Gennady Golovkin took America by storm in 2014 and is fast becoming one of boxing’s biggest superstars. In less than three years, the hard-hitting middleweight titleholder from Kazakhstan has gone from virtual unknown to one of HBO’s primary boxing assets.
Golovkin is the WBA middleweight champion. While other titlists include lineal and WBC champion Miguel Cotto, WBA belt holder Jermain Taylor, IBF crown wearer Felix Sturm and WBO titleholder Andy Lee, Golovkin is almost universally accepted as the best and most exciting middleweight in the world today.
K2 Promotion’s Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter since 2010, told TSS his fighter could probably thank Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko for helping open the doors Golovkin is now strutting through with authority.
“The first trailblazers [for Eastern European fighters] were the Klitschkos,” said Loeffler.
Loeffler established K2 promotions in 2003 and promoted both Klitschko brothers throughout their storied careers. Vitali Klitschko retired in December 2013 after holding the WBC heavyweight title from 2003 to 2004 and again from 2008 to 2012. Wladimir Klitschko is the current Transnational Rankings, Ring Magazine, WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion. He has held at least one version of the heavyweight championship since 2006.
“When Vitali fought Lennox Lewis at the Staples Center, that was one of the most exciting heavyweight fights that had happened in a long time. Then with Wladimir and his domination and being able to headline at venues like Madison Square Garden—Vitali fought at Staples Center three times and Wlad fought at Madison Square Garden three times—the Klitschkos were able to fight in some of the biggest venues in America.”
Golovkin has since done the same, drawing big crowds in both New York and Los Angeles at the same venues.
“They really opened the door, and then when they gravitated to fighting more in Europe because of the economic situation, Golovkin came in five years later.”
Loeffler said the Klitschkos might have enjoyed similar success as Golovkin had economics and the absence of a marketable American heavyweight contender not kept the brothers fighting across the ocean for most of their careers instead.
But the Klitschkos lucrative television deal in Germany and their ability to attract 30,000 to 40,000 fight fans for any given fight were enough reasons to keep the brothers away from the United States.
Wladimir Klitschko is scheduled to make his first appearance back on American soil since 2008 on April 25 at Barclays in Brooklyn against an opponent to be named later, most likely American heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings.
Still, Loeffler said it was challenging at first to garner Golovkin opportunities to appear on HBO, but that once his fighter displayed his limitless potential, via Round 5 destruction of Grzegorz Proksa in 2012, new doors for both Golovkin and other Easter European fighters were opened.
In fact, Sergey Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, told me that Golovkin had already paid the Klitschkos’ door opening forward.
“I think the guy who opened the door for [Sergey Kovalev at HBO] was Gennady Golovkin. Once Golovkin proved that an Eastern European can, in fact, be embraced by the whole world…the wall came down. Thank heavens for that.”
As 2015 approaches, it’s interesting to see how the Klitschkos’ trailblazing efforts have changed the boxing landscape over at HBO. While traditional powerhouse demographic-supported fighters such as Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez and the United States’ Terence Crawford maintain their stronghold in 2015, Easter European fighters such as Golovkin, Kovalev, Vasyl Lomachenko and even Klitschko are now poised to snag more high-profile American TV dates than ever.
And if you value Loeffler’s opinion, you can thank the Klitschkos for that.