2015 has entered its final third and as is such, boxing begins to provide us with at least one or two bouts which can potentially involve more than just one person occupying the living room couch.
Gone are the days where one fighter is the biggest selling point regardless of the competition.
A few decades ago, a young miscreant from the Catskill Mountains of New York by way of Brownsville, Brooklyn was able to polarize many a fight as well as sporting fan to the point of fixation over his exploits in the ring. Granted, his biggest nights in terms of eyes and interest came much later in his career, yet Mike Tyson ignited an almost atavistic peculiarity within us that made his often quickly executed destruction of his terrified opponents a sight to behold.
Anticipation of the eventual knockout followed him from the first bell and the oddities that often flowed from his lips in post fight interviews made even the shortest night a fun one. Another first round knockout? Not exactly the squarest return on one’s pay TV investment, yet the punishment of sitting through an indigestible undercard made the wash in the main event the nicest sort of letdown.
Ahead we jump two to three decades and on to the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. This Saturday evening, boxing’s current knockout king, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (33-0, 30 KO’s) will lay the majority of the middleweight division’s titles on the line as he faces IBF champion David Lemieux (34-2, 31 KO’s).
The unbeaten Golovkin has recently entertained crowds from New York City to Monaco to Los Angeles. He’s provided many a change in facial expressions for those who are not only enthused by his crushing knockout power, but his delightful and good natured attitude outside of the ring as well.
With the exception of one fight in December of last year, Lemieux has not fought anywhere other than his hometown of Montreal. Promoters and pundits alike had set him up to be the pugilistic sidekick to Lucian Bute in the Quebec city, yet he suffered two consecutive knockouts in 2011 to Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine, respectively. The last three years for David have been much better, as he’s prevailed in all of them (seven of nine by way of knockout).
In other words, we may indeed see Golovkin matched with someone who has the audacity to fire back and do so with perhaps comparable power. So, the question must be posed: now that the “big two” of boxing have now met or are near the twilight of their respective and stellar careers, is Gennady Golovkin taking part of the torch of big time fights or having it tossed to him like a grenade without a pin? More to the point, is Saturday’s contest on pay TV in the United States going to be an experiment or the norm for the Kazakhstani fighter with the huge smile? What’s known to us is that he knocks out the opposition with intense fury and might. For some, such as sports radio and TV personality Stephen A. Smith, that’s enough to push “GGG” as not only an unbeaten champion, but with as many knockouts as victories (as he professed to a caller from Washington, D.C. on Tuesday afternoon over the air) as well.
How many pay per view buys can Saturday night’s telecast aspire to collect? One quarter million? Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions believes that his fighter is ready for the spotlight based on the raucous turnout of his previous outings.
“HBO wouldn’t have given us the green light to put this on pay TV if they didn’t believe in it,” said Loeffler last week during a media conference call. “A great indicator of those sales is ticket sales. We sold over 15,000 tickets in the first week. Gennady is breaking through into the mainstream. We knew that neither fighter had been a part of a pay per view like this, but we think fans will really respond to this.”
Perhaps when one lives in one of the five boroughs of New York City or within a few hours’ train ride of Madison Square Garden, a ticket to see a potential slugfest may prove to be an evening to savor. However, are casual, as opposed to hardcore fight fans prepared to spend $49.95 or more to see the bout at home? Let’s face it, the majority of us won’t consider watching hardly anything in standard definition these days, so the HD markup of ten dollars is scarcely an issue. Is the sports world ready to embrace as well as push for crossover appeal towards an extremely likable fellow from the former U.S.S.R.? His grasp of English is near to that of Manny Pacquiao and he’s much in the same mold inasmuch as a gentleman outside the ring and a whirlwind within it.
Are we ready to move forward? Are times changing or are we staying the same? Time will tell.