Officially, Gennady Golovkin will pursue his 17th consecutive middleweight title victory when he faces Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Yet, by Golovkin’s standards, that fight was already won during his two-month-plus training camp in Big Bear.
“There are younger prospects who come in here and some of these guys look good, but they can’t do what I’m doing. It’s too hard,” Golovkin told The Times the day before he broke camp last week.
“Everybody who comes in here understands that what I do is different. It’s good for me, at 34 years old, that my body feels this good. It works. Knowing this is the point for me that makes my mentality so strong.”
The strength of Golovkin (36-0, 33 knockouts) is evident in his streak of 23 consecutive knockouts, earning him a place atop most pound-for-pound fighter lists. The native of Kazakhstan, who now calls Santa Monica home, is putting his World Boxing Assn., International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council middleweight belts on the line against Jacobs.
A win on Saturday may help force a September showdown against once-beaten, two-division champion Canelo Alvarez of Mexico should Alvarez dispose of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on May 6.
While Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) is riding his own 12-fight knockout streak while wearing the WBA’s secondary world middleweight belt, Golovkin takes heart in the grueling regimen he follows under trainer Abel Sanchez.
“This gym has taken on his personality,” said Sanchez, who had cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev and unbeaten super-middleweight David Benavidez working alongside Golovkin last week. “Everybody acts the same way, behaves, stays quiet, does their job, minds their own business and works hard. Everybody wants to emulate Gennady.”
Golovkin doesn’t lift weights, but instead builds strength through resistance training, following a regimen similar to that of the late martial arts wizard Bruce Lee.
He increases muscle endurance in his arms by stretching a homemade metal device constructed by Sanchez, who credits Golovkin’s “Popeye-like” forearms to a wrist-strengthening routine of using one hand to flip over a heavy weight ball.
“It helps with the snap of the punch. We do a lot of exercises like that. We don’t rip the muscles. We fatigue them,” Sanchez said.
The emphasis on increasing neck and chin strength is a defensive tactic in case Golovkin does get hit. He not only does numerous push-ups on his chin, he strengthens his neck by repeatedly lifting up his head while wearing a weighted headpiece.
“An exercise with the chin might, I don’t know, increase strength in that area 5 to 10 percent — but I know it helps us,” Sanchez said. “You can have the greatest right hand, the greatest hook, the greatest speed, but if you can’t take a shot it doesn’t really matter. So we do those exercises.”
Jacobs’ punching power reinforces the importance of the work, and Golovkin said he relies on the fear of getting hit to take each workout seriously.
A loss, and the Canelo fight vanishes … .
“Maybe one day I’ll see my power from another guy. Then, I might be scared,” Golovkin said. “So I work on my chin and neck because I know — seriously — one punch can change my life. I understand it. I know I need to work hard, train hard to make me feel stronger, more comfortable.”
Golovkin’s greatest comfort comes in his offense. Although he showed devastating power punches in a recent public workout, it’s the precision of his blows that have fueled the knockout streak.
“Knockouts come because he’s not wasting his punches,” Sanchez said. “He’s got heavy hands, but he puts his punches where he wants to. He’s very economical. It’s more like a chess match.
“It’s my belief to emphasize the knockout, either one punch or wear them out … you want to take the question out of [the outcome].”
Golovkin knows liver punches just under the ribs cause the most discomfort. In sparring, he’s previously broken the ribs of former super-middleweight title challenger George Groves. In his most recent bout, Golovkin fractured the orbital bone of welterweight champion Kell Brook.
“It’s not just my power — not relying on one big, crazy, lucky punch — but my balance, timing and position,” Golovkin said. “With perfect timing, perfect positioning, feeling comfortable … my punches are much harder, like boom! Big show!
“A good punch is a punch. Plus, big power might last only a couple rounds. It’s more about positioning and timing.”
After extending his workout session last week, Golovkin exhaled deeply and smiled, as if foreseeing his Saturday night.
“I know I’m ready, 100 percent,” he said.
Who: Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) vs. Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) for Golovkin’s WBA, IBF, WBC middleweight belts
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Television: HBO pay-per-view, $54.95
When: Saturday, pay-per-view portion begins at 6 p.m.
Undercard: Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-0, 38 KOs) vs. Wisaksil Wangek (41-4-1, 38 KOs) for Gonzalez’s WBC super-flyweight belt; Carlos Cuadras (35-1-1, 27 KOs) vs. David Carmona (20-3-5, 8 KOs), super-flyweights; Ryan Martin (17-0, 10 KOs) vs. Bryant Cruz (17-1, 8 KOs), lightweights