By Kieran Mulvaney
As much of a privilege as it is to be able to sit ringside and watch men beat the holy hell out of each on a regular basis, there’s nothing wrong with changing things up occasionally. And there truly can’t be many greater pleasures than standing in the press box at Dodgers Stadium on a beautiful early evening in May, looking down on the field about ninety minutes before game time and thinking to yourself that life truly can’t get much better than this.
You walk along a corridor lined with Dodgers memorabilia and back out into the sunshine, where Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin is taking photographs with fans and signing autographs. His wife Alina is there, too, and his young son Vadim, his twin brother Max, promoter Tom Loeffler, trainer Abel Sanchez and other family members and friends. A Dodgers representative comes out to greet everyone, presenting Golovkin with his own Dodgers shirt with “GGG” on the back. Golovkin happily poses with his prize, and little Vadim looks even happier with the customized shirt the Dodgers give to him.
And then the Dodgers rep leads you all through some doors, past team officials who spring up from their desks and take selfies with the champ as he walks past, and you all head out into a plaza where more fans are waiting with things for Golovkin to sign. He obliges, of course, because that’s what he does, and he takes photos too until another Dodgers rep politely but urgently carves a path through the growing crowd because Gennady, five days out from defending his middleweight belts against Willie Monroe Jr., is here to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Dodgers take on the Miami Marlins.
At the bottom of a set of stairs, by an entryway out onto the field, Golovkin is told that he can only take four people with him, and he is assured that the rest of his family, including his young son, will not only be ushered to their prime seating but will be closely looked after by the team until he has discharged his pitching responsibilities and can join them. And then you all walk through an entryway and before you know it, you’re standing on the warning track by the home dugout at Dodgers Stadium.
A group of media is waiting, taking photographs and asking him questions about his baseball prowess and knowledge, which the man from Kazakhstan parries adroitly. And they ask about last Saturday’s fight between Canelo Alvarez and James Kirkland and about how GGG feels about possibly facing Alvarez, or whether he would rather face lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto. He responds diplomatically to those queries, too, although he does suggest that a battle between Canelo and him in May 2016 could be an attractive proposition. And one of his advisers leans over and whispers in your ear that, “We figure we could probably do that here, in this stadium,” and you can’t help but think that would be a truly spectacular event on an evening like this.
Golovkin poses for some pictures with a bat and in the Dodgers’ dugout, and after he emerges up the dugout steps, he smiles at you and pats you on the shoulder and admits, “Wow, that’s pretty cool,” one of the most celebrated fighters on the planet allowing himself the slightest of fan boy moments. Then actor Andy Garcia comes over and says hello and poses for pictures, because of course he does; and Adrian Gonzalez, the team’s first baseman who is Golovkin’s designated ceremonial pitch catcher, gives him a hug and wishes him luck on Saturday. Abel Sanchez, who is enjoying the whole scene as much as everyone but can never completely turn off, quietly asks Gonzalez if the ballplayer and the boxer can toss a few balls back and forth, just to make sure the latter’s right shoulder is nice and loose.
Golovkin rips a few pitches straight at Gonzalez, who tosses them back, and then it’s time for the real thing. The stadium PA plays the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Golovkin’s signature ring walk music; Golovkin is introduced to the crowd, which cheers him warmly; and he throws a strike to Gonzalez.
And after a few more photographs, his focus changes and he is no longer Gennady Golovkin, middleweight champ, he is Gennady the father of Vadim and husband of Alina, about whose whereabouts he ever so anxiously inquires. Everyone is escorted off the field, the media leaves, Golovkin is directed to his seats next to his family, the rest sit a few rows back, and what started as a photo opportunity to promote a fight has morphed into a family day out at the ballpark. It truly is a beautiful evening, and life really doesn’t get much better than this.