More knockouts and more exposure.
Unbeaten middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and the men directing his career
understand the uphill challenges to maximizing the American boxing fans’ interest in a fighter from Kazakhstan whom the sport’s biggest names are avoiding.
Rather than sulk or escape to safer overseas paydays, Golovkin (30-0, 27 knockouts) will fight in Los Angeles County for the first time on Oct. 18 when he defends his World Boxing Assn. belt at StubHub Center in Carson against veteran Marco Antonio Rubio (59-6-1, 51 KOs), who hasn’t been knocked down since 2004.
Golovkin, over breakfast Tuesday with The Times at an L.A. landmark, The Original Pantry restaurant downtown, smiled at the challenge of knocking out the taller, older challenger from Mexico.
“This is a big step for me … first fight in L.A., biggest name in the division from Mexico,” Golovkin said. “Good boxer, smart, not scared. It’s a good fight for me.”
Golovkin’s Big Bear-based trainer, Abel Sanchez, has boasted no 160-pounder can last 12 rounds with his fighter, who pounds the body like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. used to and possesses knockout power in both hands. Golovkin will carry a 17-fight streak of KOs to the Rubio fight, including a third-round TKO of former middleweight champion Daniel Geale last month in Madison Square Garden.
While he awaits bigger fights such as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez or Miguel Cotto in the second half of 2015, with popular European fighter Carl Froch or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. also possible earlier in the year, Golovkin is biding his time by cooperating in the push to increase his brand awareness.
“My work is in the ring and in training camp … middleweight division is no problem to me,”
Golovkin said. “I understand my situation. Hard work every day is my life. Outside the ring, I leave that to [promoter Tom Loeffler].”
Already fluent in three languages, Golovkin has made big strides in English, answering nearly every question himself Tuesday without any translation from his manager, even initiating conversation and embracing American customs.
After first balking at a suggestion to sample The Pantry’s delicious pan-fried potatoes, a publicist interrupting to note, “He’s starting training for a world title fight,” Golovkin later saw a plate, and said, “Give me some of those.”
He said he’s willing to take on everyone from his “dream fight” against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at 154 pounds to another unbeaten, Andre Ward, at 168 pounds.
Golovkin also recently gained his green card for U.S. residency and said he’s planning to move his wife, Alina, and 5-year-old son, Vadim, to make Southern California the family home in the near future.
Earlier this year, he suffered the anguish of the death of his father, Gennady, due to a heart attack at age 67 in February, which was followed by the ritual 40-day mourning period that led him to cancel a fight in April.
“My dad was never sick … he just went outside to speak to a friend and … ,” Golovkin said.
The fighter's inability to finish the story speaks to the ongoing hurt over the loss. He said he came to terms during the layoff, however, about the need to return to his career.
“I fight for him, in his honor,” Golovkin said. “Boxing is my life, it’s how I support my family.”
Loeffler said HBO’s backing of Golovkin is also significant, not only by getting him publicity at mainstream events like an audience with the “Game of Thrones” cast at Monday’s Emmy Awards, but by delivering more lucrative licensing fees to increase purses and sway an opponent’s interest to a Golovkin bout.
“We’ve brought him from the media capital of the world to the entertainment capital of the world … the reason HBO is behind him is that he wants to stay active, that he’ll fight anybody and is dedicated … he’s proven himself as the blue-chip star you can invest in,” Loeffler said.
“His fights are broadcast in more than 100 countries, and his style – the knockouts – translate to everywhere in the world. We think with Gennady, we’re capable of bringing back the idea of a true world champion. The way he’s performing, it’s having the Mike Tyson effect on others, but we believe he’s right on schedule to where we want him to be.
“Two years ago, he was an unknown. Now, he’s in the top five in most pound-for-pound lists. The West Coast fight is part of our strategy … step by step, we believe 2015 will be a breakout year.”
Said Golovkin: “I just need some more time.”