By Kieran Mulvaney
HBO Boxing is awakening from its summer slumber, with a trio of fight cards already slated for the fall and many more matchups still to be announced. And before the boxers involved in those cards sequester themselves in training camp, they've embarked on the obligatory media tour – in the case of Manny Pacquiao and Chris Algieri, across 27,000 miles and a couple of continents. Here are some brief snapshots of what the fighters had to stay at their press stops:
October 18: Gennady Golovkin vs Marco Antonio Rubio, Carson, Calif.
Undefeated Golovkin may still be searching for the defining fight he seeks against a big-name opponent, but he isn't helping his case by the manner with which he dispatches the foes he does face. His three-round wipeout of previously durable Daniel Geale in July would be Exhibit A in that regard. In Rubio, he's facing a tough veteran who has failed to go the distance only once in the last ten years. He figures to at least give Golovkin a lengthier outing than he's been used to of late.
Of course, Rubio's sights are set somewhat higher than being a long-lasting punching bag.
"GGG is the best, and that's why we're here," he said at a Los Angeles press conference in late October. "If I beat him, that will make me the best middleweight!"
Golovkin, as is his wont, was all smiles and accented optimism.
"This is a big step for me," he said. "First fight in L.A., biggest name in the division from Mexico. Good boxer, smart, not scared. It's a good fight for me."
November 8: Bernard Hopkins vs Sergey Kovalev, Atlantic City, NJ
It hasn't been the best few weeks for Atlantic City, with three of its gambling properties – Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza – shuttering for, at best, an indefinite period. But there just might be help on the horizon for America's Favorite Playground, because the old sheriff is riding into town.
Hopkins has beaten back a fair few challenges in AC over the years, and he'll be looking to do the same with Kovalev, who is becoming something of a fixture on the boardwalk himself after splattering Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello in his last two outings.
It's a classic and intriguing matchup between a wily veteran (who turns 50 years old two months after the fight) and a power-punching relative ingénue; Hopkins, as gifted as a pitchman as a pugilist, was happy during a press conference in New York to sell the prospect of his suffering a career-ending stoppage.
"The sweet science is not based on only one thing you can do particularly well," he said. "If he comes in the game thinking a punch is all he'll need, he might be right, so you should watch. I'm walking a tightrope hundreds of feet in the air. He crushes people. Only three or four people survive his hammer."
"I am not a talker, I am a fighter and I am sure Bernard will promote the fight for both of us," countered the less-loquacious Russian, although he did manage to deliver one dig at the man who has changed his nickname from "The Executioner" to "The Alien." "It is not easy to overlook Hopkins. I think when he's 60 years old he'll be in the same condition. He's an alien, but I have to send him to the moon and maybe from there he'll go by himself to Mars."
November 22: Manny Pacquiao vs Chris Algieri, Macau, China
It is safe to say that Algieri, winner of a disputed decision over Ruslan Provodnikov last time out, is not exactly favored against future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Pacquiao. But the man from Huntington, New York has been doing his best to sell a skeptical boxing public on his chances.
"He knows how to fight," Algieri generously acknowledged of the eight-weight world champion; "It's going to be my job to break his focus and his will."
Pacquiao, of course, rarely if ever ventures into such territory, observing of Algieri that he "is undefeated and a world champion." Of course, he did then go on to observe that, "I love to fight undefeated guys. I want them to experience that first defeat."
During a mammoth press tour that began in Macau and took in Shanghai, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York, the two men engaged in some light-hearted duels at the pool table, on the basketball court and in the batting cages, with the American reportedly gaining the edge at all three disciplines.
"He threw everything," said Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach. "If they were playing for money, it would have been different."
"As a Christian, I'm giving an advantage," Pacquiao smiled. "But in a real fight, it's different."