A kind of giddiness surfaces from even the most stoic people when you mention the sudden rise of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, the WBA and IBO middleweight titleholder.
In three years, the slightly boyish-looking boxer from Kazakhstan has evolved from European mish-mash to powerhouse marvel, in little more time than it takes to prepare for the Olympics.
Has there ever been a European fighter that captured the attention of the American fight public like Golovkin?
Undefeated records alone cannot guarantee the fickle boxing public will attach themselves to any prizefighter. Numerous boxers in the past can attest to that fact. It takes promotion.
K-2 Promotions has accomplished a feat not observed since the days of Tex Rickard during the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
K-2 will be co-promoting Golovkin vs. IBF titlist David Lemieux with Golden Boy Promotions on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden. HBO will televise, on pay-per-view.
It’s the very same stomping grounds where Tex Rickard propelled boxing into a major attraction, at the “Garden.” Tex knew how to bring in the large crowds to a New York City fight. K-2 has picked up the baton almost a century later to show others how it’s done.
The Los Angeles-based group K-2 Promotions did not have a television contract when Golovkin arrived with no fanfare and no entourage to speak of, except his twin brother Max Golovkin. Upon arrival GGG was introduced to Tom Loeffler of K-2 Promotions and a bond was further cemented when trainer Abel Sanchez was added to the mix.
A perfect blend of talent and promotion has formed.
“Boxing is about entertainment,” said Larry Merchant about Golovkin’s success. “He’s always trying to make something happen. He’s a kind of cerebral killer.”
Golovkin provides the source of entertainment that enables K-2, run by Loeffler, to present to television companies a vehicle to good ratings and can’t miss television viewing. So far, Loeffler has guided GGG from the dark unknown waters of anonymity to the raging bright waves of market-branding popularity.
Recently Golovkin was scooped up by Apple Watch marketers to help sell its product.
The leap to popularity and stardom by Golovkin points directly to K-2’s strategy and persistence in actual promotion. It’s a lost art. It’s one reason why several Southern California publications named Loeffler “promoter of the year” in 2013 and 2014.
It’s called hustle.
Other U.S. promotion companies have built up fan-bases featuring either Mexican, Puerto Rican or Filipino support. How do you build a fan base from someone from Kazakhstan? Most people have never heard of the East European nation that was once part of the former Soviet Union.
A week from Saturday, expect a sold out crowd of more than 20,000 ticket buyers at Madison Square Garden. When was the last time a main event featuring two non-Americans sold out the Garden?
Ed Keenan, who provides public relations for the Garden, said less than 500 tickets remain.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Keenan, who was part of many huge promotions at the Garden, including Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield 1, Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito 2. “Fans are just crazy to see him fight.”
Whether Golovkin wins, loses or draws, his success story leaves a blueprint for all promotion companies.
Ironically, Loeffler is not a self-promoter. You won’t hear braggadocio from the soft-spoken, fluent-in-German plate-setter for Golovkin’s flying circus. It’s always been about doing the job for not just Golovkin, but brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.
Golovkin’s emergence into the upper echelons of boxing as a middleweight has opened up a new dimension for K-2 Promotions. If GGG can wrap up one or two more middleweight titles, super-stardom is around the corner.
Experts are practically drooling at the prospect of a killer middleweight champion to drive the sport.
“Featherweights had their day, welterweights had their day and now it’s middleweights,” said an excited Merchant. “I want to see how it plays out.”
Four middleweight fights between world title belt holders are scheduled to take place within the year. Because of different promotion companies and television contracts it may prove a problem to match the winner of Cotto-Canelo with Golovkin or Lemieux after October 17. But arrangements can be made, said Loeffler confidently.
Can you doubt him?
Golovkin doesn’t want to talk about future fights with Lemieux standing in front of him. In his mind it’s rude and against his culture to overstep the looming fight as a mere stepping stone.
“He’s a great champion,” said Golovkin, who admires a true fighting champion who opts to hit, not run. “I think this fight is more technical to me. Right now he’s like a bull. He thinks about power.”
Golovkin seeks to short-circuit Lemieux’s power supply with his own.
“I don’t want to say,” said Golovkin, when asked how he would proceed. “Every fight is different and difficult. Of course this fight is a big step.”
Money budgeted to Golovkin for the fight far exceeds everything he’s earned so far and will go even higher should he defeat Lemieux.
Loeffler has a certain glint of excitement in his eye, much like Golovkin. It must have been the same way Tex Rickard felt when he brought Jack Dempsey to the Garden in the 1920s.
“It’s been a great ride for this fight,” Loeffler said.