Over the years, the spotlight has shone on many different aspects of the boxing career of Gennady Golovkin. The string of knockouts (23 in a row between Amar Amari staying on his feet for all eight rounds on June 21, 2008 and Daniel Jacobs going the championship distance on March 18, 2017). The pulsating “Seven Nation Army” ring walks. The tight relationship with trainer Abel Sanchez. The unabashed and enthusiastic adoption by the Kazakh-born middleweight of a “Mexican Style” of fighting and the ready embrace of a Mexican fan base that at times has even favored him over its own natural-born boxers.
Almost lost amid all the hype and fury is the fact that, steadily but surely, Golovkin has been accumulating a growing number of middleweight title defenses. Counting his 2010 first-round knockout of Milton Nunez to claim an interim alphabet strap as his first world title win, he has since made 19 successful defenses – one short of the record, set by Bernard Hopkins between 1995 and 2005.
Golovkin now has a chance to equal Hopkins’ record, when he puts his numerous belts, and his status as the number one middleweight in the world, on the line against Vanes Martirosyan at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on May 5 (HBO World Championship Boxing, 11PM ET). It will be Golovkin’s second fight at StubHub, where a record crowd for boxing at the venue watched him stop Marco Antonio Rubio in 2014.
Martirosyan, eagle-eyed fans will notice, was not the original planned opponent for Golovkin; nor was the StubHub the initially planned location. But after Canelo Alvarez — with whom Golovkin fought to a disputed draw at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas last September and with whom he was slated to contest a rematch at the same venue — faced suspension after testing positive for trace amounts of clenbuterol, Golovkin needed to find a new foe. Enter Martirosyan, born in Armenia and resident in Glendale, California, a two-time world title challenger at junior middleweight, who owns wins over the likes of Saul Roman, Ishe Smith and, like Golovkin, Kassim Ouma.
Martirosyan knows full well that few, if any, observers expect his challenge of Golovkin to be any more successful than those of, for example, Dominic Wade (knocked out in two rounds in 2016), Kell Brook (stopped in five later that same year) or at best Martin Murray, who survived into the eleventh round in Monaco in 2015. But he is defiant and confident in his ability to stop Golovkin’s record pursuit in its tracks in what would surely be an upset for the ages.
“I've been training my ass off. I’m sparring, I’m on weight,” Martirosyan recently told the Los Angeles Times. “When they asked me if I'd take this fight, I said yes. I didn’t ask about money at all. It’s a good show for L.A. Cinco De Mayo. Armenians will pack the place. I have a lot of Mexican fans. I do believe in my heart I’m going to beat (Golovkin) because he's never fought someone with my style.”
Golovkin, similarly, is treating Martirosyan’s challenge with full focus.
“Vanes Martirosyan is now the most important fight of my career. He has my respect and I am training hard to defend my titles against him,” he said. “I am happy to be back on HBO and fighting at StubHub Center because they have great boxing fans. I will give my fans another big drama show.”
“Gennady has had such a terrific training camp in Big Bear. It wouldn’t be fair to him to let it go to waste just because Canelo was being punished,” added Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer.
“Gennady is going to light up Cinco De Mayo as only a true Mexican-style fighter can. I can't wait to unleash him.”