Unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has recently been signed by the Nike Jordan Brand as one of their endorsed athletes. It’s been a prospect long theorized as Golovkin and trainer made the ring walk sporting Jordan Brand gear in his most recent appearance against David Lemieux in October of last year. Those rumors have now been confirmed as the label went on to officially endorse the boxer early last week.
“We are excited to add Gennady to the Jordan Brand family,” Jordan Brand president Larry Miller said in a press release. “Gennady’s work ethic, dedication to his craft and style make him a perfect fit.”
The announcement makes Golovkin the third professional fighter to sport the Jordan Brand, the first two being Roy Jones Jr. and Andre Ward. Spectators may be a bit surprised with the selection as predecessors have traditionally held some crossover appeal to mainstream hip-hop audiences (Ward being signed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Jones being an actual rapper himself), while Golovkin, a foreign transplant from Kazakhstan, is still learning the ropes of the English language, let alone being able to alchemize vocabulary into catchy rap verses. It is perhaps the ruthlessness seen in his undefeated fighting record of 34 wins with 31 KOs that captures mainstream attention, as well as stir an excitement to possibly being the next big thing in boxing.
The choice to endorse the Kazakh fighter may also be a coincidental move to fill a gap as parent company Nike recently dropped Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao from their label for controversial comments against same-sex couples (http://fightland.vice.com/blog/manny-pacquiao-may-lose-nike-endorsement-for-comments-on-gay-couples). Press releases state that the Golovkin camp will “work closely with the brand to continue the development of the category” and the middleweight champ is expected to don Jordan Brand trunks and gloves for his upcoming bout against Dominic Wade this Saturday on April 23rd.
For those keeping score, this is yet another major endorsement captured by the rising middleweight star. Six months prior, Golovkin also appeared shadowboxing in an Apple Watch commercial that led much of the mainstream public wondering why of all possible athletes that a boxer was singularly featured, as well as questioning the identity of the mystery shadowboxer. The hope is that curiosity will incline viewers to search out the fighter, find interest in his story, and become newfound fans of the fistic science. This of course ultimately helps the sport of boxing.
But for the already initiated, why does any of this really matter? Well, first it is an indication that GGG is slowly crossing his way into the consciousness of the largest marketplace for boxing, i.e. the American mainstream. This matters because the more notoriety a fighter has in the public eye, the more leverage they carry at the negotiation table when it comes to the big fights, which in the case of Golovkin, is the proposed super-fight against the lineal middleweight champion Canelo Álvarez, (i.e. the fight that fans really care about). As we reported earlier this year, there are a number of roadblocks from getting the matchup off the ground, most notably the 155lb catch-weight and the ridiculous 90/10 pursue split proposed by Álvarez promoter Golden Boy. The justification behind such an absurd split is that Golovkin lacks mainstream recognition and that it will be Álvarez who draws in most of the viewers. This reasoning has been suggested as a ploy from the Álvarez camp to stretch the potential mega-fight out until 2017 and attempt to milk as much money possible out of the fight, much like how Mayweather and Pacquiao did in their encounter last year. The other popular view from fans is that Álvarez is simply scared of losing to Golovkin. Adding an endorsement from a major brand like Nike will strengthen the bargaining power of Golovkin, and ultimately weaken the argument that he doesn’t garner enough fan appeal to be cut a fair deal. Overall, Golovkin earning the endorsement will bring fans closer to knowing the truth as to why Team Álvarez appears seemingly hesitant to make the mega-fight a reality.
Basically, the new endorsement is symbolic of Golovkin arming himself for a potential showdown against Álvarez, and an insight as to how fights are contested outside of the ring. It’s a bit sad to think of championships as being determined by factors unrelated to actual fighting ability, but it is an unfortunate reality that we deal with in the current model of the sport. At the very least, it’s a step forward in putting together one of the best fights in modern boxing, and it’s good to see that the other side had earned some much-needed firepower to fight back.
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