Trainer Sanchez (middle) says Golovkin is the best he's trained, and he's trained some real good ones.
Thousands of miles from home Gennady Golovkin trains in the green pine tree-filled mountains of Big Bear Lake. He leaves behind a wife and child nine months out of the year but the sacrifice doesn’t stop him from smiling.
“He’s always smiling,” says Tom Loeffler, who manages Golovkin.
Aside from walking alongside the lake near his training camp, Golovkin trains, trains and trains. It’s one of the reasons he holds the WBA middleweight title.
The amiable Golovkin (23-0, 20 KOs) defends the WBA title against Poland’s left-handed knockout artist Grzegorz Proksa (28-1, 21 KOs) on Saturday, Sept. 1. Their fight takes place at Turning Point Resort and Casino in Verona, New York. HBO will televise.
Several years have passed since Golovkin arrived in Big Bear Lake, a mountain resort famous for skiing and for the past two decades for training prizefighters.
“I’ve been here for about three years,” says Golovkin. “I like it. No problems.”
It’s the opponents that face problems when standing on the other side of the corner in a boxing ring. Golovkin’s past 10 opponents have been unable to finish on their feet.
Golovkin, 30, hasn’t fought an opponent with a losing record since his first year as a professional in 2006. Since 2008, the always smiling world titleholder has knocked out every opponent that he’s faced. Now he faces a slick fighting Proksa.
“He’s a very good fighter,” said the always smiling Golovkin. “He fights like Sergio Martinez.”
Ironically, Martinez is the WBC middleweight world titleholder scheduled to fight Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Golovkin’s dream is to fight Martinez in a middleweight championship showdown.
“Yes, this is my dream,” says Golovkin with a broad smile.
One main reason Golovkin has not fought the stars of the middleweight division is that prizefighters like Chavez, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Antonio Margarito and others have sparred with the smiling fighter from Kazakhstan. They know he’s talented.
There’s too much risk without reward because of Golovkin’s low profile. That should change after Saturday when HBO televises the championship bout.
Southern California’s Abel Sanchez has been working with Golovkin for the past three years and was chosen because of his vast experience in developing world champions.
“We had to change his East European straight up style to a more crowd pleasing pro style when he first came here,” said Sanchez. “He’s made the transition easily. It was helpful that he’s always been a knockout puncher. He hits really hard and has become what I call a Mexican stalker.”
Perhaps the most difficult obstacle for Golovkin is convincing fans that he really is a prizefighter. He looks more like an usher at Disneyland than a dangerous puncher.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great boxers and a lot of fighters with power,” said Sanchez. “Gennady has God-given power from birth.”
If Golovkin has a secret weapon it’s his ever-present grin and boyish looks. I’m sure opponents take a look at him and rub their hands in glee thinking an easy victory is at hand. Then the Kazakstani lets loose with his pile drivers and departs them from their senses.
Sanchez, who has trained former champions like Lupe Aquino, Terry Norris and Miguel Angel Gonzalez, says Golovkin may be the best of all.
“He trains and trains,” says Sanchez. “And when he’s not training he sleeps. He’ll sleep all day.”
Loeffler believes the jovial killer puncher believes that America will take notice.
“He really wants to be a star over here,” said Loeffler, who moved Golovkin from Europe to the United States in 2009. “I really believe he can make it. He has a good boxing style and he’s really a likeable guy.”
Golovkin estimates that he spends three months out of the year with his family. But it’s a sacrifice he makes willingly to attain stardom.
“This is a dream to fight in America,” says Golovkin. “I wanted to come here.”
All of his life he’s idolized the great middleweights in history like Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard. He even likes Sergio Martinez.
“My dream is to fight Sergio Martinez,” he says.
Ukraine’s Dzinziruk (37-1, 24 KOs) is another prizefighter from Eastern Europe now training in Big Bear Lake. Though boxing statistics list him at six-feet in height, he’s easily two inches taller.
Dzinziruk faces undefeated Jonathan Gonzalez (15-0, 13 KOs) in the semi-main event on Sept. 1 in Verona, New York. The fight will be televised by HBO.
The lithe prizefighter intends to show boxing fans that his loss against WBC middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez was just a blemish and nothing more.
“I feel more comfortable fighting at 154 pounds,” said Dzinziruk, who lost to Martinez at 160 pounds by knockout on March 12, 2012. “I’m really ready to go out there.”
Dzinziruk says America could discover that boxing is a big sport in Eastern Europe.
“In Ukraine, after soccer, boxing is big,” Dzinziruk said.
Fights on television
Sat. HBO, 9:45 p.m., Gennady Golovkin (23-0) vs. Grzegorz Proksa (28-1).
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?