Gennady Golovkin: The People's Champ - Rolling Stone
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Gennady Golovkin: The People’s Champ

As ‘Triple G’ prepares for his Saturday night showdown at Madison Square Garden, he says his time to seize the spotlight is now – or never

Gennady GolovkinGennady Golovkin

Gennady Golovkin takes on Willie Monroe Jr. on May 16, 2015.

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Gennady Golovkin knows his time is now. With Floyd Mayweather’s recent retirement and Manny Pacquiao’s incremental fade, boxing is in desperate need of a mainstream star to carry the sport forward – and Triple G thinks he’s the man to do it.

But at age 33, Golovkin also knows that his time is running out. Over the past decade, he’s built a reputation as boxing’s best-kept secret, thanks in no small part to his almost superhuman ability to take punishment – he’s the rare fighter willing to eat a punch in order to give one or two back – and slugged his way to a sparkling 33-0 record, with 30 wins coming by knockout. On Saturday, he’ll take another step toward increasing his mass appeal when he takes on David Lemieux in his first HBO pay-per-view, a fight that he says is for much more than mere Middleweight supremacy.

“I am enjoying it, because I’m in this situation and there’s only a short time for me and for my career,” Golovkin says. “My team is very happy. My friends, my fans, my family is very happy and right now it’s just great times for me.

“It’s incredible how my life has changed. Every day is a new day,” he continues. “I work out for many hours and different people come and talk to me. There’s more attention on this fight than anything in my life. It’s very interesting.”

Golovkin and Lemieux (34-2) meet at Madison Square Garden in a matchup that will crown a unified World Middleweight Champion. Both men are heavy hitters – Golovkin is riding a 20-fight knockout streak and Lemieux has 31 KOs to his credit – and, as such, most are expecting a show. And unlike Mayweather, who almost always dominated the competition but earned much of his success through defense-oriented counter-fighting, Golovkin is willing to give them one.

“This is my first fight on pay-per-view; it’s very important for me,” he says. “It’s big step, because it’s a unification fight. It’s a big show for everybody, for fans, for everybody. I have three belts and David has one belt. I want all four.”

Golovkin has a personality as colorful as his fighting style. He currently resides in Los Angeles, but was born in Kazakhstan, a nation he represented when winning a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. He speaks multiple languages, and his somewhat tenuous grip on English has become part of his appeal. But he makes it a point of mentioning that he’s learning Spanish, a nod to the Mexican and Mexican-American fans that have come to embrace his charming smile and fierce fighting style. They packed the Forum in Inglewood, California to cheer him on during a May victory over Willie Monroe Jr. – a fight Triple G capped by telling the crowd “Mucho gracias, everybody” – and he’s received chants of “You are one of us” from the passionate community. Now, he heads across the country to take on Lemieux in one of the most revered venues in the world.

More importantly, it’s his pay-per-view debut, a testament to his increased drawing potential. Golovkin has delivered each time he’s stepped in the ring thus far, and that’s why his career continues to gain momentum. His KO streak is impressive, but it’s his knockout rate – greater than 90 percent – that’s literally and figuratively staggering, not to mention the highest in Middleweight title history. Part of that punching power comes from preternatural ability; the rest, Golovkin says, comes from hard work.

“It’s a thank you to my team, to my coach,” he explains. “Every day I have hard training. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult, but it’s OK. It’s my job and my work and my life.”

A victory over Lemieux would not only mean another win and title, it would also represent Golovkin’s graduation to the next level of the boxing totem pole. Who awaits him there? Probably the winner of the November 21 matchup between Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto. And though he insists he’s not looking past his opponent on Saturday night, Golovkin would be lying he says he’s not already weighing his next bout.

“I think [my most memorable fights] are in the future; my goal is to hold all the belts in the Middleweight division,” he says. “I want Canelo, I want Cotto – the big names. It’s two great fighters and two great champions, Canelo against Cotto. Fighting the winner would be a good thing for everybody; for me and for business.”

And as he’s continued to prove, Golovkin knows a thing or two about the business of boxing. He’s frequently expressed his desire to be recognized as the best fighter in the world – now, with his biggest bouts looming, it’s up to him to seize the spotlight. And put on a show, of course.

“It’s very important to prove who is Number One in the world in this weight class,” Golovkin says. “I think it’s a big step for me in this situation. I’m going to perform and be champion. It will be a good show for people.”

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