There apparently is a hidden meaning in the full name of Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, breaker of bones and splinterer of spirits. The initials of the man known as GGG, as far as the hopes and dreams of most of his opponents are concerned, also stand for going … going … gone.
Or at least that’s the way Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, describes the career-shortening exercise in pain management the next designated victim, Vanes Martirosyan, is apt to endure in Saturday night’s HBO-televised ritualistic beatdown at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Although Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), a 2004 U.S. Olympian who really should not be denigrated as chopped liver, professes to be thankful for the opportunity to test himself against one of the middleweight division’s most devastating punchers ever, Sanchez believes that at some point the late fill-in for the suspended Canelo Alvarez will discover why he is anywhere from a 10-1 to 25-1 underdog to pull off the biggest sports upset since 16th-seeded UMBC shocked No. 1 overall seed Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament. And that’s only if you place a wager on Martirosyan. If you want to make any kind of profit betting on Golovkin, be prepared to put up and potentially say goodbye to a hefty pile of cash; GGG is pure chalk at odds ranging from 1-33 to 1-100.
Although the 36-year-old Golovkin’s consecutive knockout/stoppage streak ended at 23 with his unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs on March 18, 2017, followed by the controversial split draw with Alvarez on Sept. 16 of last year that most observers believed should have resulted in a GGG victory, even those who make it to the final bell apparently leave bits and pieces of themselves in the ring, some of which seemingly are never reclaimed.
“Everybody that fights Gennady has to adapt to what Gennady does,” Sanchez, during a teleconference with the media on Monday, responded when asked how the Kazakh wrecking ball might respond to any new wrinkles unveiled during the fight by Martirosyan and his trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan. “No matter what Vanes has done in the past against other fighters, he won’t be able to do that against Gennady. He will never be the same after this fight, just like none of the other fighters Gennady has ever fought were the same. Jacobs looked terrible in his last fight (a functional but hardly exhilarating 12-round unanimous decision over Maciej Sulecki this past Saturday night). Why? Because he went 12 rounds with Golovkin.
“(Martirosyan) has a very good right hand. Obviously, he’s taller (5-11½ to 5-10½) than Gennady. He’s probably a little bit faster at the beginning because he is a junior middleweight coming up. But whatever he tries to do is going to change the first time he gets hit with a shot, just like it changed against Canelo and like it changed with previous opponents that Gennady’s faced.”
There you have it. Of course, Sanchez could be doing standard trainer stuff like puffing up his guy, just as Tarverdyan tried to do by boldly stating he “knows what it takes to beat Golovkin” and had passed along the secret to Martiroysan. But talk is cheap, and all those who thought they had a winning plan have come up short against an elite middleweight whose career someday will be measured against those posted by such historically relevant 160-pounders as Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. When Sanchez speaks about an upcoming fight involving Golovkin, his words never ring hollow with false confidence.
But there is one opponent that Golovkin might not be able to continually pound into submission, and that insidious foe is the encroachment of Father Time. GGG turned 36 on April 5 and it is reasonable to assume he noted the occasion with at least some creeping sense of dread instead of cake and ice cream. Boxers, maybe more so than athletes in other sports, are forever racing against the calendar, the truly special ones trying to enhance their legacies before the natural law of diminishing returns reminds them that nothing great endures forever.
Thus is it that Golovkin, if he is still all or most of what he has been in the eight years since he won his first world title, is not so much fighting Martirosyan, whom he should dispatch with another efficient display of controlled violence, but his own ring mortality and the specter of Hopkins, whose division record of 20 consecutive successful defenses he can tie. Once he has drawn even with B-Hop, the unstated goal is for Golovkin to press on until he matches and surpasses the all-division record of 25 defenses set by the immortal heavyweight champion Joe Louis.
So, just how important to Golovkin is pulling up alongside Hopkins?
“Numbers. Only numbers,” he said, as if the expected accomplishment is no big deal. But that air of nonchalance might only be a mask as GGG also said that “My record is bigger. Stronger.”
Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, is more circumspect about what is about to happen.
“(Tying the record) is bigger for everyone else on the team, like Abel Sanchez and myself,” Loeffler allowed. “We understand the historic perspective of what Gennady has accomplished in his career, and could potentially accomplish on Saturday and if he’s successful in another title defense.”
Naysayers – hey, you know who you are – will argue that Golovkin has been the beneficiary of a comparatively shallow middleweight talent pool during his ongoing reign, and it’s a fair point. If you want to say he’d lose to several or most of all of the legends who preceded him, who’s to say? It’s all a matter of opinion. But what is not debatable is his ability to change the course of a fight with a single punch, the kind of power that can leave the guy in the other corner physically and psychologically traumatized. Even Martirosyan, who is coming in with enough drawbacks – he hasn’t fought in two years and was outpointed in two of his three most recent bouts before that long layoff – acknowledges that Golovkin’s intimidation quotient is off the charts.
“The guy’s a killer. A monster,” Martirosyan said with admiration but hardly resignation to his fate. “Most of GGG’s opponents, when they got into the ring, they had already lost because they were thinking about his power. Everybody knows he hits really hard so they got into the ring scared.
“I don’t get into the ring scared. I’m just going to do my thing and have fun … see what this man is all about.”
Should Martirosyan stick to his vow to meet Golovkin head-on in the center of the ring, it’ll be a Big Drama Show, as GGG is wont to say, right up to the point where they call for the ring doctor and maybe a stretcher. Not that Golovkin is promising a knockout, but then he really doesn’t have to, does he? Anything can happen inside the ropes, but, as he said in the matter-of-fact manner in which he might order breakfast at a Big Bear, Calif., diner, “If (Martirosyan) gives me chance, I stop him.”
Credit should be given to Golovkin and his support crew in any case for salvaging the May 5 date after Alvarez was suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for twice testing positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance. His country of origin notwithstanding, Golovkin considers himself a “Mexican-style fighter,” in tribute to Sanchez, and he did not want to have a month of training go to waste, and with it a date on a Mexican national holiday that has come to have special meaning to him. Toward that end, Loeffler had to twice switch venues, go over a laundry list of proposed opponents and make arrangements with HBO to change from a pay-per-view telecast to regular HBO. It all got done somehow, and in fairly quick order.
The only constant in the kaleidoscope of mutated circumstances is Golovkin. He is the attraction that all home run hitters are and he is not about to let up on the gas pedal now, when he has a chance to become a fighter for the ages instead of merely the moment.
“He is,” Loeffer said succinctly, “the most entertaining fighter in the sport today.”
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