Cheerful Golovkin greets boxing press at Jacobs media workout
SANTA MONICA, California – Gennady Golovkin was in a good and talkative mood when he sat down with boxing writers prior to his media workout at the Wild Card West gym on Tuesday.
Golovkin, who defends his WBA, IBF and WBC middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs on March 18 in New York City, was more relaxed and engaging than he has been for quite some time. His disposition was certainly sunnier than it was last year.
Golovkin (36-0, 33 knockouts) seemed annoyed in almost every interview he did in 2016, a year he had hoped would include title-unification bouts against WBO beltholder Billy Joe Saunders and Canelo Alvarez (who abdicated the WBC strap rather than fight GGG within the sanctioning body’s deadline). Those fights, as well as a defense against British contender Chris Eubank Jr., did not happen.
So Golovkin is pleased that Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs), whose WBA “regular” belt sort of makes their showdown a title-unification bout, signed the dotted line earlier this year. He only had positive things to say about the HBO Pay-Per-View main event at the famed Madison Square Garden and his talented 30-year-old challenger from Brooklyn (and didn’t need much help interpreting questions from the lovely camp translator).
“Jacobs has a good boxing IQ,” Golovkin said. “I think he’s the best amateur boxer from Brooklyn.”
When asked to compare Jacobs to two past American challengers – Willie Monroe Jr. and Curtis Stevens – Golovkin replied:
“Monroe was fast and skillful, but not powerful. Curtis was fast and powerful, but he’s a short guy.
“Daniel is a big guy. He’s much better. He has speed, power, good style, uses distance (well).”
Golovkin said he’s watched Jacobs’ recent fights on tape and has noticed marked improvement since the Brooklyn native’s sole pro loss (a fifth-round KO to Dmitry Pirog back in 2010).
“Daniel is much better now,” he said. “I know Pirog. I knew about him when I was in Germany. He’s very strong, and had a boxing style that Jacobs was not used to. It was a good experience for (Jacobs). He learned from it. He’s more smart, more strong, much better now.”
Golovkin added that Jacobs’ well-known victory over cancer has enhanced the boxer’s character and body.
“He’s stronger, mentally and physically. He looks good, looks stronger now than he did (at the time of the Pirog fight).”
Golovkin’s obviously expecting Jacobs to be at his best, and says he’s prepared accordingly. Trainer Abel Sanchez said Golovkin is in his second week of sparring at their camp in the mountains of Big Bear, California, and is receiving excellent work from Julius and John Jackson, David Benavidez and KeAndrae Leatherwood (who faces former titleholder Andy Lee on the March 18 undercard).
Sanchez was very complimentary of Benavidez, an undefeated super middleweight prospect who has been turning heads over the past year.
“He’s a five-tool star, as they say in baseball,” Sanchez said. “He’s given us great rounds. I think John Jackson has a similar style as Jacobs but David gives us speed, power and the size that Jacobs has. He’s probably around 185 pounds now.”
Sanchez was asked if the record rainfall that Southern California has experienced in recent weeks caused weather conditions severe enough to disrupt Golovkin’s camp.
“Severe for you and I, not for him,” said Sanchez, who has journeyed to Golovkin’s native Kazakhstan a few times. “He comes from a place where Big Bear in the winter months is like beach weather. He likes running in the snow.”
Golovkin beamed an ear-to-ear grin as Sanchez said that. He really was in a good – and hopeful – mood.
“This is the first fight of the year, it’s a new season, I’m excited,” he said. “Last year, with Eubank, Saunders, Canelo, there was so much talk, too much talking, no fighting.
“This year, I believe, will be much better. I’m focused on Jacobs, but maybe after this fight, maybe Golden Boy (Promotions) will be ready, maybe Saunders will be ready for unification.”
Of course, talk of the future meant the sour subject of Canelo Alvarez had to be brought up by some of the boxing writers. They wanted his opinion of Alvarez’s May 6 fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and its 164.5-pound catchweight. It was the only time Golovkin got a little salty.
“The (catchweight) is good for business, bad for boxing,” he said. “If you’re a champ at middleweight, fight at 160 pounds. If you’re a champ at super middleweight, fight at 168. If you’re a champ at junior middleweight, fight at 154.
“The fight is good for both. Canelo gave up his belt last year. Chavez lost last year (Editor’s note: Junior’s most recent loss – a ninth-round TKO to Andrzej Fonfara – was in 2015). The winner will get back into boxing.”
Golovkin said he views Canelo, “the fresher, faster fighter,” as the favorite in that HBO PPV showdown. When asked if he would get in the ring if a victorious Alvarez called him up on May 6 (as the Mexican star did after knocking out Amir Khan last May), Golovkin snapped:
Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler took the opportunity to cut in:
“He’ll get into the ring with Canelo in September.”
THE MEDIA DARLING
Golovkin made the media rounds on Tuesday in Los Angeles before returning to Big Bear. Among his many stops before and after the media workout was ESPN Studios, where he was on set for the Spanish-language show “A Los Golpes” and was interviewed (via satellite) on “First Take,” and Universal Studios Hollywood where he appeared on EXTRA with Mario Lopez.
COAST TO COAST WITH WALLY MATHEWS
Veteran sports writer Wallace Matthews writes more about Yankees baseball these days than boxing, but the Golvokin-Jacobs fight is a big enough deal for the New York Times to send the Long Island-based columnist to Southern California to get notes on GGG.
Matthews, the 1994 recipient of the BWAA’s Nat Fleischer award for excellence in boxing journalism, asked the best question during Tuesday’s rountable interview with Golovkin. He asked Golovkin when the last time he was hurt in a boxing match.
“Good question,” Golovkin said with a quizzical grin. “I don’t know. I forgot. Maybe my first day in the gym.”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer