Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez said little, but their words were similar Wednesday when they rose behind the microphone at their final pre-fight news conference.
“I don’t want to talk too much,” Golovkin said, to which a Spanish-speaking Alvarez followed, “You know me, I don’t like to talk a lot.”
In the aftermath of the trash talk that carried the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor novelty boxing match to more than 4 million pay-per-view buys, efforts to generate widespread appeal for Golovkin and Alvarez’s compelling middleweight championship are restricted.
The barrier is language.
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (37-0, 33 knockouts) is an unbeaten, three-belt champion seeking his 24th knockout in 25 fights and a 19th consecutive middleweight title victory. But he doesn’t understand English fluently and, with cameras and recorders pointed in his face, typically limits his answers to short or repeated statements.
Mexico’s Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) is so fluent that he frequently visits English-language movie theaters near his San Diego training home, and understands the content completely.
He’s agreed in a few interviews to answer questions in English and has spoken smoothly in perfect grammar.
Yet, he recently declined to repeat that and has leaned on Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Roberto Diaz to translate his answers.
His charisma and machismo still come across when repeated by his interpreter.
“I’d rather hear Canelo’s words interpreted at the news conference than hear Golovkin say three words,” said Monica Mendez, vice president of operations at Alvarez’s promotional company.
Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, became a mainstream sports star thanks to his fighting skill and bilingual ability, and he’s been urging Alvarez to speak more English.
“I don’t know how many Rosetta Stones we bought for him already, but quite a few,” De La Hoya said. “He would connect with America. If that fan hears you speak English and make the effort … it goes a long way.”
Alvarez stars in a national Tecate ad, but his English words are few and Sylvester Stallone was needed as a co-star. Manny Pacquiao, in contrast, has added to the promotional weight of his bouts by singing American love songs on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
“You can go out there and speak to corporate America,” De La Hoya said. “You can go on these shows and speak English. It just adds an extra value to who you are. It’s very, very important.”
Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez has spent hours talking to reporters this week, providing the best quotes about the fight, but Sanchez wishes his fighter was the one delivering the sound bites.
“I think it is important for them to be here, not me,” Sanchez said. “It is unfortunate … but it is their choice. It is the way they are. They are quiet.”
Sanchez forbids the use of Russian in his Big Bear training camp, where Golovkin has his twin brother, Max, and Russian cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev near him frequently.
“I try every day to make sure that I don’t hear Russian in my gym,” Sanchez said. “I try every day to make sure that they talk the [English] language. I ask them questions about stupid things — about cars, their families, Gennady’s first girlfriend — just so he can talk to me.”
Though neither fighter is good at promoting the fight verbally, the promotion now appears pleased to reach 1.5 million pay-per-view buys — less than the 2.2 million who paid for Alvarez’s bout four years ago versus Mayweather.
“He understands [English] completely, 100%,” De La Hoya said. “And he can actually speak it. He is just embarrassed. He is embarrassed about how he sounds.”
That same perfection makes Alvarez a world-class fighter. De La Hoya hopes the 27-year-old will soon accept living with some slips of the tongue.
“You can see the qualities,” De La Hoya said. “You can see the charisma. Just the way he looks, it draws you in. The fact he can fight. You have all those ingredients put together. You have a star that can only grow.”
Golovkin went as far as to apologize to reporters about his language lapses Wednesday.
“Excuse me for my English,” he said. “I promise I’m going to school with my son next time. I don’t have time – thanks [to Sanchez]. He close my gym like a jail — I can’t move.”
Golovkin said his English is “not 100%, but you understand me, my emotion....
“If you want more, bring a translator.”
Main event: Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) vs. Canelo Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs); Golovkin defending his World Boxing Assn., World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation middleweight belts
When: Saturday 5 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
TV: HBO pay-per-view, $79.95.
Undercard: Joseph Diaz Jr. (24-0, 13 KOs), South El Monte, vs. Rafael Rivera (25-0-2, 16 KOs), Tijuana, featherweights; Randy Caballero (24-0, 14 KOs), Coachella, vs. Diego De La Hoya (19-0, nine KOs), Mexico, super-bantamweights; Ryan Martin (19-0, 11 KOs), Chattanooga, Tenn., vs. Francisco Rojo (20-2, 12 KOs), Mexico, lightweights