Golovkin has chance to prove met­tle

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By RICK MAESE The Wash­ing­ton Post

Abel Sanchez no­ticed some­thing just a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent about his fighter dur­ing train­ing camp th­ese past few months. Gen­nady Golovkin worked as hard as ever, was in tip­top shape and still launched his balled-up fists like a pair of fly­ing anvils. But there was some­thing new there, too.

“He has a sparkle in his eye,” the vet­eran trainer said.

For Golovkin, Satur­day's highly an­tic­i­pated bout against Canelo Al­varez is some­what of a re­lief. He has strug­gled to get qual­ity op­po­nents in the ring, which means he hasn't show­cased his abil­i­ties against wor­thy foes and his un­blem­ished record car­ries an as­ter­isk of sorts. Most fight afi­ciona­dos re­gard him as one of boxing's top pound-for-pound fight­ers per­haps the best - but Satur­day of­fers his big­gest chance to val­i­date such a claim.

“He's just been a lit­tle frus­trated the last cou­ple years that he hasn't had that mar­quee name to step up and want to fight him,” said Sanchez, who has trained the Kaza­khstan-born boxer since 2010.

Win or lose, Satur­day's bout in Las Ve­gas stands to de­fine Golovkin (37-0, 33 knock­outs) more than any­thing that has pre­ceded it. Al­varez is the kind of op­po­nent the knock­out spe­cial­ist has sought for years, and the fight is the kind of mega-matchup the sport has been de­mand­ing.

There's good rea­son fight fans have been so bullish about Golovkin, known ca­su­ally as GGG or “Triple G.” The 35year old holds three of the four world ti­tles from the ma­jor sanc­tion­ing bod­ies. Un­til a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over Daniel Jacobs in March, he had knocked out 23 straight op­po­nents, and his knock­out per­cent­age is the high­est the mid­dleweight divi­sion has ever seen, at nearly 90 per­cent.

But there's also good rea­son for oth­ers to say, Yeah, but . . .

Each of Golovkin's 37 vic­to­ries was im­pres­sive - and the full col­lec­tion even more so - but he fi­nally has the opportunity to an­swer the oft-asked ques­tion: Yeah, but how would he fare against a qual­ity op­po­nent?

“As Gen­nady said, it's a legacy fight for him,” said his pro­moter, Tom Lo­ef­fler. “If there's any crit­i­cism that peo­ple have of Gen­nady, it's the level of com­pe­ti­tion. But they have to look at the op­po­nents, not at Gen­nady. We've had a ter­ri­ble time get­ting peo­ple in the ring with him.”

While he has never faced a foe quite like Al­varez (49-1-1, 34 knock­outs), if Golovkin can get past the 27-year-old Mex­i­can fighter on Satur­day, he will have de­fended his mid­dleweight ti­tle 19 times, putting him within jab­bing dis­tance of a record many thought would stand for years. Bernard Hopkins de­fended his mid­dleweight belt 20 con­sec­u­tive times, a vir­tual eter­nity in the rough-and-tum­ble divi­sion.

“Hope­fully this era will be Golovkin's era as Roy [Jones Jr.] and Bernard had theirs,” Sanchez said.

But the dif­fer­ence, again, is the qual­ity of those ti­tle de­fenses. Hopkins beat Felix Trinidad and Os­car De La Hoya. Golovkin de­feated chal­lengers such as David Lemieux, Kell Brook and Marco Antonio Ru­bio - hardly house­hold names. Great cham­pi­ons are judged on the qual­ity of their chal­lengers and the pe­riod in which they fought, par­tic­u­larly for mid­dleweights, whose divi­sion has tra­di­tion­ally been packed with tal­ent. Marvin Ha­gler had Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Du­ran and they all fought each other. More re­cently, stars such as Hopkins, De La Hoya, Trinidad and Shane Mosley were all will­ing to step in the ring against each other.

Lo­ef­fler said his fighter has never sidestepped any­one. When they first talked to HBO, the ca­ble gi­ant had a list of 20 fight­ers, the pro­moter said. Golovkin said he would fight any of them. They say when it came time to ne­go­ti­ate, though, op­po­nents weren't al­ways ea­ger to sac­ri­fice their ring record against an Olympic sil­ver medal­ist who fought some 350 times as an am­a­teur and has never been knocked down.

Even still, a win Satur­day would pro­vide Golovkin with the first notch of any real fame. And as his own pro­file grows, chal­lengers might be able to earn purses big enough to en­tice them to step in the ring. Golovkin's dom­i­nance has cre­ated a Catch-22 of sorts: fight­ers want to be paid a pre­mium for the risk they're tak­ing by set­ting foot in the ring with him. A big pay­day makes it a lot eas­ier to fight as a big un­der­dog.

“If Gen­nady looks good against Canelo and per­forms the way we all be­lieve he'll per­form, then it opens up a lot of doors,” Lo­ef­fler said. “Then he's in a whole dif­fer­ent fi­nan­cial realm in terms of the money that we're able to of­fer peo­ple.”

But it all de­pends on an­swer­ing the call and do­ing to Al­varez what he has man­aged to do to all the lesser fight­ers who came be­fore. Golovkin has en­joyed a great ca­reer, but Lo­ef­fler knows as well as any­one that the fighter will be de­fined by what hap­pens Satur­day and be­yond.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.