By Matthew Hurley: With all the lunacy that goes on in boxing it’s always refreshing when a brilliant talent comes along. It’s even better when that fighter is a complete professional and a good guy to boot.
Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, or GGG as his fans call him, is turning into something special. A fighter who loves to perform, who pines for the big fight against anyone willing to step in the ring with him and who smiles like a young kid who can’t believe how great everything is progressing in his career.
Golovkin’s conclusive third round knockout victory over Daniel Geale further enhanced his reputation as one of the best fighters in boxing. But it also alienates him from that signature bout that could define him as a fighter. All too often we’ve seen boxers turn down legitimate challenges in favor of paydays with minimal risk. Promotional disputes have crippled the sport in recent years so the fighters are certainly not completely at fault. But there is a prevailing feeling among fans that not only are the best matches not being made, but that the fighters have been sucked into this malaise and they would rather fill their bank accounts than test themselves.
Fortunately, fighters like Golovkin, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and even the ageless Bernard Hopkins keep purists of the sweet science from jumping off what sometimes seems to be a sinking ship.
Golovkin is 32, in his prime and is willing to fight anyone. He is old school in the sense that he feels the need to prove his worth in the ring. Always prepared, always focused, he has become the definition of pugilistic professionalism. He wants to be great. He dares to be great. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had that opponent to truly take him to the highest level. So, he continues to steamroll over good contenders. But with his popularity surging, the grinning prize fighter from Kazakhstan wants and needs that superfight.
After his brilliant demolition of Geale, he said he wants lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto next. His desire is to be the one and only middleweight champion.
Cotto, who crushed an old and hobbled Sergio Martinez, is one of boxing’s ultimate warriors. He is fearless and has put together a hall of fame worthy career with a quiet dignity that has turned him into a legend in his boxing crazy homeland of Puerto Rico. But his domination of Martinez had as much to do with his fighting prowess as it did with the broken down opponent he destroyed. Cotto did what he had to do, and he did it like a cool assassin. Still, you can’t ignore the fact that Martinez was not 100%. It may not have made a difference if he had been, but he wasn’t. The surgeries on his knee and the alarming knockdowns he suffered in previous bouts indicated he was ripe for the taking.
Which makes one wonder if Freddie Roach, Cotto’s trainer who was ringside for Golovkin’s latest masterpiece, will even let Cotto get in the ring with GGG. Make no mistake, Golovkin is legitimately feared.
Golovkin has targeted Cotto, who is supposed to fight in December. Don’t expect it to be against Gennady. And that’s the frustrating part of this potentially great fighter’s career. The big challenges, the money fights, just don’t seem to come his way. He’s too dangerous. He’s too damn good.
Andre Ward, the recognized best fighter at 168 pounds, would present a tremendous challenge. But Ward is entwined in a contract dispute with promoter Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions and has only fought once since 2012. His profile on the boxing circuit is quickly becoming invisible and his reputation no longer carries much clout because of his inactivity. He has no fights scheduled for 2014 which may lead to career suicide.
If Golovkin doesn’t get Cotto, a terrific match up would be against the British Bull Dog Carl Froch. But Froch, coming off a defining performance over George Groves in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, doesn’t seem to want any part of him either. Not because he fears him, but because he knows that he only has one or two fights left in him and he wants a huge payday that a fight with Golovkin would not provide. Froch, a fan favorite and a true tough guy who has fought a succession of worthy opponents, arguably the most difficult string of challengers since 2008 back to back than any other fighter in the sport, deserves to close out his career on his own terms. He wants Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Las Vegas and he’ll probably get it. And he is not going to drop down to 160 pounds after defining his career at 168. After that, the 37 year old may hang up his gloves.
So GGG remains one of those fighters who is so good, he may be too good for his own good. He wants to be a superstar and he deserves to be one. But he may never cross over into that rarefied realm because he may never get that one great opponent, that moment under the lights, which helped define great fighters of the past. And if that turns out to be his fate, it would be incredibly unfortunate. Because Gennady Golovkin is that good, and he deserves a chance to produce that defining moment. He deserves to be a superstar.
Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His first book on boxing, Ringside Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com.