Gennady Golovkin (left) grins while posing with Matthew Macklin at the final press conference for their HBO-televised fight on Saturday.
When a press luncheon is held for Gennady Golovkin the media that attend can expect the undefeated WBA middleweight titleholder’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, and trainer, Abel Sanchez, to do most of the talking.
Golovkin is arguably the best puncher in the sport but he’s not much of a conversationalist (at least not in English, which is far from the 31-year-old Kazakhstan native’s first language).
But Golovkin (26-0, 23 knockouts) doesn’t have to be loquacious. The middleweight puncher – whose 88 percent KO ratio is the highest among active world titleholders – is the perfect example of that old boxing adage of a fighter who does his “talking” in the ring.
Golovkin, who has knocked out his last 13 opponents, has created a buzz among hardcore American boxing fans in the last nine months, in large part due to back-to-back HBO appearances in which he stopped Grzegorz Proksa (TKO 5 last September) and Gabriel Rosado (TKO 7 in January).
However, the goal of Loeffler, Sanchez and the good folks at HBO is for Golovkin to be known and respected among casual American boxing fans. In other words, they want to build him into a crossover success.
Golovkin’s opponent next Saturday, Matthew Macklin, and the U.S. cable network’s buildup to the Boxing After Dark headliner from the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., is the first step in doing so.
Macklin, an English-born middleweight contender of Irish descent, is a former European champ and two-time world title challenger. The aggressive but versatile boxer gave then-WBA beltholder Felix Sturm hell with relentless pressure for 12 rounds, losing a controversial split decision in June 2011. In his next fight, Macklin gave Sergio Martinez fits with clever boxing before succumbing to THE RING champ in the 11th round of their title bout last March.
The 31-year-old veteran bounced back with a first-round KO of former 154-pound beltholder Joachim Alcine last September.
“Matthew Macklin is a big step up (in competition) having fought Martinez and Sturm,” said Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, at a press lunch in Los Angeles last week. “Macklin brings more credibility than any of Golokin’s other opponents.
“We feel he’s one of the best middleweights who isn’t a world champion. He’s a warrior, he’s got a lot of heart and he’s not going to back down.”
In that regard, Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs) is the perfect opponent for Golovkin. He’s not only respected but known to the American boxing audience (the Martinez fight was televised on HBO; the Alcine fight was part of HBO’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Martinez pay-per-view broadcast). And he comes to fight, which should make for an entertaining Boxing After Dark show.
Macklin’s willingness to mix it up also plays into the Golovkin’s very heavy hands, according to Sanchez.
“The fact that he’s going to stand up to Golovkin might not be in his best interest, but it will be for the fans,” the veteran trainer told the media that assembled at Le Petit Greek Restaurant last Tuesday.
“I’ve been asking for someone like this, for an opponent who comes to fight. Golokin’s fought guys who run, which is hard to look good against. Now we’ll see how good he is.”
Golovkin’s good. He may not have any world-beaters on his professional record, but he won 345 of 350 bouts during a stellar amateur career that included a 2003 world championship and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. He defeated Matvey Korobov, Andy Lee, Lucian Bute (by knockout) and Cuban star Yordanis Despaigne on the way to his the ’03 world title; and he bested talented American Andre Dirrell en route to the ’04 Olympic final.
“Macklin is a very difficult fight for us, he’s physical, he’s strong, he punches good, but I think my style is much better,” said Golovkin, who sparred with light heavyweight contender Denis Grachev and middleweight prospects Lamar Russ and Paul Mendez at Sanchez’s Summit gym in Big Bear, Calif., where his camps have been held for the past three years.
“I had hard training, hard sparring, hard work, so I am ready.”
If Golovkin is truly ready for Macklin and he can extend his record to 27-0, and conceivably score his 14th consecutive knockout, then HBO and his team are ready to move him to the next level, which would be pay-per-view events versus the likes of Martinez and Chavez, and potentially, against super middleweight champ Andre Ward.
Making the considerable jump from Boxing After Dark to HBO Pay Per View will take money, continued activity and continued promotion by Golovkin’s U.S. network of choice, according to Loeffler.
“The goal is to create an aura around Golovkin,” he said. “This is done through activity, fighting more than just a couple times a year, along with great performances each time he fights.”
Instead of sitting out between his January HBO appearance and his June date with the network, Golovkin stayed busy by fighting Nobuhiro Ishida on March 30 in Monaco. The bout, which ended with a highlight-reel worthy third-round KO, was carried on a small pay-per-view card in the U.S.
Loeffler says the activity feeds into his fighter’s buzz.
“The Ishida fight was not on the same stage as the HBO bouts but it still give him exposure,” he said. “It keeps his name in the media and on the minds of boxing fans. The fight was broadcast all over the world.
“We want Gennady to have an international presence. To that end we’re willing to have him fight anywhere in the world, and there’s interest for him fight in Europe – Britain and Germany, where his career started and where he still lives – South Africa, even South Korea because of his Korean heritage.
“At the same time, we want to develop him into a ticket seller in the U.S. His fight with Rosado brought out Russian and Kazakh fans in the New York area. We want to bring him back to New York City, and given the right opponent, to Los Angeles, maybe Chicago.”
Loeffler says HBO is firmly behind this goal.
“HBO stepped up quite a bit to make the Macklin fight,” he said. “There’s a financial commitment there, and the network is supportive of his activity. They don’t stand in the way of him fighting overseas and off HBO, but obviously, HBO is his home in the U.S.”
The U.S. cable giant clearly wants Golovkin to feel at home as evidenced by the well-produced (and well-received) “2 Days: Gennady Golovkin” program that has run on HBO and HBO2 a dozen times since June 8, and has so far accumulated more than 2.5 million viewers (well above last year’s installments of the series which averaged 2.1 million viewers).
2 Days closely follows one boxer during the 48-hour span before he fights in an HBO-televised bout. The Golovkin episode revealed a closer look at the middleweight belthoder’s near fight-canceling bout with the flu in the days before the Rosado fight.
As usual, Golovkin didn’t have much to say during the compelling documentary style program. Loeffler and Sanchez, however, did a great job speaking on behalf of their fighter.
Sanchez, who beams whenever he speaks of Golovkin, was practically the narrator of the show.
“It’s easy when you talk about someone you believe in,” he said.
Photos / Ed Diller, Naoki Fukuda, Valery Hache-AFP