Big Drama Show as Golovkin eyes breakout fight at Garden

NEW YORK (AP) If all goes according to plan for Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, he’ll knock out David Lemieux, become a pay-per-view draw, and get a lot of people a lot more interested in boxing again.

Just another Big Drama Show, starring arguably the most feared fighter in the game.

”This is a big deal for us,” Golovkin said. ”It’s very important to find out who is the best in the middleweight division.”

A lot of people already think the baby-faced puncher from Kazakhstan is that fighter, despite a relative lack of big-name opponents on his dance card. Golovkin has stopped his last 20 opponents within the distance and has never been beaten as a pro.

He’s done it with both punishing power and a hybrid Eastern European/Mexican style that seems to appeal to even casual fans. Listen very long to Triple G, as he is more popularly known, and you will almost surely hear one of a string of catchphrases in one of the four languages he speaks.

”He’s a good boy,” Golovkin likes to say about his various opponents. ”Big Drama Show,” he promises before his fights.

For the last seven years, the only drama about Golovkin’s fights is which round he will stop his opponent in. He hasn’t gone the distance since an eight-rounder against a fighter named Amar Amari in Denmark in 2008 on his way to a perfect 33-0 mark with 30 knockouts.

Now he’s a middleweight champion who likes to hobnob with celebrities in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. He’s grown so popular he’s in a commercial for Apple watches and sold 15,000 tickets for Lemieux at Madison Square Garden the first week they were on sale.

And he’s venturing into pay-per-view territory, where few fighters not named Mayweather have been successful in recent years.

”It takes his career to a different level,” said Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler. ”He has to perform in the ring, but whenever he feels a challenge or needs an impressive performance, he rises to the occasion.”

Already, there’s talk of Golovkin meeting the winner of the Nov. 21 middleweight clash between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez in what could be a huge money fight. With Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired, there’s an opening in the pay-per-view business for fighters who have proven fan bases.

And Golovkin’s fan base is growing, including in Los Angeles where he got a lot of attention from actors and others when he attended the Emmy awards last month.

”For now it’s a very interesting situation for me,” Golovkin said. ”I think it’s very good for boxing because I can remember when boxing was very famous. Now there’s not as much interest, but this is a new story for boxing.”

First, though, Golovkin must take care of business against Lemieux, a big puncher himself. Lemieux owns a piece of the 160-pound crown, though there are so many different belts and champions among the various boxing organizations that the Canadian mostly gets lost in the shuffle.

But Lemieux can punch and likes a good scrap, so the fight with Golovkin shapes up to be filled with more action than five Mayweather fights. That’s the big reason tickets sold so well and promoters believe they can do respectable pay-per-view numbers for a fight that will cost half ($49.95) of what Mayweather’s bout with Manny Pacquiao sold for in May.

Still, there hasn’t been any boxer outside the U.S. and Mexico with any notable pay-per-view success, and it remains to be seen if Golovkin will be the fighter who breaks through.

”We believe Gennady will be able to cross over,” Loeffler said. ”He has that very unique quality of being devastating in the ring, yet respectful and likable outside the ring.”

That will be on display Saturday night in a fight with a lot more riding on it than a few championship belts. Golovkin, who won a silver medal for Kazakhstan in the 2004 Olympics, wants to put on a show worthy of his pay-per-view debut.

”Every time people look at me, they say, `Oh, it’s a drama show,”’ Golovkin said. ”They like my style. It’s a Big Drama Show.”

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg