By Kieran Mulvaney
Even as he cements his reputation as the best middleweight in the world, Gennady Golovkin still finds himself struggling to attract a career-defining foe.
"It's an interesting situation," noted his promoter Tom Loeffler during an informal get-together with media at a hotel on the shore of Monte Carlo Bay on Thursday morning. "He’s the world champion, but people don’t want to take that risk.”
It is not so much that other promoters flat out decline the opportunity to put their men up against his, Loeffler said; but, “I make a lot of calls, and I don’t get a lot of answers. People don’t say no, but they have other plans, other opponents, or they’re not available when he’s fighting.”
One name who is frequently bandied about as a possible foe is Miguel Cotto, who became the lineal champion when he defeated Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden last June. Golovkin has made no secret of the fact that it is a matchup he would cherish. But when it was suggested that perhaps Cotto – who is presently without an opponent for his next bout, tentatively scheduled for June – might be waiting for the conclusion of Golovkin’s battle with Martin Murray at Monaco’s Salle des Etoiles on Saturday night before making an offer, Loeffler allowed himself a wry smile.
“I think it is safe to say that Miguel is not waiting to fight Gennady.”
The Puerto Rican star would not be the only one to eschew a lucrative opportunity to share the ring with the Kazakh-born fighter.
“We can’t force anyone to get in the ring with him,” acknowledged Loeffler. “We saw that with [Julio Cesar] Chavez [Jr] last year. [Chavez’s promoters] Top Rank offered him $7 million as a guarantee to fight Gennady and, if he lost, another guarantee of $5 million. So, if you’re not going to fight him for $12 million for a guarantee, it’s hard to force someone to get in the ring.”
The reason for such reluctance is as clear as the ring record that shows 31 wins from as many professional starts and, of particular relevance, 28 knockouts including a string of 18 in a row dating back to 2008. Matthew Macklin, a strong middleweight with a solid pedigree, lay crumpled on the canvas from a devastating body punch in 2013; the following year, Daniel Geale, himself a classy contender, was dropped and stopped by a thunderbolt of a right hand even as he landed a punch of his own. Most recently, Marco Antonio Rubio, who went 12 hard-fought rounds with the aforementioned Chavez in 2012, surrendered meekly to Golovkin’s onslaught within two rounds.
Golovkin’s crippling power is his signature, the primary reason why increasing numbers of fans are turning up to watch him live and tuning in to watch him on TV; so it might seem surprising that the man himself is hoping to be taken the distance on Saturday – until he explains that he views it as a greater challenge than repeatedly knocking people out.
“Right now, everybody want knockout, yeah,” he admitted in his signature grammatical style at the Thursday morning media session. “Knockout is easy fight: lucky punch, or one punch. Sometimes, decision is better fight; not like one punch, close eyes, oh it’s finished. Maybe sometimes it’s much bigger. Right now, I need decision fight. I have never tried 12 rounds. I need decision fight, so I show everybody my class. Not just one punch. Show everybody my boxing.”
“We know that he can punch, we know that he can box, we know all the things that he can do, but unfortunately he hasn’t shown that to the public at large,” added trainer Abel Sanchez. “But I think he has this doubt in his head: ‘Can we do 12 rounds at that pace and at this level?’ We think we can, but until it happens, he won’t be satisfied within himself that he can.”
In Murray, he may well have the opponent who is capable of pushing him into making such discoveries. The only two fights the Englishman has failed to win, out of 31 professional contests, were a draw against Felix Sturm and a split decision loss to Sergio Martinez in his two previous title shots – and there are plenty of observers who feel he deserved the nod in both those contests and that he could be rightly considered the unbeaten middleweight champion of the world. Working behind a tight shell defense, he has never been knocked out.
It is a challenge that Golovkin and team are taking seriously, even as Loeffler seeks to accentuate the potentially historic nature of his fighter’s career by noting that it now includes as many title defenses (12) as that of Marvin Hagler and that, in defending his crown in Monaco, Golovkin is following in the footsteps of both Hagler and the great Carlos Monzon.
“We have a lot of respect for Martin Murray, because he’s rated number one in the world and he certainly could have taken a different path to get to a world title fight, and he chose to prove himself against the best in Gennady,” Loeffler noted. “The only way Gennady can prove how good he is, is by the [quality of the] challengers in the ring with him. Definitely Martin Murray is right there at the top of the middleweight division.”
That is why Golovkin feels that winning a 12-round decision would be an opportunity to show just how good he is. It is also why, for all he may protest otherwise, scoring yet another knockout would make the same point even more strongly.