Reborn Gennady Golovkin returns to the ring this Saturday night
By John J. Raspanti
Would a guy who’s won 38 of 39 fights, dominated the middleweight division for years, and made a boatload of money, consider making changes to his career?
That’s exactly what former middleweight champion Gennadiy (he recently added an "I" to his first name) Golovkin has done.
Golovkin lost a (very) debatable decision to Canelo Alvarez last September in a rematch of their first fight, also controversial, that was ruled a draw.
I felt bad for him. Golovkin was a little over 30 when he invaded the United States six years ago. All the years of toiling away in virtual obscurity in Europe, winning a title (in Russia) that few respected, and then becoming something of a folk hero with more titles due to his modest ways and heavy hands, went awry when he lost to Alvarez.
It wasn’t fair, but boxing like life, rarely is. What would have happened if Golovkin had fought Alvarez in 2014, who is 8 years younger? The answer is easy, but Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya was clever enough to realize that Alvarez wasn’t ready. When they did meet for the first time in 2017, it had been obvious for a while that Golovkin was slipping. Nobody beats mother nature - except perhaps Archie Moore, and Bernard Hopkins, and Golovkin is no legend, but he’s still a damn good fighter.
Never the fastest fighter anyway, Golovkin looked to have lost a step. What he hadn’t lost was his heart, as he showed in the 12th and final round against Alvarez in the rematch. I had him winning the first fight, and ruled the second fight a draw. But my opinion doesn’t matter. Officially, Alvarez had taken Golovkin’s perfect record and it seemed there was nothing the former champion could do about it.
Well, maybe something. He withdrew for a few months to plot his future course.
He followed Alvarez’s example by signing a six-fight, 100 million deal (Alvarez’s contract was worth 365 million) with the sports streaming service DAZN. Then he rocked the boxing world he and long-time trainer, Abel Sanchez, parted ways over money.
The break-up was hardly amiable. Sanchez, who had guided Golovkin to 20 straight victories before the loss to Alvarez, and thought of the Kazakhstan native as something of a son, called Golovkin greedy and ungrateful. Golovkin thanked Sanchez for his help, but said he felt stale. A change was required. Golovkin responded to reporters before an open workout in Santa Monica, CA, last week.
“Abel at first said he feels like dad and son and the second time he said it’s only business. C’mon,” said Golovkin.
Golovkin’s most recent decision was to hire former cruiserweight world champion Johnathon Banks as his new trainer. Banks, who took over as trainer of former heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko, after mentor Emanuel Steward died, immediately clicked with Golovkin.
“We’ve always had mutual respect,” Banks told Dennis Taylor and me in an interview on a recent Ringside Boxing Show radio broadcast. “Everytime we saw each other, we talked, and it kept going. And then, when time to have a serious conversation, (about Banks being Golovkin’s trainer) it was the same as always. He’s an easy-going guy, and so am I.”
“I’m enjoying a relationship that’s more true, not fake,” said Golovkin.
Golovkin, 37, feels like he’s learning again under Banks.
“Jonathan doesn’t (teach) Abel’s stuff, “said Golovkin. “He brings his own stuff, different stuff from Detroit, from that school. He brings a lot of boxing. It’s different. I feel like a teenager going to a new school.”
Many wondered if Golovkin had lost his hunger after so much success. Quite the contrary, according to Banks. Golovkin, after the loss to Alvarez, has something to prove.
“He woke with a new motivation,” Banks said. “I have to slow him down. He has so much energy. I’m loving it.”
The debut of the Golovkin and Banks partnership comes this Saturday night when Golovkin faces virtual unknown Steve Rolls (19-0, 9 KOs) at Madison Square Garden in NYC.
Neither is underestimating Rolls.
“I know Rolls can be dangerous because earlier in my career, I used to be Steve Rolls,” Golovkin said in an article posted on www.boxingscene.com a few days ago. “I was an unknown challenger. It is the unknown fighters who can end up being the most dangerous.”
“Steve Rolls will bring everything he can,” said Banks. “This is his one shining moment. Everyone wants a big moment in their career. This is his big moment.”
Expect Golovkin to roll to a stoppage victory.