GENNADY GOLOVKIN’S fearsome reputation is well established. His punch power, aggressive intent and string of 20 consecutive knockouts are testament to that. But he still needs something more. At 33 years old he can’t spend too much longer waiting for the fights that will define his legacy. His career now needs memorable contests and, on Saturday against David Lemieux in Madison Square Garden, he gets his first world title unification and pay-per-view fight.
Victory would take him beyond just being frightening. Unifying the WBA and IBF middleweight titles could be the first step towards greatness, if it puts him on a course towards the winner of November’s Miguel Cotto-Saul Alvarez WBC title fight.
“The middleweight division is in a very good situation, it’s a very interesting situation. Three or four fighters are pay-per-view fighters, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Andy Lee are pay-per-view fighters. I want unification fights. My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division,” Golovkin said.
The Kazakh’s promoter, Tom Loeffler appreciates the importance of the fight for his man. “There is a lot at stake, not only the winner having unified, the winner is in the position of being the mandatory for the winner of Cotto-Canelo, which is also a great fight a month later. So it’s really exciting times, as Gennady alluded to, in the middleweight division,” he said, although it’s too early for talks with Golden Boy promoter, Oscar De La Hoya. Loeffler continued, “It would be premature to really start having any discussion with Oscar because we don’t know who’s going to win on October 17 and we don’t know who’s going to win November 21 but after that all shakes out, it’s going to be great times moving forward, just continuing the path of trying to unify the titles.”
A successful night though should confirm Golovkin as a star in his own right. “A great indicator for pay-per-view sales is ticket sales. When this event broke the pre-sale record of any boxing event that MSG has had and then sold 15,000 tickets within the first week, that’s a huge indication that the pay-per-view is going to be successful. I’m always conservative on the estimates. I’m very optimistic on the results for the pay-per-view,” Loeffler added.
For his part the softly spoken Kazakh promised, “I will make sure it’s a great show for people.”
The ingredients are all there. Golovkin can apply constant, intelligent pressure, even when picking his shots. But the WBA champion has, on occasion, let the odd punch through. So far he has tended to take whatever lands and repay it with interest (‘GGG’ uncannily managed to knock out Daniel while taking a flush shot himself). But David Lemieux is a dynamite puncher. There is an element of danger and sheer curiosity about what would happen if the Canadian lands cleanly.
“He is a good fighter, he is a champion,” Golovkin notes. “We both have a great punch. David, he is strong too. I know my power too. It’s not just power – timing, speed, discipline.”
Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez echoed the point. “David has got an extensive resume, he’s got fighters on his record that have done something. The thing you can’t take away from David is that he can punch. He proved that in his last three or four fights, he can punch. That’s something on the 17th that can go either way. If David lands a good punch and Gennady’s not ready, maybe Gennady goes down. We’re definitely looking for the best David Lemieux and the biggest punches,” said Sanchez.
It won’t be power that decides this fight. For his trainer Golovkin wins because he’s “the smarter fighter in the fight”. Sanchez continued, “They both have power, they both have speed, they both have great knockouts. The boxing IQ will be the difference. I think he thinks that there’s a different class as far as that part. He thinks he’ll be able to get to David because he’ll figure him out, but David can punch. Both of them have the same kind of punching power. But his IQ is a little bit higher boxing-wise.
“This is the fight that finally presents a challenge to him mentally. We’ve said in the past with great fighters it’s not so much the physical challenge, it’s the mental challenge that’s important to them. In this training camp he has proven me right just by the attitude. The atmosphere in the gym has been so much different because he does perceive a challenge and perceive a fighter that is as strong as he is and punches as hard as he does and for as long as the fight goes he’s going to have to be on his ps and qs, just as David will, because the guy that lands the first big punch [will put the other] guy to sleep.”