NEW YORK – The fastest-rising star in boxing has a nickname, “Triple G,” that would seem simple enough to figure out. The star’s full name is, after all, Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin. He is a 32-year-old knockout artist who would appear to be a man for all seasons, and apparently all regions, a world traveler who was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, now resides in Stuttgart, Germany, trains in Big Bear, Calif., and is becoming one of the hottest sports tickets in this international media capital since Derek Jeter was a kid shortstop for the Yankees and Madison Square Garden was still the mecca of boxing.
But to hear Golovkin’s promoter tell it, in the aftermath of GGG’s latest demolition derby, that nickname could just as well stand for Good and Galloping toward Great. Even though Golovkin stepped inside the Garden’s hallowed ring as a 4-to-1 favorite over Australia’s Daniel Geale, who came in as a reasonably well-regarded two-time former alphabet champion in the middleweight division, the comparative ease with which the WBO/IBO 160-pound titlist won – on a third-round technical knockout, the takeout shot coming on a crackling counter right hand to the jaw a split-second after Geale had landed a big right of his own – had superlatives flowing like wine at an ancient Roman bacchanal.
“We don’t think there’s anyone in the middleweight division that can stand up to Gennady’s power,” pronounced K2 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler, who suggested the fast-filling Golovkin bandwagon was reminiscent of the heady rise of another dangerous puncher from an earlier era.
“It’s kind of the Mike Tyson effect here in America that Gennady’s bringing to the middleweight division,” Loeffler said of Golovkin, who smiles a lot more than Iron Mike back did during his snarling, baddest-man-on-the-planet heyday. But regardless of his postfight disposition, it has been a rapid and remarkable transformation for Golovkin, of whom many Americans knew little, if anything, until he decided to come to this country two years ago to see if the streets really were paved with gold and dream fulfillment was indeed possible for someone who dared to think big and had the will and the wallop to back it up.
Golovkin’s exclamation-point victory, his 18th consecutive victory inside the distance, seemed all the more electrifying in comparison to the co-featured bout of the HBO-televised doubleheader, a WBC heavyweight eliminator pitting Philadelphia’s Bryant “By-By” Jennings against Cuba expatriate and Ireland-based Mike Perez. Jennings (19-0, 12 KOs) won a split decision that would have ended in a draw had not referee Harvey Dock, who had issued multiple warnings to Perez, deducted a point from him in the 12th round for hitting on the break. With the win, Jennings is guaranteed first dibs on the winner of a yet-unscheduled bout between WBC champ Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) and Deontay Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs).
“It was a very technical fight,” Jennings said. “(Perez) wouldn’t trade with me. I wanted him to stand in there and fight. I was expecting the inside pressure of Mike Perez. It didn’t happen.”
There was no such hesitancy to engage on the part of Geale (30-3, 16 KOs), who appeared to understand that Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) – who was 345-5 during a storied amateur career – was too adept at cutting off the ring for the challenger to successfully play keepaway for 12 rounds. Geale was determined to meet GGG’s fire with a few flames of his own, and may he who got there first and hardest have his hand raised at the bout’s conclusion, whenever it came.
Geale, who went down in the first round (after tripping on a camera that the photographer had extended too far onto the ring apron) and again, legitimately, in the second after being on the wrong end of a left hook to the body and a right hand upstairs, did get there first in the climactic third stanza. His right hand landed, and with some oomph behind it, to Golovkin’s left temple, which gave the Aussie a mere nanosecond of exultation before GGG’s counter right landed with the percussive force of a runaway tractor-trailer. Even though Geale beat the count, his readiness to fight on, or lack of it, did not satisfy referee Michael Ortega, who waved his arms at the 2-minute, 47-second mark.
“I fought a guy everybody said had immense power,” Geale allowed. “He caught me with a good shot. Obviously, I’m very disappointed. I had a pretty good game plan going out there. Things were going (according) to plan, to some extent, but I guess when you make a mistake you have to pay the penalty.
“He definitely is a guy that’s going to be tough to beat. I’m not sure there’s too many guys out there that are going to give him much of a run.”
Someone asked the 33-year-old Geale, who has been boxing since he was nine, if Golovkin was the most devastating hitter he’d ever faced.
“Is he the hardest puncher? He’d be up there for sure,” Geale replied. “I’ve been hit by a lot of people. It’s hard to remember every single one. But I was expecting power. He’s a strong guy. Golovkin’s the type of guy that’s pretty well-rounded. He’s got good footwork. He has great timing, which means he’s going to have great power as well.”
For his part, Golovkin seemed pleased with himself. OK, so he didn’t follow the instructions of his trainer, Abel Sanchez, as assiduously as he might have. Sanchez kept hectoring Golovkin to mix up his attack, to go to the body more, and not to head-hunt so much. But, Sanchez said, “he was hell-bent on trying to knock him out early and he wasn’t listening.”
An unmarked Golovkin, flashing those pearly whites, said he was there to give the enthusiastic and pro-GGG crowd – the announced attendance was 8,572, in an arena scaled for a capacity of 9,000 or so – what it came to see.
“Not big surprise,” Golovkin said of the deepening love affair U.S. audiences have with him. “I think my fans, and all people who understand boxing, like my style. Is like Mexican style. Just fight. Is not boxing, just fight. I think people love this style. Is very good for me. For everybody.”
That simple declaration, as much as anything, explains why Golovkin, who has yet to appear in a pay-per-view bout, is being moved at a steady pace toward that elusive nirvana known as superstardom. He is the leading man of his personal Big Bang Theory, eager to swap punches with anyone in and around his weight class who has a heavy reputation and the gumption to test himself in the crucible of the squared circle. Golvokin’s expressed desire to face all comers is a refreshing change for frustrated aficionados of the sport who have tired of the circle dance involving Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, as well as others on either side of the roped-off curtain separating HBO- and Showtime-affiliated fighters.
What Golovkin wants – and the sooner the better – is unification matchups and the sort of star turns that can turn a visitor from a far-off land into America’s adopted sweetheart. Sanchez, who is Mexican-American, has a hankering to put in GGG against high-profile Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KOs), but Loeffler’s first priority is a likely future Hall of Famer, newly crowned WBC middleweight champ Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs), who has fought in New York 11 times and is box-office certainty in the Big Apple. Also on the radar screen are the other alphabet middleweight champs, the IBF’s Sam Solimon (44-11, 18 KOs) and the WBO’s Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs). Down at 154 pounds is super welterweight Canelo Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) and up at 168 are WBA champ Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) and WBA/IBF titlist Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs). If you’re confused by Ward and Froch both holding versions of the WBA crown, well, join the club.
“Gennady wants to prove that he’s the best middleweight champion,” Loeffler said. “The only way to do that is to fight the other champions. But we can’t force anyone to get in the ring. We saw that with the (proposed) Chavez fight. We agreed to a lot of different conditions to get the Chavez fight, and it didn’t happen.
“Cotto is at the top of our list right now. Chavez is at the top of Abel’s list. I think a fight between Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin at the big arena here at Madison Square Garden is the biggest fight that can be made right now in New York City.”
And if securing desirable dates in the fall and winter isn’t possible because of the Garden’s bookings of Knicks and Rangers games, there’s always Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“It was my prediction before the fight, and I stand by it, that this will be the highest-rated boxing show of any in America,” Loeffler said. “That’s a tribute to somebody from Kazakhstan, living in Germany, training in Big Bear, who’s been here less than two years. It’s the excitement he brings to the ring and fans seeing that he’s willing to fight anyone.”
So the hype drum for Golovkin continues to be banged with increasing enthusiasm. Sanchez, throwing caution to the wind, has gone so far as to compare GGG to such legendary fighters as Sugar Ray Robinson, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. It is an audacious leap of faith on Sanchez’s part and, until Golovkin fights and defeats as many of today’s elite practitioners of the pugilistic arts as is logistically possible, such comments are at best imprudent. Golovkin hasn’t even done enough yet to be compared with many of the middleweight champions whose last name begins with G, a select group that includes the likes of Harry Greb, Rocky Graziano, Joey Giardello and Emile Griffith, although he probably rates higher than Ceferino Garcia and Otis Grant.
But excitement and hope are where you find it, and fight fans desperate to identify new stars are looking to Golovkin and WBO light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), the “Krusher from Russia” who defends his title against Australia’s Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) on Aug. 2 at the Revel in Atlantic City, as candidates to fill that void.
At the very least, Golovkin is doing much to erase the negative image of his homeland that stems from the hilarious but cruel 2006 mockumentary, “Borat: Cultural Leanings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which starred British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a hapless journalist from a third-world sty. It remains to be seen whether GGG can knock Cotto or Canelo or Chavez into the ringside seats, but the guess here is that Cohen had best stay out of this very real Kazakh’s punching range.
Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?