Gennady Golovkin’s star rises with every knockout

Gennady Golovkin realizes not many top boxers are eager to step
into a ring with him.

The Kazakh middleweight hopes to make himself impossible to
ignore this year, starting with Saturday’s fight against Gabriel
Rosado at Madison Square Garden.

Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs) is a WBA champion with the potential to
fight in three weight divisions, but his two-handed knockout power
and relatively small U.S. name recognition make him an extremely
undesirable matchup for champions from 154 to 168 pounds.

But Golovkin’s showmanship and charisma have earned him a
devoted fan following that’s growing virally with each performance.
Backed by the Klitschko brothers’ promotional company, he hopes to
fight five times in 2013.

If he keeps improving, Golovkin believes he’ll land the big
fights he craves.

”It’s going to be a big year for me,” Golovkin said in his
ever-improving English. ”For me, Madison Square Garden is the best
arena in the world. I’m very excited to be there. I hope I can make
some drama.”

Golovkin’s (24-0, 21 KOs) bout against Rosado will be just his
second U.S. appearance in the historic venue. Golovkin’s face
lights up at the thought of stepping into the ring he only saw on
television during his youth, and he’s hoping to realize many more
dreams in the next year.

With 11 straight stoppage victories, most of them in dramatic
fashion, the WBA champion’s ruthless skills and relatively small
U.S. name recognition make him an extremely undesirable matchup for
champions across several weight divisions. With a few more
knockouts, he believes he can make himself impossible to
ignore.

Despite his ring charisma and devoted fan following, Golovkin
has followed Argentine middleweight Sergio Martinez and Paul
Williams into the long lineage of tested veteran fighters who must
wait for years to get the breaks necessary to become international
stars.

Golovkin’s team would love to get him in a fight with Martinez,
Andre Ward or Canelo Alvarez this year. It’s only possible if
Golovkin becomes a must-see attraction, but his supporters believe
it’s inevitable.

”I’ve been saying for a while that boxing is missing that
Tyson-esque kind of a figure,” said Golovkin’s trainer, Abel
Sanchez. ”The public looks for a knockout. I’ve always looked for
guys to knock somebody out. Gennady could be that guy who makes
everybody look for the knockout right away in every fight. He’s
special, and anybody who watches him will see it.”

The first major fight card of 2013 is headlined by Orlando
Salido’s WBO featherweight title defense against Mikey Garcia. WBO
junior lightweight champion Roman Martinez also fights Juan Carlos
Burgos.

Golovkin spent Christmas, New Year’s Day and his Jan. 7 wedding
anniversary in Big Bear outside Los Angeles with a small, devoted
group of fellow fighters and sparring partners. His family has
stayed in Stuttgart, Germany, where his wife studies economics in
college and their young son has just started kindergarten.

After winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics, Golovkin
spent several years toiling in minor fights in Europe and steaming
at his promoters’ work. After a messy split, he signed with the
Klitschko brothers’ promotional company, K2 Promotions, and began
producing results that generated hype.

”Gennady is the best middleweight out there, no disrespect
intended to Sergio,” said Tom Loeffler, K2’s managing director.
”Gennady beats all of them. We’re trying to get him into a
position to prove that, and after his recognition goes up this
year, he’s going to explode.”

Golovkin is doing everything possible to get his name out to
American fight fans, including wearing a New York Rangers jersey to
this week’s news conference. Saturday’s fights are expected to sell
out, and Golovkin knows he would benefit from a dramatic knockout
of Rosado, a brash veteran underdog who was the best opponent
Golovkin could get, according to Loeffler.

”In his fights, he’s so destructive that you really don’t get
to see Gennady,” Sanchez said. ”This fight is going to be quick,
too. But if it isn’t, at least people will get to see more of what
he can do.”

Sanchez spent three full years altering Golovkin’s conventional
European counterpunching style, adding North American
aggressiveness and flair to his fighter’s game. The result is
Golovkin’s intriguing hybrid approach in the ring, allowing him to
throw big shots from all angles while pressing his opponents.

Just as Manny Pacquiao appears to relish the toughest moments in
a good brawl, Golovkin’s love for fighting is obvious from his ring
demeanor and work ethic. He did two lengthy sparring sessions on
New Year’s Eve before enjoying a brief party with his friends in
Big Bear, eating Mexican food and waiting for the first day of the
biggest year of his life.

”Training is tough, so that makes the fight easy for me,”
Golovkin said. ”I feel ready for the fight already. I can’t wait
to get in the ring.”