You are widely considered the world’s finest middleweight, and perhaps the best since Marvin Hagler, but who do you consider your biggest threats?
Now it’s a very interesting situation in the middleweight division, because you know Canelo, he’s come into the middleweight division [from super-welterweight]; it’s a different situation. I think Canelo… [Billy Joe] Saunders of course because he’s champion, he’s champion; [Daniel] Jacobs, he’s great, he’s good. There’s a lot of great champions in the middleweight division: it’s a very interesting situation.
In his last fight [against Andy Lee, Saunders] looked good, he looked good. Not easy: in the first couple of rounds he looks good. He not lose control [in] the last rounds, he’s moving good, [shows] balance, and a lot of power.
[Alvarez] is very smart, he has good experience, a lot of power, [but] maybe him coming to 160lbs is difficult for him. Not difficult, but different, because it’s a different size, a different power. Last time with Miguel [Cotto] he looks good; he’s a strong guy.
Andy [Lee], he’s like a warrior: it doesn’t matter for him, with me or different champions, [he will fight anyone]. I like this style, for me it’s very important who is No. 1 in middleweight division, and Andy said, ‘Yes, of course, Gennady. You want fight, I’m ready’. I like this style. Every fight with me is a lot of money, a lot of business, a good fight for us, for boxing, for people. People want to know who’s best in the middleweight division, and Andy, he’s ready [to fight]. Different guys said,
‘Oh, I need time, I need business, I need blah, blah, blah…’ For me, my goal is all the belts in the middleweight division; everybody wants the same situation.
I think if Andy had won against Saunders he would have fought me, because he agreed to fight last year, now [as] champion it’s a much bigger fight, it would have been a huge fight in New York in Madison Square Garden, but Saunders just won the title so you can’t force another champion. It’s huge fight, huge atmosphere you know.
I hope [Alvarez will fight me this year], I hope so. I think he is ready; Alvarez’s team is ready to fight. Golden Boy, they said, ‘I need time just for commercial, he’s ready too, just maybe time for commercial…’ Maybe [in] one year more, maybe two years more, maybe [it would be] like Mayweather and Pacquiao, because this is biggest fight for us.
What is your plan B if the Alvarez fight isn’t made?
I’d get the WBC title [which he has], so I’d have three of the titles, and then see if Saunders would fight, otherwise it’s the same routine: see who else is the biggest fight.
There’s been talk of you stepping up to super-middleweight. How hard do you think the additional eight pounds would be?
My focus now – I’m not big guy – my focus now is 160. For a big fight, for Floyd, especially for Floyd, I’m ready for 155, 154, [but] my focus is 160. For 168, for big champion, for great champion, yes I’m ready of course, maybe next year. And next category, super-middleweight, 168, I never see big champions, big fights [in that division] for me, like pay-per-view fights, big unification fights. I never see that.
When we were talking about 168, first we were talking about [Julio Cesar] Chavez [Jnr]: that would have been a big pay-per-view fight. Then we were talking about [Carl] Froch. To move [divisions], it has to be a big fight, otherwise it doesn’t make sense going up and down. I want big fights. Not difficult [to step up]. Right now [while walking around, I am] 168, and come back to 160, everybody will say ‘Gennady, you’re a big guy, you’re 168’; I can go to 175 and come back because this is my normal weight.
There’s no one at 168 who has agreed to fight. If I did go, [afterwards] I would come back down to middleweight.
Was the Froch fight ever close?
I don’t think [Froch would take a fight], no. Carl likes to talk about the fight, but when it comes down to talking details, it doesn’t go very far.
How frustrating has it been for you to not secure a ‘defining’ fight, and would it change your life to at last get one?
The defining fights are all the champions and big names that say they don’t want to fight. On one side it’s frustrating, it’s a long time. Cotto didn’t happen, and before: Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, all my career I don’t have big chance. I understand: I’m okay, I’m okay. Not for me [would it change my career to have a defining fight], maybe for fans; for history.
Tom Loeffler adds: Even though he’s not had that ‘defining’ fight, he’s become the second most marketable boxer in America, after Canelo. Canelo, you have to give him credit where it’s due, and Manny, but it’s his last fight in April, so it’s Canelo and Gennady. Even though he hasn’t had a defining fight, you gotta put it into perspective: he sold out
Madison Square Garden completely, the first non-Puerto Rican fighter to do that in modern times. Felix Trinidad did it, and Miguel Cotto did it. And you have Gennady from Kazakhstan, fighting [David] Lemieux from Canada, and he completely sells out Madison Square Garden. The same thing in Los Angeles, at the StubHub Center, he sold the most tickets out of anyone who fought there. We had to add seats: they never saw that before.
We’ve got used to seeing you fight four times a year, which is unusual at your level. As you pursue the unification fights against more challenging opponents, will it be necessary to fight less often?
Maybe three, maybe two times? I want, I’m ready to [fight] every second month. I feel great, my body’s great. I understand my situation, I understand my position, and opponents. I’m ready, I feel great, I feel good, and I want [to fight] four times, five times per year. I like old school: every second month, fight.
Loeffler: The difference on the timing is that the bigger the fight promotion, the longer it takes as a lead-up. The Lemieux fight’s on pay-per-view; if we did a Canelo fight, that’s a four-month build-up, so you can’t fight as often like when we were fighting in Monte Carlo against [Martin] Murray, or other guys. It’s not that he doesn’t want to fight more often, it’s just the logistics.
Your profile has significantly grown in recent years. When did you notice the attitude towards you change, and how much has it altered your life?
The last couple of years, after the [Marco Antonio] Rubio fight [in 2014], because people – I remember Rubio, he’s a Mexican guy – I go into StubHub Center, maybe 80 per cent of Mexican people like me, not him. It’s phenomenal. [My life hasn’t changed] a lot, I’m a very different guy in the ring and out, inside and outside. My regular life with my family is the same, and maybe in my boxing life there’s more activity, more focus, because I know my goal is all of the belts.
Loeffler: It’s the television exposure. Gennady always had the skills, the punch: the exciting style. In Germany, Universum didn’t put him on their broadcasts, they wouldn’t put him in against Sturm, they wouldn’t put him in against [Sebastian] Zbik. Once he got on HBO, all of a sudden people were exposed to it. Add that to working with [trainer] Abel Sanchez for the last five years adding another element to his style, and with 21 knockouts in a row, that’s what created his popularity.
Your public persona is that of a gentleman. To what extent is that the real you? Were you like that when you were fighting on the streets at a young age, which is something you’ve previously spoken about?
[Golovkin pauses, and smiles] It depends on the situation. I don’t know, maybe: I’m not fake. I understand my class, I understand my job, and I know my job. I don’t like [elusive] boxing, moving a lot, more like dancing, after talking a big fight. For me, it’s very important who is who: for me, knockouts, it’s more interesting, bringing to people a big show, [giving] more respect to people who come to watch. You come to [watch a] fight, like a street fight: a big show. Maybe it’s my style, but outside I’m not a very bad guy. I’m a nice guy.
When did you first realise you were such a big puncher?
It’s my genetics: I don’t have like one big punch. A long time ago in my first gym, I had a lot of natural power. I’d feel my power, and I’d be scared, because I understand a lot of people maybe have the same power. It’s frightening, if someone there has the same punch – because I’m not big, I don’t have big muscles – maybe somebody with big muscles can punch more [powerfully] than me…
How much of a disappointment has it been to not fight Mayweather?
It’s not a disappointment. I have to say one thing to put this right: I never called Mayweather out, never. I never said, ‘Floyd, I want to fight you’. I answered if somebody asked, ‘Do you want to fight Mayweather?’, of course I will say, ‘Yes’, because Mayweather is the best fighter, but I never called Mayweather out. He’s a big businessman, [so he will fight again]: maybe Manny, maybe with Miguel, maybe another guy. I think so.
With the likes of you, Sergey Kovalev, Vasyl Lomachenko and others, can this be the era of the Eastern Bloc fighter?
It’s a great time – not for me – for Russian people. It’s very interesting. It depends on the individual; Lomachenko’s a great fighter, Kovalev is a strong fighter, and [Viktor] Postol is the same, you can’t say, ‘Every guy who comes over will be successful’. It depends on the individual. Look at Vyacheslav Glazkov, losing. [But] every weight is interesting, same as the heavyweight division: Tyson Fury, he’s the champion, he’s a big champion, he beat Wladimir Klitschko. I think he [would have] a problem with the Russian guy, Alexander Povetkin… It’s a different style, and different people [so you can’t generalise].
Loeffler: Gennady opened up the doors in America. It was very difficult when I first started working with him, taking him to HBO, taking him to Showtime. Gennady’s English wasn’t that great. I did an interview and said, ‘Here’s Gennady Golovkin, the [2004 Olympic] silver medallist, WBA middleweight champion, undefeated and will fight anybody; he doesn’t want a lot of money he just wants TV exposure’, and it took a lot of time to get him on. That’s when he fought [Grzegorz] Proksa, the first time on HBO, and after that he opened up the doors.
Each of you – and you particularly – have benefitted from heading west. Would you recommend other Eastern Bloc fighters do similarly?
Probably, yes. In America, there’s a lot more chance, it’s a more professional style. Like Abel, I respect him not just like a trainer. Listen, maybe five years ago, six years ago, every year Freddie Roach is number one [so American trainers can help]. I like Abel, he’s a great man, he has a big heart. He’s not selfish, or about money, he’s 100 per cent professional: I feel him.He opened my eyes to [the] Mexican style [of fighting], the American style: this is different. A different class, a different school. The England school is more old school, more distance, more classic, with the hands up. The Mexican style is more close, more aggressive: a more crazy fight. Russian people like more power.
Abel opened my eyes for any style. He said, ‘Use this, this, this, this, a big mix’. He said, ‘This style is better for you because people love it, a big show.’
Different guys [from the Eastern Bloc] are better going to the United States because United States is the Mecca of boxing, like first class: you are training with a lot of champions, sparring with a lot of champions. You’re going to HBO. HBO says, ‘Look, you’re a champion, we have three champions more: we must know who’s number one’. Not like the Germany style, like Sturm or Arthur Abraham: strong guys who stay just in Germany. ‘I’m champion from Germany’: okay, man…
Stories persist that you beat up Kovalev in sparring. Is there any truth to them?
I helped him, he helped me, it’s just practice. We were together: maybe 15 months together training. Abel helped me, helped him. Sometimes performances are different to a fight. You know, we were sparring together, I used maybe two weeks’ sparring, Sergey came and sparred with me, of course it’s difficult for him, sparring for his first day or second day. [I was] not winning, just two or three rounds. This is not fighting, this is sparring, you know. I felt very comfortable.
You’ll soon turn 34 years old and have what is traditionally a young man’s fighting style, so do you feel in a hurry to achieve your ambitions?
I don’t feel my age, I feel great. I want more: not more attention, no. I [just] like boxing. Right now, the situation: [I want] maybe not all the belts, [but to find out] just who is the best in the middleweight division. I want to show my people – my fans – who’s the No.1. Yes, [I do have a young man’s fighting style].
The issue of performance-enhancing drugs seems to be surfacing recently in boxing. Do you think the sport has a problem?
Probably, yes. This is a problem, in boxing and UFC. I don’t like drugs, doping, it’s very different for performance. A regular guy, he dopes, and he’s a different condition, [has] more power: it’s not boxing. I think this is a big problem [Golovkin meant the use of PEDs themselves is a big problem, not that the sport has a big problem with how widely they are used]. It’s not good for sport, for a healthy life. I like original power, original speed, original moving. The same as [in] athletics, swimming.
This interview was originally published in Boxing News magazine