It would seem to be human nature for a boxer to feel some fear as he steps into a ring to fight another man.
Gennady Golovkin says he doesn’t experience such emotion.
Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts), the unbeaten World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, will pursue his 22nd consecutive knockout and 16th world-title victory Saturday night at the Forum against heavy underdog Dominic Wade.
He has given Wade (18-0, 12 KOs) only a cursory review on film while training in Big Bear, and Golovkin said the rigors of a nine-week camp are all he needs to win.
“No, never,” he said. “I won that first fight. I beat him and there was so much blood. I feel very comfortable inside when I fight.”
Trainer Abel Sanchez said he’s been an eyewitness to the conversion of an otherwise humble, polite man into the technically sound, heavy-handed slugger known in the sport as “Triple-G.”
“I can see the transformation as I’m wrapping his hands,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has trained plenty of notable fighters, including Hall of Fame former super-welterweight champion Terry Norris. But nine months into their training, Sanchez alerted friends Golovkin was his greatest talent yet.
The champion, who is from Kazakhstan but now calls Los Angeles home, has an uncommon work ethic. Although Golovkin, 34, could likely jog from his home to train at Wild Card West gym in Santa Monica, he prefers the solitude and single-mindedness that come in Big Bear. Sanchez has a “No Children, No Women” sign pinned to a wall at his “The Summit” gym, which draws world champions such as Mexico’s Francisco Vargas to the mountain retreat.
“It’s a sacrifice,” Sanchez said. “Gennady will come in here before he trains to just watch guys spar, to egg them on, give them pointers. He likes to run in the snow.”
The high altitude has cardio effects that help Golovkin in the ring, but it’s the seclusion that matters most.
“I get everything from being up here — the power, the endurance, my legs, speed, timing, positioning — all of it,” Golovkin said. “Hard work every day. Sparring, 10 rounds. Practice, practice. I learn every day. Without training, it’s nothing. I don’t just shadow box. I’m getting confidence.
“I feel nobody’s serious downstairs [in L.A.]. So many people come by the gym just to watch, there’s not enough focus. This isn’t a movie. This is hard work. It’s not a game. Every round is dangerous. All I do up here is work and talk boxing.”
Golovkin, who’ll receive $2 million for fighting Wade, hopes to defend the IBF belt he won in October with a technical knockout of Canada’s David Lemieux in his first pay-per-view headline bout at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
Following the recent retirements of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, Golovkin is hoping to land some major bouts, possibly in venues such as Dodger Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
A showdown with the winner of the May 7 World Boxing Council middleweight title bout between Mexico’s champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and England’s Amir Khan is mandated by the WBC, or Golovkin could go after World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders of England.
Wade, from Washington, will get $500,000 to take on the heavy burden as a 15-to-1 underdog of trying to solve Golovkin.
“I don’t think I’m getting the respect, but it’s going to come,” said Wade, who has a 4 1/2-inch reach advantage on Golovkin. “The spot[light] is on him now, and then it’ll be on me.”
Wade, 26, said he was confident about his skills and that encouraged him to quickly accept a fight against Golovkin, when others have turned him down.
“I can out-box him. . . . We’ll get in there and adjust and work,” Wade said. “I’ve had some fights I’ve had to adjust to, work with, get my mind right mentally. . . . [Others] back up, that’s what they do. I’m going to take my chances.”
The Saturday fight card, which also features unbeaten flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s title defense against Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo, is expected to draw around 16,000 fans.
Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs), of Nicaragua, is ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world on some mythical lists, and he’s poised to land his own HBO main event if he beats Arroyo (16-2, 14 KOs).
“The most important [thing] is my physical condition, and you’ll see that,” said Gonzalez, who earlier in his career was trained by the late world champion Alexis Arguello. “The more compromise I pay in the gym, the better I get and better I’m able to keep people from taking [the No. 1 pound-for-pound] ranking from me.
“I would love to get my own main event. No promises yet, but I know this is a great opportunity.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire