So often in boxing, fans are keyed up before the fight but deflated afterward, victims of incompetent officials, disinterested fighters or gross mismatches. But that wasn't the case for a record-breaking crowd of 9,323 that filled the StubHub Center outside of Los Angeles to see Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) do what he does best.
They didn't need to wait long.
A left hand jolted Marco Antonio Rubio (59-7-1, 51 KOs) in the second round, sending the underdog to the mat. He looked comfortable there, making only a half-hearted effort to get to his feet and continue the fight.
And who can blame him? Golovkin, 32, is just that scary. For the 18th time in a row, his opponent didn't make it through the bout, failing to answer that final bell. Although just a middleweight, Golovkin's aura and pure power are such that one name comes up over and over again when discussing him—the scariest man of a previous generation.
"Pretty much like the early days of Mike Tyson," HBO announcer Jim Lampley said after the fight. "You're going to get your money's worth, but you're going to get it in a hurry. Because it doesn't last long."
But the crowd wasn't quite done, continuing the same chant they had greeted boxing's newest star with to start the evening.
"Triple G! Triple G! Triple G!"
After the fight, flashing his trademark grin, he mixed broken Spanish with broken English in a post-fight interview with Max Kellerman. He's more than just a powerhouse—Golovkin has personality.
"Of course I like fight," Golovkin said, his accent a scary replica of Sacha Baron Cohen's iconic Borat character. "I don't like dancing, I like fight. This is true fight."
At HBO, they seem to sense something special in the air. It felt like the beginning of something big, the moment that propels Golovkin into a life-changing opportunity. Golovkin has "it," that indefinable something that separates superstars from mere champions.
As great as he's been, however, only stars can make new stars. You become a household name by beating a household name, a fighter who even casual fans recognize as mattering. And no fighter like that has dared step in the ring with Golovkin.
"It's not attractive to those guys," former light heavyweight champion Roy Jones said after the fight. "This guy still looks like a monster. A killing machine. A young, modern-day Mike Tyson. He's a guy that destroys everybody that they put in front of him. So these guys aren't going to be knocking the door down to get in front of Gennady Golovkin."
Yahoo's Kevin Iole, a doubter just a few months ago, is coming around to Golovkin's potential as a drawing card. Golovkin's promoter, Tom Loeffler, having to erect additional bleachers to meet an overflow of fans for the boxer's West Coast debut will do that. But Iole is not sure a big-name fighter is on the horizon:
...in the meantime, he's content with doing what he is so great at doing: Making exciting bouts and awing fans and opponents alike with his incredible power, tremendous punching accuracy and marvelous conditioning.
Nobody would dare suggest he's surpassed Mayweather or Pacquiao in terms of popularity or drawing ability yet, but if he keeps up the pace he's on, that may well be the case before much longer.
After the bout, Golovkin indicated a willingness to fight both Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But neither man was first on his list. That honor was granted to Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican legend who won the lineal middleweight championship from Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden in June.
"Max. Look at me. I have three belts. I want fight everybody," Golovkin told HBO's Kellerman. "I think next year pretty good fights with great champions. I think first Miguel Cotto. Respect him. Great champion."
|Potential Gennady Golovkin Foes|
|Saul Alvarez||Light Middleweight||44-1-1|
|Carl Froch||Super Middleweight||33-2|
|Andre Ward||Super Middleweight||27-0|
|Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.||Middleweight||48-1-1|
It would be a dream fight for boxing fans, a potential pay-per-view attraction and the kind of matchup that could make Golovkin the next big thing. It's also not likely to happen, at least not right away. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is already working on a bout between Cotto and Alvarez. And though he's willing to consider Golovkin for the winner, it's just a sweet nothing until a contract is signed.
What if no top middleweight will fight him, despite the division being devoid of marquee fights? Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ thinks a step up in weight would work nicely. Who knows? Perhaps the bigger boys at super middleweight will have cojones big enough to face Golovkin's power without fear in their eyes:
Now, obviously, I'm like anyone else, and I'd love to see Golovkin go to 168 pounds and maybe challenge Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, George Groves, James DeGale, that Andre whatshisname, maybe even finally get that fight with Chavez Jr. done. If nothing else, against the more durable guys (Froch, Chavez, whathisname), he's likely to meet resistance simply because they're bigger men who should in theory be more capable of taking his shots. Froch-Golovkin, in particular, sounds like a dream fight to me.
If Golovkin can't get a title shot, it's because boxing is broken. If promoters and television networks can't make things work, the first step toward a solution can come from fans and boxing's media elite.
We all know that Golovkin is boxing's top middleweight. Why pretend otherwise because a sanctioning body like the WBC chooses to recognize someone else as champion?
One thing's for sure: The time to strike is now. Golovkin is already 32 years old, and his clock is ticking. Everyone sees the potential there. It's just a matter of sifting through the nonsense that prevents boxing's ruling class from making sensible decisions and launching the next Manny Pacquiao into a star's orbit.