I am frustrated with Gennady Golovkin. Despite what many might think, I don’t dislike Golovkin, nor do I think he is bad for the sport. But, the cultish-like behavior from his fans over the middleweight’s career to date are bizarre, at the very least.
Let’s start with the positive: Golovkin is the best middleweight, according to the eye test, in the past decade or so. He’s one of the most devastating punchers we have seen in a great while and is a charismatic individual with boyish charm that enamors the public.
Golovkin in many ways is the type of boxer that made me fall in love with the sport. That being said, it is getting a tad bit ridiculous that many are crowning him as the greatest in the world or of any generation. Golovkin is being compared to Marvin Hagler as the best middleweight ever, when his list of opposition reads more like something from a book depository check-out list, and less so of that of hall of fame fighters. Though Golovkin has had an entertaining past three years on HBO, the major note is that he has yet to get a fight that will define him, and he is unwilling to budge from the middleweight class, despite still needing career definition well into his 30s.
I suppose I take exception to Golovkin so much since most fighters need to accumulate a victory against an A-level opponent to merit respect. For Danny Garcia it was Lucas Matthysse, for Floyd Mayweather it was Oscar De La Hoya, etc. It feels like the general public is so in love with Golovkin they wish to anoint him before his big test. I can understand this, since people want to be right – and I know first hand how rotten it is to be mocked by people on the internet being wrong about prospects, case in point: Amir Imam. The fact is, it’s illogical and unfair to crown him, when, at best, Golovkin has beaten a B- level of opposition; with most of the fighters he has faced not trying to win, more so survive. Golovkin up until this point has yet to face someone who truly believes he can beat him.
The worst part of this whole mess is people are making their career off of either absurdly defending him, or being labeled Golovkin bashers, which I am told I am the leader of the latter half. I do not hate Golovkin, I enjoy his fights and would love to talk with him, though I am sure that opportunity is not going to be afforded to me anytime soon. Golovkin merits attention and beyond that, he has no middle ground – it is polarized thinking, right or wrong, and nothing in between, which is always good for the sport.
My breaking point came this year when Golovkin fought lesser known Dominic Wade, whom was the number one contender for one of his belts. The fight was received so poorly by the media, an ongoing domestic violence arrest Wade was dealing with and could be sent to prison for was not even talked about, because no one researched Wade, because no one viewed him as having a chance.
I can somewhat understand the logic without agreeing with it, since Golovkin boxed himself into a hole saying he wants to unify the major 4 titles in his division. Golovkin currently holds two of the belts outright, the IBF and WBC, as well as part of the WBA, but has to unify the title with Daniel Jacobs to hold that belt outright. The only other remaining title is stuck in Europe with Billy Joe Saunders, who will not be fighting Golovkin until he can get enough money to retire after the bout.
See, this is the problem to the paradox of Golovkin, he allowed himself to be avoided in a weird way. By being rigid and unwilling to go up or down in weight, it has become simple for young fighters to either move up in weight or move down in weight leaving a barren middleweight division. Golovkin might be a hit at the box office, breaking Madison Square Garden revenue sales with goods sold, but his pay-per-view in America sold less than 200,000 buys, which was a dramatic flop.
The Golovkin team has always held an arrogant assumption that a big fight will occur, whether it was Sergio Martinez years ago, Miguel Cotto, or most recently Canelo Alvarez, all of these fights fell apart. The major reason was that the money versus the risk wasn’t worth it. I know for fans that sounds plain rotten, but the fact is most boxers are just good at boxing and don’t love the sport of boxing the way the fans do, and facing a man who could give you a concussion and hurt your value on the open market needs an incentive behind it or it won’t happen.
Beyond money, the Golovkin team is dead fast at staying at 160 lbs, the middleweight limit, despite needing career defining wins. They’re now bringing up a 147 lbs. champion, Kell Brook, two weight classes to fight Golovkin in what will surely be a brutal beating. Yet, when trying to make the Canelo Alvarez fight, Golovkin refused to give an inch to move down even a single pound against Alvarez, who has never fought at middleweight despite holding a middleweight title (which is also telling of the current landscape of boxing). Alvarez would fight foes at a catchweight of 155 lbs.
Then there is the Andre Ward situation, in which Golovkin used Ward’s name in the media to promote himself, but never expressed any interest behind the scenes in making a bout. In fact, any fighter above his weight class except for a now-retired Carl Froch and semi-pro Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., have never been brought up by the Golovkin team as the phrase “unify the division” is the reasoning for staying at 160 lbs.
My big takeaway is: who cares if you unify the division? We can tell you are really good, now we want to see you in a fight in which you’re not a 10:1 favorite. And no, that is not just because of your dominance in the ring, it is also partially based on who you’re fighting. I would favor Golovkin over Erislandy Lara. But that being said, bringing up Lara from 154 lbs is much more interesting than a man two weight classes smaller, as well as the fact that Lara would have been an opponent Golovkin could compare himself with Canelo.
When Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, was asked about why they don’t call Lara’s bluff, a fighter who has called out Golovkin for the past two years, the answer is strange: They wish to be gentlemen and don’t want to be rude, is what was told Steve Kim of UCNLive.com.
I find this frustrating since we are seeing a trend now in boxing, avoiding hard fights if you have an established fanbase. Golovkin fans are somewhat in my opinion like SEC football fans hoping to see their team win by 80 points over schools that they shouldn’t play. The only difference is those schools eventually have to play someone of merit at the end of the year, Golovkin may never have to.
You can like Andre Ward or you can hate him, but he and Sergey Kovalev are to be respected in the era. They both respect weight classes and allowed each other a couple of fights to get ready for their bout in November, to give the fans the best fight possible. Golovkin is bringing up Kell Brook who has never fought above 147 with the guise of “…he is a really good fighter.” The left-out statement is the fact that the adage goes “…a good big man will always beat a good little guy as long as steroids are not involved.”
Up until this point, Golovkin’s biggest wins are over tough, but never quite world-championship-level Curtis Stevens, Martin Murray, a man of similar pedigree; Daniel Geale, a former world champion who never had success stateside in David Lemieux. Lemieux is the one Golovkin gets most credit for, since he won a world title from Hassan N’Dam, a two-time middleweight champion. N’Dam, by the way, is now the guy getting heat for being one of the only pros to fight in the Olympics, which should tell you about his career direction in the current moment.
Lemieux has been, at best, a seek-and-destroy puncher who has devastating power that forcibly changes fights with just a single blow, but typically wins through an accumulation that creates devastation. The problem is that Lemieux has been stopped by lesser opposition, even Marco Antonio Rubio, and up until his re-birth on HBO he was widely consider a “I wonder where that guy went…” kind of fighter. Lemieux has been, and will be considered a great fighter, but a dominant win over him, in my opinion, should not put you with the likes of the greatest fighters ever. Even worse is the fact that Daniel Jacobs beat Peter Quillin, a man that more dominantly beat N’Dam. That lone win that makes Lemieux credible in the modern era.
Once again, am I saying Golovkin is bad? No. Am I saying he is unproven? Not really, since he continues to look the same against foes. What I am saying is he lacks anything to define himself as a fighter beyond a spirited marketing campaign, a few soundbites turned into t-shirts, great live gate numbers, and decent television ratings.
So Golovkin will take his show on the road this year, as 2016 will be not much different than 2015 for him, with the only difference being that now he can at least point to a name people have heard of on his resume (despite Brook being 13 lbs smaller than him and never fighting at that weight before). What used to be talks of unification are now shifting to “big fights,” since the bouts in the middleweight division are just plain awful and might not even get approved by HBO, who are seemingly backing Golovkin at all costs, so that should say something. This newest edition, going to London and fighting at the 02 Arena, seems to also say that if Golovkin can take these activity fights that only his die hard fans want to see, like say an Alfonso Blanco title defense, and put them over in the UK hoping he can do strong gate numbers.
The precedent has been set with Canelo to pull a little guy up in weight when he fought Amir Khan, but more than ever boxing is business first and foremost. Part of the reason Golovkin can’t get his big fight is his team behaves as rational as high school teachers who moonlight as boxing writers for local newspapers who feel a grandiose attitude based on getting a press pass. In short, Golovkin’s team commonly voiced by his head trainer, Abel Sanchez, often uses the media that are friendly with their team to build buzz for their fighter. Golovkin has gotten an enormous amount of leeway for saying he’d fight anyone from 154-168 lbs. and then never moving up or down, saying he’d go to 168 lbs. for Carl Froch or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but never entertain an Andre Ward fight. The Golovkin team are burning bridges with other camps, thinking they’re the a-side. The facts are they’re not yet what they deem themselves to be, they need a big name and at this point, more so than ducking Golovkin, it appears that most camps are frustrated with their behavior as individuals and don’t want to give them the opportunity of a big fight.
I can also see the frustration of the fans who love Golovkin and who just want to see fights. Golovkin is a fighter who doesn’t require an understanding of boxing to watch. You turn on a fight and you watch for a knockout, essentially. In this regard, you could say he is the anti-Floyd Mayweather, as you don’t really need to know much about the sport to understand what is happening.
Golovkin’s fans aren’t typically boxing fans when you look across the board from bloggers to those in the crowd. A large portion of them are people with frustrated looks on their faces and the willingness to lash out a Twitter comment at the drop of a dime. Golovkin empowers a certain group of the population, just like Donald Trump; even if you feel weak, Golovkin is strong, and watching him can give you solace that maybe you can be as strong as him one day.
I know this first hand, as criticizing Golovkin got my phone number leaked on the internet, and I received 50 calls, mainly death threats, over my views on Golovkin. Golovkin for some people isn’t just a fighter, he is much more than that, and it is making seemingly rational people irrational.
I suppose we can blame the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era for this, people are such big fans that they forgo common sense. I think that apps have made this even worse as now you can live within your own world of Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat to make a universe that only reflects your views. I saw this first hand when people on my social media accounts were actually surprised Bernie Sanders lost in California. My take away was that everyone of these folks created a world in which everyone they knew voted for him so people outside of that seemed foreign. That is how Golovkin is right now, catering solely to his fans, which isn’t a bad thing, and in return they create an absurd reality that is not based in the realm of logic.
My problem isn’t with Golovkin, it is with the modern era. Rather than understanding a foreign perspective, we now have radical extremes that don’t adequately express individualism. Golovkin, to me, expresses what is both good and bad in boxing, but is a manifestation of fight fans wanting to feed people to the lions while they consume liquor and call someone “a bum.” Rather than meeting someone halfway let’s mock them, block them or belittle them to make ourselves seem bigger.
The beloved part of Golovkin is his style, being exciting, and that he seemingly always entertains. Golovkin can box, but he is there to entertain, and his fans are the direct defiance to the last wave of boxing which saw a 12 round decision on pay-per-view.
At the same time, Golovkin feels as though he has become a star before fully making that leap. His inability to compromise makes it difficult to see any boxer willing to fight him.
The sad truth is until Golovkin is older and not the same. He will not get the big fight unless he moves up or down in weight, something he has, until this point, proved unwilling to do.