Golovkin is more than OK with this plan, telling Maxboxing, “I’m ready. I know it may be difficult but it’s possible. Right now, I’m ready. I want four fights, maybe five.”
What they want to achieve is similar to the path taken last year by Leo Santa Cruz, who performed that many times in 2012 and saw his profile rise exponentially. He went from a relatively unknown prospect on the West Coast to a guy who was eventually showcased on CBS. And then you had Nonito Donaire, who boxed four times versus a solid (if not spectacular) roster of fighters and took home “Fighter of the Year” honors from many writers and publications for his activity. In an era when blue-chip prizefighters are seen no more than two or three times a year, it’s refreshing to see fighters who are actually willing to - get this - fight more often.
One of the reasons Golovkin is doing this is that perhaps he really has no choice. Right now, he is the latest boogeyman in boxing, the one marquee names pretend to not even know and ignore completely. Felix Sturm skirted this assignment for years (with the help of the WBA) and Daniel Geale gave up an opportunity to face him for a more lucrative fight versus Anthony Mundine in Australia.
Naturally, this is part of the reason why Golovkin’s willing to be flexible in terms of the weights at which he will compete. “Today, I’m 160, 161; my weight is good,” he said this past Wednesday in Big Bear where he trains with Abel Sanchez at The Summit gym. “It’s easy for me. I can make 154. So who’s ready? I’m here; I’m ready. Let’s give it a shot, junior middleweight too. I want belts. Why not? I’m ready.” And he’s willing to fight at 168 (and there was some talk of Golovkin facing Thomas Oosthuizen on this slot). “At 168, I think maybe I need two fights because I want great fights, great show, a magical show for fans. I need maybe one good fight, maybe two good fights and let’s go.”
The goal here is to make Golovkin more than just a guy who happens to catch the fancy of television executives and collect two annuities a year while performing in half-empty Indian casino ballrooms. There is an understanding here that for Golovkin to even be in the discussions to face the likes of Sergio Martinez in the future, he has to bring something to the table in terms of marketability and salability. It’s one thing to be known by the hardcore followers of the sport but real success comes from having the casual fans recognize you as a prizefighter.
There is a lot of work to be done in this regard. This will be Golovkin’s second appearance on HBO (the first came in September when he faced Grzegorz Proska, which played to low Nielsen numbers and a sparse crowd at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino) but that card was one in which Golovkin was added to it. Here, K2 is co-promoting. This is really the beginning of this campaign to make Golovkin a viable entity.
So with that said, with premium cable dates being so finite, how can they get Golovkin out there four times this year?
Loeffler explains, “Well, clearly, HBO has a strong interest in Gennady and they like the fact that he’ll fight anybody and they also like his style; he’s very exciting. At the same time, if there’s an opportunity that comes up to further showcase him here in the United States, if there was an opportunity for him to fight on network TV just for the exposure, then I think that just opens his career up to a whole different platform of fans.” There have been discussions between Loeffler and Kathy Duva about the possibility of showcasing Golovkin on a card on the NBC Sports Network.
Much like a Santa Cruz, since Golovkin doesn’t command too high of a purse, it does make it easier to facilitate activity. But Loeffler says that while HBO will be part of their plan, K2 will not be solely reliant on the network having dates for him. This January 19th date at the Theater would have taken place for Golovkin with or without them. Epix would have also been an option to broadcast it but the bottom line is they thought it was imperative to begin marketing Golovkin in the Big Apple.
“There’s a large Russian base in Los Angeles as well but New York clearly has the biggest community and we have a good relationship with Madison Square Garden,” said Loeffler, who points to the success of the Klitschko brothers with this venue. “That’s really been Gennady’s dream, to fight at ‘The Mecca of Boxing’ and with the way ticket sales are going, we can see that fans in New York have really taken to Gennady’s style and the anticipation of his next fight and that just seems like a natural fit in New York to build up a strong base. But it depends; if there is a very interesting opponent that makes sense in California or in Las Vegas, then we can come out that way. But right now, the focus is to build him up in New York and to expand from there.”
Being a ticket seller seems like such a quaint notion in today’s modern boxing industry. But how many times have you heard a marquee fighter (or his promoter) basically avoid fights against dangerous foes by using the crutch of, “Well, nobody knows who they are. They don’t sell.” While sometimes it’s a cop-out, other times, it’s absolutely valid. Making significant fights is really about a risk-to-reward ratio and too many boxers offer too much of one for almost none of the other. And this especially pertains to boxers like Chad Dawson, who somehow still gets large fees from HBO despite not being able to sell enough tickets to fill a Winnebago, finding themselves in the position where they have to drop down full weight classes and travel to other fighter’s hometowns. Despite being the light heavyweight champion at the time, Dawson knew full well the effect of this dilemma, specifically in losses to Jean Pascal and Andre Ward.
If Golovkin is who some think he is - and you can eventually “crown him” (to paraphrase Dennis Green) for him to really be in the mix of the sport’s biggest events - he has to be a viable entity in his own right. No, being on pound-for-pound lists really don’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. Being able to draw will help Golovkin get the fights he wants.
“There’s no question that helps a lot, especially when you can offset the television license fee with a large gate,” explained Loeffler, who expects something very close to a sell-out on Saturday night. “Even a casino, casinos recognize if there’s a lot of interest, especially a lot of Russian interest in Gennady, then the casino in Vegas are going to have interest too. But if we can produce or build a legitimate ticket seller in the city, in New York, then that just supplements whatever license fee we have to the ticket sales and that creates a bigger attraction, a bigger event and that will allow us to maneuver with the bigger name opponents.”
Maybe if everything breaks right, Golovkin can eventually headline at the big room at the Garden. But for now, “GGG” says, “This is history for me; I’m happy.”
In Rosado, he’s facing a fighter who got plenty of television exposure last year and eschewed a mandatory shot at the IBF junior middleweight belt (currently held by Cornelius Bundrage) to take this crack at Golovkin. He comes in on a seven-fight winning streak.
“He’s a big man; he’s taller than me,” said Golovkin of his foe. “He’s strong for junior middleweight; I don’t know for middleweight. He’s not scared. I think it’s a difficult fight. I don’t want a decision; I want a KO, of course. It’s a difficult fight for me and I respect him because he’s not scared. He’s got big balls.”
As he says this, he chuckles at this very American phrase (“I taught him that,” said Sanchez, who was listening nearby) and it’s part of the process he’s going through in acclimating to this country. Last year, Golovkin’s English was non-existent outside of saying “Hello” and “Good-bye.” But now the friendly and good-natured native of Kazakhstan, who says watching television is aiding his cause to understand our language, can do interviews in English. As for what he watches, “Every morning, news.” Later on in the day, he says “funny shows.” Golovkin says he is at the stage where he can understand what is being said but still struggles a bit in expressing himself in English. He already speaks fluent Kazahk, Russian and German.
It will remain to be seen if he’ll be a star in America. What’s clear is that he just likes being in America.
“Because y’ know, in Russia, in Europe, I am Kazahk. In America, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You can be Korean, from China, black and it doesn’t matter. You have passport, you’re American. It doesn’t matter your nationality; you’re an American citizen. I like this. I like the system. I like this life. I like these politics. I respect the American people.”
While training for fights, Golovkin stays at The Summit in Big Bear which is not just a gym but a residence that can house boxers. It has all the modern amenities and it’s a clean and private environment for fighters to prepare.
Sanchez, who built this gym several years ago with the plan on just renting it out, had actually retired from training fighters himself. But when a guy like Golovkin walks through your doors, well...things change. He says without hesitation that Golovkin is “the best fighter I’ve ever worked with.” This is coming from a guy who worked with the likes of Terry Norris and Miguel Angel Gonzalez.
And he’s completely on board with the proposed dance card for his charge.
“To tell you the truth, Tom and I have talked and I’d like to see [Golovkin] fight five times if possible. We have a fight scheduled for the 19th of January and HBO’s got another date for us in June. But I’d like for him to fight sometime in March and after the June fight, in the fall, sometime in late August, September and then maybe in December but as busy as possible because he’s not getting any younger. He is 30 years old and I’d like to move him quickly.”
Sanchez says Golovkin impresses him more and more as time goes along.
“Absolutely. Every day we work on something and just the fact he picks up things so quickly,” he explained. “He works like a horse and he wants to learn but I think he realizes his age too is going to be a factor in this.”
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