Golovkin heads to US with middleweight title hopes

Gennady Golovkin eagerly dips a spoon into the bowl of blood-red

borscht before him, going to work on the soup with gusto while

friends and fellow fighters chat all around him in a lively Russian

restaurant.

The Kazakh boxer who lives in Germany and trains in California

knows how to enjoy a little taste of home wherever he can get it.

The WBA middleweight champion is comfortable on three continents –

and the way his career is going, the rest of the boxing world

should know his name very soon.

Golovkin (23-0, 20 KOs) makes his American debut Saturday night,

fighting Poland’s Grzegorz Proksa at a casino in upstate New York.

Already a world citizen, Golovkin is determined to conquer the U.S.

– and he’s got the might of the Klitschko brothers’ promotional

company behind him.

”This is my dream, my first fight in America,” Golovkin said

in his ever-improving English – his fourth language, by the way.

”Maybe the next fight is in New York, in Vegas, but now, I’m very

happy.”

After a deliberate amateur career that took him out of

Kazakhstan to the Athens Olympics, where he beat Andre Dirrell on

the way to a silver medal, Golovkin is eager to take on the world’s

best middleweights immediately. His major knockout power and minor

name recognition have made it difficult to get his calls returned,

but Golovkin’s camp is confident his first HBO appearance will

tantalize boxing fans and move him up the list in a deep

division.

His boyish face has almost no pugilistic scars, but the

30-year-old Golovkin is eager to show North America he’s a

fighter.

”He’s going to be one of the good guys to root for in boxing,”

said Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions, the

Klitschko brothers’ company. ”We don’t sign a lot of fighters, but

we went out of our way for Gennady. He won’t just be limited to the

Russian-speaking community, because his style will come across to

boxing fans, and people will want to see him fight.”

Golovkin has been a poorly kept secret for several years since

his amateur career. He beat several of that sport’s biggest names,

including Lucian Bute, Andy Lee, Matvey Korobov, Daniel Geale and

Dirrell – but until a messy divorce from his previous promotional

company about two years ago, Golovkin fought almost exclusively in

Germany, his adopted home.

Golovkin was determined to become a worldwide name, dreaming of

following in the Klitschko brothers’ footsteps by fighting in

Madison Square Garden and Staples Center. He signed with K2 and

went into training in Big Bear, Calif., with Abel Sanchez, the

veteran trainer behind Terrible Terry Norris and many other top

talents.

Sanchez was stunned by Golovkin’s talent, and impressed by his

attitude from their first meeting. He’s trying to add Mexican-style

aggression to Golovkin’s Soviet-style amateur discipline, hopefully

producing a fearsome hybrid champion.

”I have a chalkboard in the gym, and I wrote Ali’s name, Floyd

Mayweather’s name and his name,” Sanchez said. ”I told him, `You

could be right there.’ He was all sheepish, but once I felt his

hands, and I saw how smart he was in the ring and how he caught on

– sheesh. He’s going to be the most-avoided fighter in boxing, or

he’s going to get the chance he deserves.”

When Golovkin is asked to list his favorite fighters, his eyes

light up. He worships American champions: Sugar Ray Robinson,

Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali.

”I like the middles,” Golovkin said. ”Fast, strong guys who

are good athletes, who have good conditioning.”

Although he plans to keep living in Stuttgart with his wife and

3-year-old son, Golovkin’s determination to be an American success

keeps him in Big Bear, high in the mountains above Los Angeles, for

two or three months at a time. He kills time between workouts with

trips to the movies and the ice cream parlor, also playing

basketball and volleyball to drive away the boredom.

Russia’s Dmitry Pirog, another intriguing and undefeated

middleweight, originally was scheduled to be Golovkin’s opponent in

this bout, but an injury sidelined him. Proksa (28-1, 21 KOs) is

respected, but even less well-known than Golovkin.

If Golovkin beats Proksa in impressive fashion, he hopes to get

the attention of stars Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Sergio Martinez,

who will meet Sept. 15 in Las Vegas. He would also enjoy fighting

Felix Sturm, the German champion who won’t return his calls back

home.

And before he finishes off that borscht and digs into some

vareniki, Golovkin confirms he’ll go anywhere to do it.

”People are going to see what a singular talent he is,”

Loeffler said. ”We’re really looking to build upon this first

fight.”