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Azad Championship Report - Golovkin Builds His Case

(Photo © Sumio Yamada)
(Photo © Sumio Yamada)


There are those who believe Gennady Golovkin is the most dangerous middleweight in the world. They go so far as to state that he is currently the best 160-pounder period (with all due respect to the hobbled consensus champion Sergio Martinez). You talk to various fighters who have been in camp with him and assorted trainers and they speak of him in almost mythical terms. But as you look at his actual résumé, well, it’s a bit lacking.
 
For as vaunted as he’s supposed to be, you look up his record on BoxRec.com and you see someone who, in his last six bouts, has taken on the likes of: Kassim Ouma, Lajuan Simon, Makoto Fuchigami, Grzegorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado and Nobuhiro Ishida.

Yeah, not exactly like Marvelous Marvin Hagler facing the likes of Bennie Briscoe, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Willie Monroe in Philly while he built his case as the uncrowned middleweight champion. But this Saturday night at the Foxwood Resorts, Golovkin’s match-up against the respected Matthew Macklin (HBO 9:45 p.m., ET/PT) is supposed to help further his case and legitimize his supporters’ claim.
 
“I think he’s the best opponent for me,” said Golovkin, a couple of weeks ago in Big Bear. “Why? Because he’s got the same speed, same size, I think, the same power. He’s good athlete. It’s a difficult fight.”
 
Macklin is a heavy underdog but he is a legitimate middleweight; most pundits have him in their top 10. In recent years, he took both Felix Sturm and Martinez to the brink in middleweight title fights. Many believe he did enough to wrest the WBA belt from Sturm in Germany but came up on the short end of a disputed decision. In his next fight, he scored a knockdown of Martinez and built a lead into the middle rounds before getting stopped by “Maravilla” in the 11th.
 
How “GGG” fares against Macklin will be gauged versus these results. But Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, doesn’t necessarily think this is their sternest test to date. “Not as far as I’m concerned. I think as far as the boxing community is concerned, that’s the perception. I don’t think it’s the toughest fight that that we’ve had. I want to say that Proksa was tougher - but not because Proksa was a tougher guy - the situation that it was in and the style, left-hander, a mover, first time on HBO, this guys trying to press; Gennady’s trying to press and do things he’s not accustomed to.
 
“So because of that, I think that was a tougher fight.”
 
Since that introduction to the American audience last Labor Day weekend, Golovkin and his handlers have tried in vain to get a marquee middleweight in the ring with them. And as his hype has grown, a similar backlash has developed from those who believe he’s simply getting too much credit for not accomplishing all that much.
 
Both sides might have a point.
 
Yes, Golovkin just might be the best fighter in this division.
 
But his actual accomplishments to this juncture don’t merit such accolades.
 
“It’s not my fault,” pleads Golovkin, when asked about his inability to land more significant fights prior to Macklin. “I’m open for everybody. I want to fight everybody, OK? But I’m working with HBO and my promoters. I don’t know about Golden Boy and Peter Quillin with Showtime.”
 
Yes, Golovkin is well aware of the boxing politics that currently exist. But beyond that, it takes two willing participants to make a fight and right now, to his fellow beltholders and other respected middleweights, Golovkin is that wrong mix of high risk and relatively low reward. Yet to some, those are just excuses of an overrated fighter whose legend is as debated as the presence of Sasquatch.
 
When you ask Sanchez if this perception bothers him, he answers, “Actually very little. It doesn’t bother me because everyone’s got an opinion but those same guys that are talking don’t understand the economics and the method to this business. Just because Gennady is calling somebody out or somebody wants Gennady to fight him, maybe that promoter or manager or trainer doesn’t want [their fighter] in there with [Golovkin]. So it’s not really up to the fans; it’s up to the management. It’s up to HBO. It’s up to whoever is going to buy the fights. We can keep calling everybody out but it doesn’t matter.”
 
In the meantime, in place of perhaps that big fight, K2 Promotions set out with a plan based on quantity: getting Golovkin out there as much as possible and to expose him to the public early and often. The goal was for him to perform up to five times in 2013 (which meant not just relying on HBO license fees to fund this career).
 
“We’re definitely on track,” said K2’s managing director, Tom Loeffler, who has worked tirelessly on his client’s behalf.” After the splash Golovkin made on HBO against Proksa, then he followed it up with Rosado - we just had the HBO special that came out. It kinda showed a lot of the behind-the-scenes and it really shows the boxing fans a little bit of what happens in terms of his character and what he does when he’s not fighting in the ring (more on that later).”
 
Loeffler continued, “With the Ishida fight, we couldn’t predict a knockout like that. We knew Gennady was a lot stronger than him but a third-round knockout like that in spectacular fashion, knocking him through the ropes, Prince Albert is there and Princess Charlene [of Monaco] and it’s in this phenomenal setting in a casino in Monte Carlo. That was a great experience. This fight with Macklin has just really taken up a life of its own. Gennady has just really created a huge following and now that he has someone in Macklin that people consider a top middleweight, especially fighting Sergio Martinez and having the fight with Felix Sturm, that’s given him a lot of credibility and now fighting Gennady, it’s really something to look forward to.
 
“So that will be three fights [in 2013 by] June and we’re definitely looking forward to having two more fights.”
 
Going back to last May, this will be Golovkin’s fifth fight, which makes him as active as any 12-round boxer in the world - something he enjoys. “For me, I feel right now it’s great,” says Golovkin, 31. “I feel my power. I feel it’s my time. Remember, Mike Tyson, he was fighting every second week, just every month. Why not? I want to do that too.”
 
HBO’s “2 Days” on Golovkin detailed how that assignment versus Rosado was nearly canceled as Golovkin caught a case of the flu when he landed in New York in mid-January. But as they say, the show must go on. And for an ambitious boxer like him, the show had to go on.
 
“My body, my nose, just everything, three days; I have temperature,” recalled Golovkin, who put everything aside to score a seventh round stoppage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. “My focus and my concentration, I just wanted to work. It’s my work; it’s my life. Just get through it.”
 
But for a day or two, this fight was in peril.
 
 
“Tom and I were walking back from a workout on Thursday evening and Tom got on the phone with Melvina Lathan (head of the NYSAC) and told her that we - after discussing it with me - had decided that we were going to take it day-by-day and to make Melvina aware that the fight might not go off. Because as that point, he calls Max [Golovkin’s brother] and his managers to his room. He couldn’t breathe. His throat was completely shut. So it was close, very close.”

Perhaps other legitimate stars like a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao could afford to postpone a fight. They always know another date will be awaiting them but a guy like Golovkin, well, he couldn’t afford to halt this growing momentum.

“Absolutely,” agreed Loeffler. “We’d never do anything to jeopardize Gennady’s health or put him in a situation where it’s not good for him but once he woke up Saturday morning, he said he woke up from a dream where he saw a doctor who said he was better and he just felt a lot better and after that conversation in the morning, it gave me a whole better feeling. But you’re in a tough position there because if you’re an established fighter and you’re a draw, then it gives you a little more flexibility and you can be a little more cautious. That was our second time on HBO. We really pushed to have that fight at the Garden.

“That came true. That was one of Gennady’s dreams and he had a lot of fans coming to that fight and so to have to cancel a fight like that last minute would be really detrimental to someone’s career.”

And in light of the circumstances, he performed as well as can be expected.

“In the corner, he kept saying, ‘Coach, I’m looking for a perfect shot,’ just to get outta there,” recalled Sanchez. He never found that perfect punch but he turned Rosado into a bloody mess. “Rosado was brave and Rosado hung in there but I’d say Gennady was 70 percent.”

So the quest continues for this “good boy” from Kazakhstan, who aims and fires like he has a howitzer and grins like Alfred E. Neuman. The hope is that a definitive victory over Macklin can further strengthen his claims and change the dynamic to a point where Golovkin can start getting the fights he has long yearned for.

“I think so, absolutely. I think the Macklin fight, the reason why HBO was pushing that fight so hard was because that’s the type of fight that’s going to get Gennady over the hump. Now, he’s a known commodity in boxing and if he performs the way we expect him to against Macklin, I think that will get him to the point where he is going to be a big draw. He sold a lot of tickets in New York for the Rosado fight and with Macklin, it’ll give him that much more credibility,” Loeffler states.

But first thing first, Macklin will have a lot to say about this on Saturday night.

“I respect him,” says Golovkin, who has a career record of 26-0 with 23 stoppages. “First, because he’s a good man; he’s a good athlete. I saw the fight with Sergio Martinez, with Felix Sturm. For me, [Macklin] beat him. All the time, he’s working, a lot of punches. For me, it’s a very close fight with Sergio till the last few rounds. It was a very close fight. I remember the last fight [with Joachim Alcine]; it was easy for [Macklin]. He understands the situation because the next step is much better.

“It’s going to be tough.”

SHOWTIME

It was a mixed bag this past weekend in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center where Showtime and Golden Boy presented a tripleheader with varying levels of entertainment and absurdity. If it were a western, it would be “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

To call the fight between Sakio Bika and Marco Antonio Periban skillless would be an affront to fighters who lack skill. Bika vs. Periban wasn’t so much a professional prizefight but a barroom brawl in the late hours after both patrons each consumed a bottle of Patron in the ensuing hours. But what it lacked in technical precision, it made up for in entertainment value. There’s still something about two angry men angrily hurling leather that can make up for the lack of fundamentals.

And the fight ended with both Bika and Periban bringing the crowd to its feet as they tried tearing each other’s heads off in the last three minutes with haymakers that seemed to start from another borough. It’s a good thing neither guy was particularly good nor accurate or someone could’ve really gotten hurt there.

Eventually, Bika earned the nod and won the vacant WBC super middleweight title (which I’m sure will outrage certain people).

As for the heavyweight rematch between Johnathon Banks and Seth Mitchell, the less said, the better. Save for a few moments, it was an absolute bore. And despite coming in with a KO win over the former Michigan State linebacker, Banks fought remarkably tepid and devoid of passion, allowing Mitchell a stay of execution as a relevant heavyweight. “Mayhem” simply outworked and outboxed Banks over 12 dreary stanzas.

Now, onto the main event of this night, I give Paulie Malignaggi a lot of credit. Coming into this contest, I gave the “Magic Man” almost no chance of being remotely competitive with Adrien Broner. But there he was for much of the night, troubling “The Problem” with his steady jab and movement. At the end of the night, I had Broner winning in the 8-4/7-5 range (due to his heavier, more damaging shots) but I think Paulie certainly acquitted himself very well - much better than those 15-1 odds suggested he would.

That’s when the “fun” began as Broner and Malignaggi had memorable interviews with Jim Grey that were alternately fun, profane and downright bizarre. Broner, once again made mention of the lovely “Jessica” - who seemed to have no problems being used as a pawn in the promotion of this bout between the two participants. If it weren’t so ridiculous, some would have called it misogynistic. But there she was, this “sidepiece,” actually being interviewed by the media. Yeah, I don’t know if that makes me want to laugh or cry.

Then Malignaggi, who wasn’t shy about expressing his thoughts throughout the week on the politics of this business, went on a tirade about how the sport in many ways, if not rigged, is certainly influenced for the favored few - including those who are under the advisement of Al Haymon. He made some points that are hard to disagree with, no doubt. But it has to be pointed out that Malignaggi was the recipient of such influence last October when he was fortunate to escape with the WBA welterweight title against Pablo Cesar Cano.

Yeah, another fun night in boxing (and on Twitter). There’s really nothing like it.

FINAL FLURRIES

This is for entertainment purposes only but my guy, JP, says that Golovkin was originally a six-to-one favorite but has now been bet up to 11-to-1....Sadam “World Kid” Ali has signed on with Golden Boy Promotions...Broner says he will let the fans decide who he fights next? Well, the consensus on Twitter seemed to be the likes of Marcos Maidana or Lucas Matthysse. Of course, this means we’ll get Shane Mosley...“French Montana” remind me never to buy or download one of his albums. Not exactly Rakim or Nas, that guy...Yes, I will be traveling east to see Golovkin-Macklin from the Foxwoods...Also on that HBO card will be Willie Nelson-Luciano Cuello and Thomas Oosthuizen-Brandon Gonzalez...Are the Pittsburgh Pirates for real?...Remember when ESPN had to take “Playmakers” off the air at the behest of the NFL? Well, isn’t this Aaron Hernandez situation like an episode of that short-lived program?...

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