Photo by Walter McBride/Getty
Before Gennady Golovkin began his ring walk on July 26, HBO commentator Max Kellerman referred to Golovkin’s opponent, Daniel Geale, as “probably the best fighter he has faced as a professional” before saying that it would be tricky to find anyone who would pick Geale to win.
Boxing’s worst kept secret, Golovkin is no longer the knockout artist no one has heard of. With dashing good looks that could have him confused for a model and a mean streak that draws comparisons with a certain Mike Tyson, he seemingly has all the tools necessary to become a star in professional boxing.
Despite the lack of faith commentators had in him, Geale was supposed to provide Golovkin’s stiffest test to date. The tricky orthodox fighter known for his toughness had only two losses that both came by split decision. At 33, whispers were becoming chatter on whether or not Geale had reached his peak. Never a power puncher, he was the kind of intelligent challenge that was supposed to give us an idea of whether or not Golovkin was ready for the elite-level middleweights like Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez.
In the fight, Geale never had a chance to get started. Golovkin’s underrated movement and body punches took little time to weaken the aging fighter and by the third round, Geale had called it quits. The man who had stood tall against so many hard-hitting opponents throughout his career (and had never been stopped in his 32 fights) lasted less than nine minutes with the Kazakh-born sensation.
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There’s an old saying that goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Despite the spectacular performance and hype around Golovkin, his HBO headlining performance was unquestionably a disappointment.
The show, which aired on HBO and not pay-per-view, drew a measly 945,000 views. To put that in context, the Miguel Cotto versus Sergio Martinez bout drew 350,000 pay-per-view buys, and 945,000 views on the free HBO airing a week after the fight aired. The Terrence Crawford versus Yuriorkis Gamboa bout from late June 2014 reached over 1.2 million viewers, with undercard bouts reaching numbers comparable with Golovkin-Geale. What also has to be taken into consideration is that Crawford had never headlined a major HBO show before, and Gamboa had been out of the public spotlight for almost two years.
Attendance in Madison Square Garden wasn’t good either. Only 8,572 came out to see the bout, which took place in the MSG main room. In contrast, the previously discussed Cotto versus Martinez bout from early June 2014 drew over 21,000 people to MSG.
Fight fans live in a bubble, where the ideal fights to be made are between the highest levels of talent. They want to see the number one fighter take on the number two fighter, as opposed to someone no one has ever heard of.
But what is so often forgotten is that combat sports are a business first. Cotto has come out and said he has little interest in a Golovkin fight because he’s not a superstar (which most pundits took as him being afraid). Carl Froch, the current IBF middleweight world champion said that his plan was to “Just swerve Golovkin like the plague. He punches like a mule. I don’t need to be in with him. Dangerous fight.” Take that quote as you will, but it doesn’t sound like he’s particularly interested in a showdown with Golovkin.
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And so Golovkin finds himself in a difficult position. His knockouts have given him legendary status amongst hard-core fight fans, but the general public has yet to catch on. Because he’s not a box office hit and because boxing is a sport where champions have some say in who they face, Golovkin is in the difficult position of having to wait until one of the top-level organizations demand one of their champions face him.
Had Golovkin shown some signs of weakness against Geale or any of his other opponents, had these world champions thought they could defeat him, it would be an entirely different story. They’d be lining up at his doorstep to have him challenge for their belts. Instead, they’re cowering away, trying to find anyone but him to face.
For now, Golovkin will have to continue fighting whoever is put in front of him. His strategy won’t be to show weakness, but to continue pounding opponents until the combined middleweight champions of the world are left with no choice but to put up their belts against him.
If HBO continues to air his fights (they will) and he continues to knock them dead (the likely scenario), Golovkin will have his world title shot before too long, and if his success translates to the elite level of the sport, he’ll also have a shiny new belt (or perhaps, belts) to take back with him to Kazakhstan.
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