Golovkin, the Happy Gladiator, Lights up Broadway

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Photo Credit: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Gennady Golovkin is no real-life Rocky. The middleweight champ kicks Rocky's ass and steals his gym locker.

As part of the pre-fight build-up for this Saturday's HBO World Championship Boxing double-header from Madison Square Garden, Golovkin made a cameo appearance in "Rocky: The Musical" on Wednesday night, adding Broadway performer to his résumé because apparently, fighting at the World's Most Famous Arena isn't enough New York for one week. And in the scene, he really did take Rocky's usual gym locker. He didn't kick his ass, though; it seems safe to assume that he probably just smiled.

Golovkin is something of a smiling assassin; it's a key part of his charm. Ask him how he feels about fighting in the main room at Madison Square Garden and he smiles. Ask him about his family, his life, and he smiles. Ask him how he is able to hit people so very, very hard and he smiles about that too. And shrugs a little.

Two nights earlier, as he welcomed a camera crew into his hotel suite and prepared to answer a battery of questions in his impressively improved English, Golovkin was sitting on his bed watching 'Gladiator.' The mind immediately began considering just how many kinds of awesome it would be if he ended a fight by holding his arms out wide like Russell Crowe and asking of the crowd, "Are you not entertained?" But he isn't really the kind to indulge us with melodramatic gestures. It's not how he rolls.

Alas, "Rocky: The Musical" will not be adorning the Great White Way much longer; it was announced just last week that the show would be closing in August. Perhaps it should have co-opted Golovkin into the cast earlier, because his show, in contrast, seems set to keep on going – in front of ever-larger audiences – for some time yet.

Unless, of course, Daniel Geale can rewrite the script on Saturday night. He might be capable of doing so, though he is no more boastful about his chances than is Golovkin. But whereas the Kazakh champion is seemingly constantly happy and outgoing, the Australian challenger is quiet and introverted, almost giving off the air that he's slightly embarrassed about the attention and sorry to be taking up everyone's time.

In fact, the thought occurred during Wednesday's final pre-fight press conference that this is one of those fight cards in which it is genuinely possible and easy to root for every one of the fighters, given their personalities and back stories. Golovkin, the friendly fan favorite recovering from his father's recent and untimely death. Geale, the unassuming warrior who is dedicating his fight to mother, who is battling cancer. On the undercard, Mike Perez, the heavyweight who exiled himself from Cuba and sought refuge in Ireland. And his opponent, Bryant Jennings, who wiles away the time before his turn at the press conference podium by tweeting out messages of inspiration.

One way or the other, the good guy will win. Whatever the outcome, this show will have a happy ending.