Five Years In The Making - The Journey of Gennady "GGG" Golovkin
Published: September 04, 2017
In just a few short weeks the world of boxing will stand at attention to the most highly anticipated fight this year when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) faces Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs). The bout has been labeled as “Supremacy” as the winner will be labeled as the undisputed number one middleweight in the world and arguably the best fighter in the sport. The road to Canelo-GGG has been tumultuous with both men having their fair share of tough and career-defining fights in between. This match up, however, will be the light bearing moment in the career of both men for which they could very well be remembered in the history books.
For Canelo, success has been afforded to him at an early age, and the bout with Golovkin could have taken place whenever he wanted. Golovkin, on the other hand, has had a career built on focus, consistency and most importantly patience. Coming out of the amateur’s, Golovkin was one of Kazakhstan’s most prized possessions having secured a spectacular record of 345-5. When he turned to the professional ranks, he signed with the German promotional company, Universum Box Promotion. Under Universum, Golovkin was unable to land fights with the champions in the middleweight division, in particular, Felix Sturm. Golovkin left Universum in 2010 and decided to sign with K2 Promotions and even hired a new trainer in Abel Sanchez who was best known for training former Super Welterweight (154) champion, Terry Norris.
After winning the interim WBA middleweight championship in August 2010 by stopping Milton Nunez in the first round, it took another two years for boxing fans to see Golovkin in the United States.
In September 2012, Golovkin made his United States and HBO (Home Box Office) debut in Verona, New York against Grzegorz Proksa (29-4, 21 KOs). Originally he was to face Russia’s Dmitry Pirog in what would have been a title unification bout as Pirog held the WBO middleweight title at the time. Pirog pulled out with an injury and Proksa took his place.
Few debuts have been more impressive than Golovkin’s against Proksa. At 30 years old with the feeling of having lost time, Golovkin came in the bout against Proksa with something to prove. After scoring three knockdowns in the first, fourth and fifth rounds the fight was stopped in the fifth round. In stopping Proksa, Golovkin showed his punching power and his ability to go to the body consistently. The performance created a cult following for the Kazakhstani puncher that would only grow larger with each fight.
In 2012, Golovkin stepped in the ring twice. The thought behind Golovkin and his promoter K2 was to keep his name in the boxing public by keeping him active. The standard of today’s fighters is to fight about two times a year. To separate Golovkin from other fighters he would fight at least three to four times a year.
Golovkin fought four times in 2013 winning all four bouts by stoppage. He started the year by bludgeoning Philadelphia’s Gabriel Rosado (23-11, 13 KOs) in New York with a seventh round bloody stoppage. This was the first time many fans heard an interview with Golovkin and where the famous “good boy” saying came from. Two months later Golovkin fought off HBO in Monte Carlo stopping Japan's Nobuhiro Ishida (27-11-2, 11 KOs) in the third round with a right hand that is still one of his best knockouts to this day.
That summer Golovkin faced Matthew Macklin (35-6, 22 KOs) scoring a vicious third round knockout with a body shot that folded the U.K. contender. Macklin at the time was seen as the best opponent of Golovkin’s career since he had given then lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez all he could handle a few years before. For Golovkin to stop him so quickly and emphatically was impressive and made many start to believe that the Kazakhstani puncher was not only one of the better middleweights but one of, the better fighters in the sport pound for pound.
Later that fall Golovkin faced the biggest puncher of his career in New York’s Curtis Stevens (29-6, 21 KOs). The promotion of the fight with Steven’s trash talk made the fight one of the more anticipated of Golovkin’s career. The bout is best remembered for the knockdown Golovkin scored in the second round where Stevens’ reaction would be used in Internet memes for years to come. In the fight Stevens’ landed some hard punches to no avail showing that Golovkin could not only dish out punishment but take it as well. Stevens’ corner stopped the fight after eight rounds. Afterward, Golovkin once again had a classic post-fight interview that gained him, even more, fans with his famous “Are you serious?” line.
After a 2013 that saw Golovkin’s popularity double it was time to keep the momentum rolling. 2014 started off with Golovkin’s annual trek to Monte Carlo where he stopped Osumanu Adama (25-4, 18 KOs) in the seventh round having scored three knockdowns. Later that year in the summer, Golovkin moved in the big room of Madison Square Garden when he faced former middleweight champion Daniel Geale (31-5, 16 KOs).
If there is any fight that shows Golovkin’s level of intimidation, it was against Geale. The Australian fighter fought scared from the beginning and was knocked out in the third round after landing a punch of his own in the third round. Golovkin was always on the attack even while being hit. Golovkin had built a fan base on the east coast in New York, and it was now time to test the waters in the west.
In October 2014, Golovkin faced Marco Antonio Rubio (59-8-1, 51 KOs) at the famed Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. The event was a sell-out and showed Golovkin’s increased fan base being a draw in New York and California. The fight also showed Golovkin’s increasing popularity in the Hispanic community with most fans showing up to cheer the native Kazakhstani instead of Mexico’s Rubio.
Golovkin stopped Rubio quickly in the second round with a left hook that won him the interim WBC middleweight title. This would end up being the beginning of the issues between Canelo and the WBC as Canelo would win the WBC title from Miguel Cotto one year later.
Golovkin proved to be a draw on both coasts in the United States in 2014. 2015 followed the same trend as the previous two years as Golovkin started the year off fighting Martin Murray (35-4-1, 16 KOs) in Monte Carlo. Murray to this day is considered to be one of Golovkin’s best victories with his only loss at the time coming from Sergio Martinez in Argentina two years earlier.
Murray lasted longer than most of Golovkin’s opponents making it all the way to the eleventh round. Afterward, Golovkin and his team went back to the west coast in May of 2015 to headline a card at The Forum in Inglewood, California. He faced technician Willie Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6 KOs) in front of a sizeable crowd. Golovkin knocked Monroe down twice in the second round and ultimately stopped him in the sixth round. In the fourth and fifth rounds of the fight Monroe landed some hard shots on Golovkin that Golovkin would later claim was something that he allowed to happen.
Later in the year in October 2015 the popularity of Golovkin would be put to the test against then IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux (38-3, 31 KOs). At the time the bout was the fastest selling fight in the history of Madison Square Garden and would be telecast on HBO pay-per-view (PPV). The bout was between the two biggest punchers in the middleweight division, and many were expecting a war with an early round knockout.
Against Lemieux, Golovkin put on a boxing clinic utilizing his jab as a major weapon to break down and stop Lemieux in the eighth round. The event as a PPV was not the most successful having sold less than 200,000 buys, but as a live event, the fight was a success. It secured Golovkin as a staple at Madison Square Garden for the foreseeable future.
2016 was somewhat a strange year for Golovkin as he started off the year heading back to the west coast to make a mandatory defense against Dominic Wade (18-1, 12 KOs). Wade came into the fight as a huge underdog as his only notable fight was a close decision victory over an over the hill Sam Soliman. The fight played out as expected with Golovkin stopping Wade in the second round dropping him a total of three times. Once again Golovkin’s growing popularity as a live attraction was highlighted as he drew a sellout crowd with a virtual unknown.
The rest of the year there was a push by the WBC and Golovkin to make a fight with Canelo. Alvarez decided at the time it was best to drop his WBC title making Golovkin the full-time WBC champion.
The goal for Golovkin and his team was to make a name in the burgeoning U.K. market in 2016. Golovkin was originally going to face Chris Eubank Jr., but after negotiations came to a stand still, welterweight champion Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) stepped up to the plate. Many in boxing had a mixed reaction to the fight as Brook was seen as one of the best welterweights but not big enough to challenge Golovkin.
The two met in front of a sold out crowd of over 20,000 at the O2 Arena in the U.K. showcasing Golovkin’s worldwide appeal. Brook was the smaller man, but he was also the most talented fighter Golovkin had faced at that point. In the first round, Golovkin came out and immediately attacked Brook getting him against the ropes and landing left hooks to the body and head. Not one to let an outsider run him over in his home country, Brook fought back and landed some hard right hands and uppercuts in the second and third rounds to make the fight close. However, the pressure Golovkin was putting on Brook was non-stop and eventually; Brook succumb to Golovkin taking a beating in the fifth round before his corner decided they have seen Brook take enough punishment. It was found out after the fight that Brook broke his orbital bone in the fight.
In the aftermath of the Brook fight, there were critics who felt Golovkin was exposed. Golovkin and his team had set the bar high. In a bout where he stopped a fighter in the fifth round while causing a possible career ending injury to receive criticism showed that the fight with Brook was a lose-lose situation from the beginning.
Golovkin sat out the rest of 2016, as terms could not be met in time to make a fight with WBA ‘regular’ middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs). A bout was supposed to take place in December of that year but was pushed back to 2017. 2016 may have been the first year since 2012 where Golovkin fought less than three times, but it was still a financially viable year. Golovkin proved to be a world champion by selling out crowds in two different markets.
In March of this year, Golovkin faced Jacobs at Madison Square Garden on HBO PPV in what would end up being the toughest fight of Golovkin’s career. Before the bout, Golovkin was the favorite as Jacobs had been mostly inactive and knocked out in the fifth round by Dmitry Pirog years earlier. None of these factors came into play as Jacobs acquitted himself well enough for many fans to believe he did enough to win the fight. The judges awarded Golovkin a close unanimous decision with scores of 114-113 and 115-112 twice. Similar to Golovkin’s fight with Lemieux in 2015, the jab for the Kazakhstani puncher was his greatest weapon. A knockdown in the fourth round scored by Golovkin also gave him the edge on the scorecards. The fight was not a robbery in any sense, but a rematch with Jacobs in the future is something that needs to happen.
Afterward, there were talks of Golovkin facing WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in June in Kazakhstan during a World Expo. This was quickly put to rest on May 6th of this year after Canelo’s fight with Julio Cesar Chavez where the official announcement of Canelo-GGG was made.
The culmination of a journey for Golovkin will come to its conclusion when he steps in the ring with Canelo on September 16th. When the fight was first talked about in 2015, Golovkin was the heavy favorite, but with his performances against Jacobs and Brook being unimpressive to some the fight is now 50-50 with either man capable of pulling off the victory.
Both men have much to prove against each other with Canelo having a chance with a victory to cement himself as the leader of this era. Golovkin’s journey to Canelo is about making up what he feels is lost time to find the fight that will challenge him to the fullest. Golovkin has the chance to prove himself as the best middleweight since Bernard Hopkins. To some, the journey is just as important as the destination. The lessons learned on the way to your final goal can shape whom you become. Golovkin and Canelo both know who they are as many pugilists do before they face each other on September 16th. Whom they become afterward may be shaped by the journey that got them there.
(Feature Photo: Chivas Regal US)