Monday, March 27, 2023  |


GGG, long avoided, finally has superfight he’s yearned for vs. Canelo

Photo by Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

LAS VEGAS — One by one, they fell at the hands of Gennady Golovkin.

Pulverizing left hooks and damaging right crosses inflicted punishment that led him to 23 consecutive knockouts and 17 successful title defenses.

But like an ugly duckling, GGG couldn’t secure a fight befitting his elite status. Miguel Cotto? He was the lineal champion but had no interest in facing such a ferocious puncher. Sergio Martinez? Ditto. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Carl Froch and Canelo Alvarez, for a time, all weren’t exactly pushing their way to the front of the line to meet Triple-G.

Instead, Golovkin was forced to dispense of middling foes like Dominic Wade, Curtis Stevens and Willie Monroe. These certainly weren’t the sort of matchups Golovkin envisioned when he traveled from Kazakhstan to Los Angeles with designs on greatness. Make no mistake, though: Greatness was his.

Frustration had set in. Would his moment ever come? Would he ever find himself smack-dab in the middle of a Las Vegas fight week, his name in bright lights, the stakes so high that to push the red and black chips all in could mean losing everything he’s worked so hard for?

It all seemed so far away then — even just six months ago.

“You just gotta keep winning; success is the best medicine for jealousy and envy,” Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, recalls telling the fighter who was down in the dumps, unable to secure the kind of dance partner he deserved. “So just keep winning. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep knocking people out. Eventually, those guys are going to have to come to you.”

Finally, they did — well, one man came knocking: Canelo.

The red-headed Mexican heard the fans; heard the media’s outcry to accept the challenge and meet boxing’s so-called boogeyman.

Golovkin, now 35, found himself in a very new position Tuesday on a plush couch just outside the MGM Grand lobby. He was surrounded by cameras and microphones, a black Air Jordan hat emblazoned with his initials, GGG, in gold. This time, Golovkin wasn’t there to discuss some fight he didn’t particular care for. Some challenge he didn’t relish. Finally, the time was here. The sort of event every great boxer wishes for.

“This fight is more important for boxing,” Triple-G said. “This is a true fight. It’s not show. It’s not money fight. … Who’s pound-for-pound (No. 1)? Who’s maybe the biggest face in boxing? Biggest fight. Biggest champion.”

Frustration was never apparent during those arduous days at Sanchez’s Summit Boxing Gym in Big Bear, California. Golovkin always gave it everything there. But other times? The disappointment of trudging through another ordinary bout was clearly wearing on the Olympic silver medalist.

“You saw the frustration, like in the Monroe fight, when he put his face out like ‘hit me, let’s give the fans a show,'” Sanchez said. “Then you have the IBF demanding that we fight Wade or even Tureano Johnson … that’s frustration for these guys.

“When they get to a certain level, it’s like a sparring match. It’s not worth the effort of going through training camp. Because training camp is just as physical and just as demanding and just as hard for Canelo as it is for a Monroe or a Wade.”

The consternation was present for a long time, spanning from Golovkin’s U.S. debut in September 2012 to earlier this year, when it seemed the superfight was just as far away as ever before. Then, in May, after Canelo beat Chavez Jr., Golovkin suddenly was in the ring to finally announce the bout we’d — he — had all been waiting for.

In that moment, the frustration was gone. Washed away like a seashell in the high tide.

“Now, all the talking is through,” Sanchez said. “We have to see if we can prove it.”

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger