LOS ANGELES – Having crushed everyone in front of him with a rare blend of patience and power, Gennady Golovkin is boxing’s new boogeyman, one of the most avoided fighters in the sport. He isn’t a star yet, but with each rousing performance on HBO, he’s one step closer.
Golovkin (27-0, 24 knockouts) will look to continue his rise when he defends his WBA middleweight title against Curtis Stevens Nov. 2 on HBO in the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, a bout that was promoted during a news conference at the Radisson Hotel on Thursday.
“On Nov. 2, it’s East Coast versus West Coast,” said Golovkin, THE RING’s No. 1 160-pound fighter. “He is good puncher, he’s a good, strong boy; I think it’s a great fight, not a decision fight. I am the champion.”
Tattooed on Stevens’ left side is the Statue of Liberty wearing a gas mask, an homage to the aftermath of 9/11. It’s the Brooklyn native’s tribute to his city, and this is his most high-profile match to date in New York, as well as his second on HBO. He isn’t being given much of a chance to defeat Golovkin, but Stevens believes his opponent is just that – a boogeyman.
“You have kids that are scared of the boogeyman because they hear the folktales about him, you know, it’s just like him (Golovkin),” Stevens told RingTV.com. “Before people get in the ring with him, they hear the folktales the media is expressing about him. Yes, I believe they (his opponents) are scared before, but I’m not scared of ghosts or a boogeyman.”
“I hit just as hard or maybe even harder than he does,” Stevens added. “How will he adapt when he gets hit? We’ve never seen him get hit before.”
Stevens (25-3, 18 KOs) raises a fair point; Golovkin hasn’t faced a fighter who can crack like Stevens. But while questions remain about how Golovkin will take a punch, it’s clear why there’s so much buzz around him.
“He’s a terror and a monster inside the ring, but he always wants to go by rules. He’s a sportsman inside the ring,” said Tom Loffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, the outfit that handles the career of GGG. “He wants to win the fight. He’s so humble and respectful outside the ring, both to his opponents and their team. He has that magnetic quality. He has the highest knockout percentage of any middleweight champion in history.”
Abel Sanchez, who trains Golovkin in nearby Big Bear, believes it will be a five-round fight, and the winner will be whoever lands first. Stevens has that kind of fight-ending power.
“Curtis has come so far in the years that I’ve known him,” said Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events, Stevens’ promoter. “Now that he’s moved down to the middleweight division he’s living up to his potential. Sometimes people take different paths to get where they’re going, and certainly both he and Gennady took different paths, but they both got to the same place on Nov. 2.
“This is the fight Curtis asked for,” Duva added. “It sounds to me like Curtis is fighting with Superman and that was kind of daunting. But everyone knows Superman has a weakness and it’s Curtis’ job to find it.”
Does Stevens possess the kryptonite to spring the upset and bring a much-needed victory to New York?
“It’s going to be a good ol’ fashioned phone booth fight,” Stevens declared. “I’m coming to win, he’s coming to win, but I’m going to take the title Nov. 2.”
Photos by Will Hart-K2 Promotions
Mike Coppinger is a contributor to USA Today’s boxing coverage. He’s also a regular contributor to RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger