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.''