The pot of gold at the end of boxing’s rainbow settled comfortably into the couch in his hotel suite, on the 61st floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort.
It was Friday morning and this was middleweight champion Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, Triple G. There was the smile, the ever-present personality light bulb that has given him a special link to boxing fans, those who want more than punches and knockouts.
Those come easy. So does the smile. The now-famed Triple G is like the old WNBA commercial. He’s “got next” in the world of boxing.
Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico will meet here Saturday night in what boxing calls a mega-fight. If the chanting, scrumming crowd that swarmed the weigh-in Friday was any measure, boxing has the right label on this one.
Cotto and Alvarez are great fighters, both from boxing hotbeds. Both like to brawl and give fans their money’s worth. This bout should be special.
It also, if you strip it down dispassionately, is merely an audition.
Golovkin is here to watch, to absorb the Las Vegas fight scene. He says he is a boxing fan like everybody else.
“It should be, for me, a very interesting fight,” he says.
He stops to sign an autograph or two as he walks through the casino. He poses for pictures with fans who recognize him. More and more do.
He says the fight interests him more from the Cotto side.
“They are both very good fighters,” he says. “But I know Canelo, what he does. With Cotto and Freddie [new trainer Freddie Roach], I want to see what is different.”
The next step, as all things in boxing, is speculative and complicated. If Cotto wins, Golovkin automatically moves from WBC interim middleweight champion to the WBC middleweight champion. He inherits that because Cotto gave it up, regardless of the outcome against Alvarez, by refusing to pay the WBC sanctioning fee of $300,000. Golovkin holds three other middleweight titles.
A Cotto victory would be problematic to a Triple-G matchup, anyway. Roach dislikes the size disadvantage Cotto would face against Golovkin and might balk.
Alvarez has no legitimate out, even if he wanted one. And even if strolling into a boxing ring to fight Golovkin, with a 34-0 record and 31 knockouts, is not immediately appealing. A victory will make Alvarez the WBC champion. His mandatory defense is the interim champion, Golovkin.
WBC titles are the pride of Mexico. It is the home of the sanctioning group. The WBC title was long and proudly held by legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. There is little chance that Alvarez would walk into WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman’s Mexico City office and hand that belt back.
So if Alvarez wins, it is game on. Brace for it, fans. In the hype category, it’s not Mayweather-Pacquiao. In the ring-action category, it will be way better.
That is when the stardom of Golovkin, a 33-year-old from Santa Monica, by way of Kazakhstan, can accelerate.
To Americans, Golovkin has been slow, until now, to gain fan traction. He comes from a place where, to many on this side of the globe, the term “Kazakhstan fighter” assumes he has a gun. Sadly, that stereotype has personal roots. Two of his brothers died fighting in the Soviet Army. Gennady was not yet 14. One of them was named Vadim, and Golovkin’s 6-year-old son now carries that name.
Triple G, son of a Russian father and Korean mother, speaks Russian, Kazakh, German and English. He moved his family to Santa Monica in January. Vadim is in school, and, according to his father, embracing life in the United States.
“Everyday, he comes home, he tells me about new things,” Golovkin says. “He is teaching me better English.”
He has never fought in Las Vegas, incredible for somebody who is poised to take over the boxing world. Of his 34 victories, only eight have been in the U.S. He was 23-0 before he fought in this country.
His most recent victory was Oct. 17, in Madison Square Garden, still a boxing mecca. He knocked out David Lemieux of Canada. There was no U.S. fighter involved. There was no popular Latino fighter such as Puerto Rico’s Cotto. The fight sold out, 20,548 seats.
Golovkin’s previous fight was at the Forum in Inglewood. He knocked out Willie Monroe Jr. on May 16. The fight sold out, 12,000 seats.
Triple G now has coast-to-coast buzz.
The best is to come, for boxing and Golovkin, who, among other things, seems to strike fear in the hearts of opponents. Thirty-one knockouts in 34 fights will do that.
Thursday, a member of an undercard fighter’s team was surrounded by cameras near the media center. He was asked, if you are Cotto or Alvarez and you know the winner will get Triple G next, what are you thinking?
“I hope I lose,” the man said.
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