Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
The Principality of Monaco – total surface area 0.77 square miles (about three times the size of the Mall in Washington, D.C.); total population slightly over 30,000 (making it the 218th most populous nation on Earth); and site of the world’s most expensive apartment ($400 million for 30,000 square feet including a dance floor, in-home catering and an infinity pool with water slide) – would seem an unlikely host for world championship boxing.
But, as Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions pointed out this week, it has some experience when it comes to welcoming classy middleweights. Marvin Hagler fought here in 1979 – in his last bout before challenging Vito Antuofermo for the world title – and it was the site of four of Carlos Monzon’s title defenses, including the last two. Gennady Golovkin, the latest middleweight to make himself known here, nearly decapitated Nobuhuru Ishida in 2013 and overwhelmed Osumanu Adama last year. Now, he is about to take on Martin Murray (himself a two-time competitor and winner on this small parcel of the French Riviera) in pursuit of his 19th straight knockout and his third win in as many years in the principality.
One might think a fight week in such a location would convey an opulent, Gallic air, but at least until the weigh-in on Friday morning in the ornate atrium of the Casino de Monte Carlo, the dominant accent has been South African. Charlene, Princess of Monaco, the wife of monarch Prince Albert II, was born Charlene Wittstock and was a swimmer who won three gold medals for South Africa at the 1999 All-Africa Games. Her father, Michael Wittstock, is a boxing fan who is close to Rodney Berman of that country’s Golden Gloves promotional company, and it is because of that connection that professional prizefighting in Monte Carlo has undergone something of a renaissance over the past couple of years.
The most audible voice of that renaissance this week has been none other than Brian Mitchell, the terrific former super featherweight champion who lost just once in 49 outings and who is every bit as impressive in his new role as an MC of press conferences and weigh-ins as he was a pugilist. But even he had to struggle at times to make himself heard above the Merseyside roar generated by Murray’s Barmy Army, who sang and chanted their way through the weigh-in in much the same way that their Mancunian compatriots once did for Ricky Hatton. (Incidentally, their singing revealed that there are exactly as many Martin Murrays as there were Ricky Hattons – which would be one, for those of you keeping score at home.)
Golovkin’s support has been increasing in size and enthusiasm with each stop on his Big Drama Show Tour, but the GGG chants will be in the distinct minority in the small Salle des Etoiles on Saturday night. Judging from the typical Golovkin grin as he and Murray flexed for the latter’s fans after the weigh-in, that’s unlikely to bother him one bit. What matters is whether he’ll be as comfortable in the ring with the Englishman as he appeared to be in front of that Englishman’s supporters. Murray is widely acknowledged to be the toughest opponent of his career so far, but the smart money says that, when the dust has settled at the end of the contest, the Barmy Army will be singing a lament.
Official Weights from Monaco:
Gennady Golovkin 158.9 lbs
Martin Murray 159.9 lbs