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Why Gennady Golovkin is ‘a little bit scared’

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Matchroom Boxing
Gennady Golovkin brings in promoter Eddie Hearn as the two look to a future of big fights. Sean Nam reports from New York

TALENT gourmandizer Eddie Hearn, in yet another show of his prodigious, unflagging appetite, announced a partnership to promote Kazakh middleweight Gennadiy Golovkin during a news conference on Thursday afternoon held at Madison Square Garden. The duo’s inaugural  venture will take place on October 5 at the Garden, when Golovkin squares off against the Sergiy Derevyanchenko, the once-defeated Ukrainian who was also in attendance to promote their forthcoming fight. On the line is the vacant IBF middleweight championship.

“I think the name behind us — the ‘Big Drama Show’ — is pretty simple,” said Hearn, pointing to the tagline on the fight poster, in his opening remarks. “I think some people said it wasn’t very creative, but I think it’s three words that basically couldn’t explain Gennadiy Golovkin any better. He is for me the most entertaining, the most dangerous fighter in world boxing. In a moment in the sport when broadcasters and fans are having to spend so much money, it’s so important to give fans value for money. Is there a fighter who gives more value for money than Gennadiy Golovkin? I’m not sure. I haven’t found him yet.”

On the dais flanking the hard-hitting Golovkin, who last appeared in the ring against woebegone Canadian Steve Rolls in a four-round demolition job, were streaming broadcaster DAZN VP Joe Markowski, former frontman-turned-demoted-employee Tom Loeffler, trainer Johnathon Banks, and translator Sergei Zamascikov. Watching attentively from the sidelines was Golovkin’s attorney, John Hornewer, who has been instrumental in conceiving Golovkin’s revamped look since his deflating points defeat to Saul Alvarez last year. “I’m so excited,” Golovkin said. “Right now I work with the best people from boxing.”

Hearn relayed that he had been pursuing Golvokin for a while. “I had a meeting with Gennady Golovkin a long time ago, six months ago, probably more, to try and bring him to DAZN,” Hearn explained to Boxing News. “I brought in [DAZN executive chairman] John Skipper and said ‘You guys, you talk. I know, Golovkin, you have your own promotional company, but we’d love to work together.’ He did his first show, we stayed in touch the whole time, I helped out with with his [DAZN] deal. Then he said, ‘I’d love to work together as co-promoters on my career. I think you can deliver a lot, you have a big stable of fighters, particularly the middleweight division.’ And that’s what we did, and that’s what we delivered.”

Indeed, with the signing, Golovkin joins an ever-burgeoning promotional fleet — the HMS Matchroom — that includes WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, former IBF champion Daniel Jacobs (whom Golovkin defeated by points in 2017), and most recently, Billy Joe Saunders, the dexterous and equally mercurial southpaw, who left longtime promoter Frank Warren and signed with Hearn a few weeks prior to the announcement on Thursday.

“Obviously with our relationship with DAZN, we keep everything in-house,” Hearn said. “So many great fights to be made.”

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Golovkin has an ambitious future Tom Hogan/K2

Yet given the fact that Golovkin was already signed to DAZN, the question was posed to Hearn why both parties felt a deeper alliance was necessary. “I think any fighter should try and remove himself as much as possible from being involved in the promotion of a fight,” Hearn responded. “This is the toughest sport in the world inside ring. Outside the ring, it’s the worst business in the world: sleepless nights, people trying to f*** you, fights falling through, people running off trying to break contracts, governing bodies making decisions that  you can’t even, like — this is why we love it. We’re all addicted.

“But if you’re involved with the show and you start making decisions about ticket prices and the undercard and the press conference venues, you’re mad. You’ve already got the toughest job in the world, why make it harder? So I think [Golovkin] looked at [his situation] in that respect: ‘GGG Promotions is very important to me moving forward, we want to work with a partner who can push the shows, plan our strategy worldwide. This is beyond boxing in America. We have to look to the Middle East… we have to look at fighting in the UK again.”

Hearn noted that should Golovkin defeat Derevyanchenko, as expected, his preference would be for Golovkin to face Saunders next, but also stressed compelling matchups with Andrade and super-middleweight champion Calum Smith, whom Hearn also promotes. Hearn also expressed his enthusiasm for a showdown against Ryota Murata in Tokyo. “That’s a big fight,” Hearn said. “Murata in Tokyo is a groundbreaking fight. I would love to put that fight on.”

Of course, a fight with Alvarez, the Mexican superstar and fellow DAZN signee, remains the most lucrative option in Golovkin’s career. The two rivals were expected to square off this September, as part of Alvarez’s biannual ring appearance on Mexican Independence Day, but talks quickly fell apart after it became clear that Alvarez had never signed off on the prospect of facing Golovkin for a third time. Discussions to face light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev also fell apart. With time running out, Golden Boy, Alvarez’s promoter, moved onto Alvarez’s IBF mandatory challenger, Derevyanchenko. But when a deal for that fight failed to materialize in time, Alvarez was stripped of his title, allowing Derevyanchenko — represented by promoter Lou DiBella and managers Keith Connolly and Al Haymon — a chance to win the belt against Golovkin. There were moments when negotiations for that fight appeared to be dead in the water, as recent, in fact, as two days before Thursday’s presser.  “It was complicated,” admitted Connolly, who said that a key clause, unrelated to the purse, threatened to topple talks, until a quick phone call between Hornewer and Haymon resolved the issue.

On Thursday, there were only smiles from the participants involved — and perhaps a sigh of relief at the fact that a proper middleweight prizefight, amid the heap of Alvarez fiascos, had finally been scheduled for the fall. Given the circumstances, who could blame Golovkin for having a slight case of the heebie-jeebies?

“I have the best opponent, Sergey Derevyanchenko,” said Golovkin, who refrained from mentioning his Mexican adversary during the presser. “He’s a real, very good fighter. This is not a game. I’m a little bit scared… Why am I scared? Because he looks good, he looks strong, he feels like it’s his time right now. But this is boxing, nobody knows.”

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