. of 2012.
The seed of Golovkin’s popularity was planted that night when he stopped Grzegorz Proska inside a theater at a casino in upstate New York. His popularity has since skyrocketed.
He has since fought in sold-out venues, including this coming Saturday night when an expected sell-out crowd of almost 20,000 will fill Madison Square Garden in New York City to watch him fight fellow hard-hitting David Lemieux.
The fight will top an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
Boxing fans have gravitated to Golovkin because of his extraordinary punching power and the fact he has been accessible, whether when watching fights at a club show or on the streets of his adopted hometown of Santa Monica, Calif.
Fans cannot get enough of Golovkin, who will be defending his WBA middleweight title on fight night. Lemieux will be defending his IBF title he recently won with a win over Hassan N’Dam on June 20.
Within the first week of the Golovkin-Lemieux fight being announced, over 15,000 seats were sold. Aside from media, fans have posted on social media that they were traveling from across the country to the Big Apple to be a part of the big spectacle.
And why not? Other than it being a unification fight against a dangerous puncher in Lemieux, Golovkin has welcomed any and all challengers to unify the 160-pound division, something he has remained committed in doing before deciding to test the waters at super middleweight.
While some titleholders may have reluctantly stepped into the ring, Lemieux stepped up to the plate. And though some believe Lemieux may be biting off more than he can chew, Golovkin believes the French-Canadian fighter is every bit as dangerous.
“He has improved and gotten better as a fighter,” said Golovkin to a small pool of reporters recently. “He showed that against [Gabriel] Rosado and N’Dam. He’s the IBF champion. He’s changed his team. He’s much better. I respect him. He understands his power. This is a big step for both and it’s a unification [fight].”
Golovkin has fought three times before at Madison Square Garden. He stopped Curtis Stevens after the eighth round inside the Theater in Nov. of 2013, selling out the venue. In July of last year, Golovkin stopped Daniel Geale in the third round upstairs inside the arena, where over 9,000 fans witnessed Golovkin stop his 17th opponent in a row. Golovkin also faced Gabriel Rosado in Jan. 2013 at the Theater. The challenger’s corner capitulated on his behalf in seven rounds.
While the venues have gotten bigger and lights have gotten brighter, the challenges will equally become greater for Golovkin. Some wonder if his focus for each fight is the same, considering he makes himself available to the public and the media.
Whether it is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers game or attending the Emmy Awards recently, the media storm for Golovkin has increased.
But Golovkin dismisses that notion. He believes he is more than capable of maintaining that hunger and drive that has made him the fighter and champion he is today.
“It’s an interesting situation for me,” said the 33-year-old Golovkin. “I don’t lose any motivation. My goal is to win all the belts in the middleweight division. I love this situation. I have everything. Right now, it’s a great step.
“Right now, my focus is on David Lemieux. Maybe there is a bigger step next year. This is my situation and my motivation.”
Should Golovkin come out victorious on Saturday, Golovkin and K2 Promotions, which promotes him, will look to fight the winner of the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight, which will take place five weeks later on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas.
Cotto and Alvarez will be fighting for the RING middleweight championship, which Cotto currently holds. The WBC, whose belt Cotto also holds, has mandated that the winner must face Golovkin next.
Whether that fight plays out remain to be seen. Golovkin could target Andy Lee, who holds the WBO title.
As he mentioned, Golovkin is a great situation. He has a long-term deal to fight on HBO, has an increasing fan base and could become a mainstream crossover star. He has recently appeared in an Apple commercial and big endorsements could be in line for Golovkin next year.
The hard work of K2 Managing Director Tom Loeffler and publicist Bernie Bahrmasel to promote and market Golovkin to the American media and boxing public have been extraordinary. It has come to Golovkin fighting inside the ‘Mecca of Boxing’ before an expected sell-out crowd.
Even Golovkin has called New York City his second home in recent interviews. Yeah, Frank Sinatra would be proud that someone like Golovkin has lived up to the lyrics of that iconic song.
Whether “GGG” becomes a pay-per-view star remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: Gennady Golovkin has officially arrived.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco 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.