Gennady Golovkin appears to have all the tools to become a major force in the middleweight division: an extensive amateur background that includes an Olympic silver medal, knockout power in both hands, sharp technique, quick reflexes and good instincts in the ring.
The 29-year-old native of Kazakhstan, who is undefeated in 20 pro fights, also has an aggressive, fan friendly style and engaging personality.
The only thing holding Golovkin back is his lack of television exposure in the United States. A contract dispute with his former promoter, Germany-based Universum, prevents potential U.S. networks, such as HBO, Showtime and ESPN, from showcasing the middleweight standout until early 2012.
Golovkin (20-0, 17 knockouts), who defends his WBA “regular title” against Kassim Ouma on Friday in Panama City, Panama, is patient but he looks forward to the day he can showcase his talent to a wide American audience. He realizes that a few impressive performances on a U.S. network can help him achieve his ultimate goal of fighting RING middleweight champ Sergio Martinez.
For now American fans will have to be content with watching clips of Golovkin’s amateur and pro fights on Youtube.com and reading about his Southern California gym exploits on boxing websites.
Golovkin has spawned his share of sparring stories since hooking up with Abel Sanchez and making the veteran trainer’s gym in Big Bear, Calif., his home away from home.
The gym tales started with rumors that he had "man-handled" junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo, who is known for beating down sparring partners, last summer.
Lightweight contender Urbano Antillon, who is also trained by Sanchez, says Golovkin’s taming of “El Perro” during their three or four sparring sessions is not a rumor. It’s 100-percent true.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” said Antillon, who worked out alongside Angulo for years while both trained at the Maywood Boxing Club in Maywood, Calif. “Golovkin handled Angulo effortlessly. He didn’t beat up Angulo, he just dominated him.
“He outclassed him. He outworked Angulo by constantly moving and punching. I don’t think power ever came into the equation. Angulo had this look like he was completely lost in there. It’s like he didn’t know what to make of what was being done to him.”
However, despite witnessing Golovkin give other top fighters, such as junior middleweight beltholder Saul Alvarez and super middleweight prospect Peter Quillin, all they can handle in sparring sessions, Antillon says he’s most impressed with how hard the middleweight works outside of the ring.
“His work ethic is something else,” Antillon said. “I’ve become a better fighter just by trying to keep up with all the exercises he does when he trains. I still can’t do what he does, but I’m trying.
“One thing I’ve learned by watching Golovkin and some of the other fighters from Kazakhstan and Russia that he brought over with him is that American fighters don’t work as hard as they should in the gym. I think we’re a little pampered here in the States. We come in, we spar or hit mitts and then we want to tell the trainers how much we want to do after that.
“These guys are a different breed. They’re brought up to work as hard and as long as their trainers tell them.”
That attitude has been a Godsend to Sanchez, who almost retired from training out of frustration from dealing with talented boxers who did not want to listen to him or properly prepare for their fights.
“Gennady is the kind of fighter I like,” Sanchez said. “He wants to work, but he also wants to learn. He listens to me like I’m the teacher and he’s a student. He never complains, he just wants to work, work, work.”
Because of that attitude, Sanchez says it won’t take long for Golovkin, who is currently unranked by THE RING, to establish himself as a leading middleweight contender once he gets the opportunity.
“All he has to do is stay busy fighting solid guys, like Ouma,” he said. “The opportunity to fight a big name opponent on a U.S. network will come and when it does he’ll be ready for it.”
Golovkin says he’s ready for Ouma (27-7-1, 17 KOs), a tough 32-year-old former 154-pound beltholder who went the 12-round distance with then-middleweight champ Jermain Taylor in December of 2006.
Ouma lost three of his next four bouts following the Taylor fight, but he had something of a comeback last year when he gave undefeated contender Vanes Martirosyan hell in a 10-round decision loss and then stopped Joey Gilbert in six rounds for a regional title.
“Ouma is very strong for his size,” Golovkin told RingTV.com in broken but passable English following a sparring session with Alvarez last month. “He hasn’t been knocked out in very long time. I want to do this. He has good speed, but sparring with Alvarez is good practice for me because he is fast, too.”
Alvarez is also on the fast-track to stardom. The popular Mexican’s WBC title defense against Ryan Rhodes on Saturday will be televised on HBO in the U.S.
If Golovkin’s plans come to fruition, he’ll be defending his title on HBO this time next year. His choice of opponent?
“Martinez, of course,” Golovkin said. “He is the best at middleweight, so I absolutely want to fight him.”
Photo by Scott Kilbride.