Drama King Golovkin’s Middleweight Run Continues Against Monroe
Two days out from what will be Gennady Golovkin’s 14th defense of his WBA title, the middleweight knockout artist from Kazakhstan is preoccupied with one topic amongst his team while taking a training break – Al Pacino. In his now trademark broken (but improving) English, Golovkin praised the legendary thespian’s ability. It’s fitting that “GGG” would enjoy the drama of Pacino’s dexterity in portraying chilling emotional distance, like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, and over the top bravado as Scarface’s Tony Montana, since they parallel Golovkin’s own nature in and outside the ring. Between the ropes, Golovkin’s work is more machine than human; his demeanor ranges from stoic to an occasional snarl punctuated with devastating power and aggression that has cultivated an 18-fight KO streak dating back to 2008. Outside the ring, his ever-present smile and jovial interviews has added several new catchphrases to the boxing lexicon (“good boy,” “are you serious?”).
The latest potential “good boy” is Willie Monroe, a southpaw whose boxing lineage includes a father/trainer that boxed professionally for 15 years, and a great uncle in Willie “The Worm” Monroe who defeated Marvin Hagler. While his name won’t ring out amongst most casual fans, Monroe’s in-ring pedigree hints at skills another fighter possessed in Golovkin’s toughest fight to date.
Back in 2011, Golovkin was unknown to most fans when he stepped into the Roberto Duran Arena in Panama City to face Kassim Ouma. Back in the early 2000s, Ouma was one of the sport’s top junior middleweights. He relied on volume punching and underrated skill from his southpaw stance to capture the IBF strap and briefly hold the distinction of being the division’s best fighter. But by the time he faced Golovkin, Ouma had been wore out through years of attrition fights.
The actual fight didn’t follow the usual script of an up and comer feasting on a shot opponent. Through the first half, Golovkin was the one who couldn’t get his footing. He was stifled by the speed of Ouma’s right jabs and straight lefts at mid-range. Inside, Ouma was the one getting off first and leaving Golovkin a step behind in most exchanges.
In the second half, youth and power took over. Ouma’s legs got a step slower, and that proved to be the difference between evasion and eating flush Golovkin power shots. After several one-sided rounds that were difficult to watch, the referee saved a battered Ouma in the 10th.
Although rumored to have gone into the fight with the flu, Golovkin makes no excuses on his performance. But he has a quick counter for those who look at that bout as proof he may struggle against Monroe, who’s a natural middleweight with fast hands and slick footwork.
“Ouma was good style, tricky for me. It took time to figure out,” Golovkin admits. “Me? [I am a] much better fight since then. Remember I then fought another southpaw in [Grzegorz] Proksa and [had a] better knockout. You’ll see more in this fight.”
He has a point about Proksa, who was gradually broken down and dispatched in the 5th round. But Proksa is also a former light middleweight without the size and strength that Monroe carries. It’s those qualities that make Saturday’s matchup intriguing and one with the most potential of any recent Golovkin fights to go into deep, competitive rounds.
“Conditioning. I know I need it,” Golovkin says. “I need deep rounds. [My] power is always there. Conditioning keeps you ready for tough fights. The good fights and drama is people want.”
A Game of Drama Shows
We’re now in the post “Floyd and Manny” Era. Neither of those superstars has announced their retirement, but their May 2 clash signaled the summit of their careers; never again will either have the public’s undivided attention. Eyes will now shift to the rest of the fistic landscape to find out who’s next.
The fighter to strike first in staking their claim was Canelo Alvarez, who has the luxury of literally fighting the week after Mayweather-Pacquiao against James Kirkland, a face-first brawler who couldn’t get out of the way of any Canelo power punch. Less than three complete rounds later, Kirkland was counting the lights following a third knockdown.
The outcome lead to many, fueled no doubt by the delusional fantasy that Mayweather-Pacquiao would be an all-out war, to hold up Canelo-Kirkland as what boxing “should be.”
Golovkin is aware much of his appeal comes from the marketing of his bouts being guaranteed knockouts. But he also recognizes the mastery of the Sweet Science Mayweather possesses to have a career that spans the scalps of 20 world champions over five weight classes without taking serious damage. GGG’s mission is one of a delicate balance – delivering exciting bouts even when faced against quality opponents with styles that have proven not to be fan-friendly.
“Manny and Floyd was smart boxing. But people like Canelo fight more,” he noted. “I want to show I have both. My style can adapt and still bring drama.
I want everyone, every style. Canelo’s fight, he likes guys in front. You have punch, you want a fighter who’ll stand in front of you. He and Cotto struggled with southpaws. But me, I need challenge. Monroe’s speed and movement are good.”
Throughout our interview, the names of Canelo and current middleweight linear champion Miguel Cotto are constantly referenced by Golovkin. They represent the big names that can shoot Golovkin’s status to the top of the boxing world. But one also represent the clearest examples of why the “business” of boxing has denied him the chance to achieve one of his long-standing goals – unifying the middleweight champion.
On June 6, Cotto will make his first defense against Daniel Geale, a man Golovkin knocked out in three rounds last July. The WBC has decreed the Geale fight to be Cotto’s “voluntary” defense, meaning he’d be required to face Golovkin in his next fight since GGG is the interim title-holder.
The likely scenario is that Golovkin does indeed fight for the WBC title this fall, but not against Cotto. At last weekend’s Canelo-Kirkland fight in Houston, representatives for Cotto’s promoter, Roc Nation Sports, were reportedly seen at the venue and allegedly there to negotiate an offrt sheet for Canelo and Cotto to meet in September. Golovkin would get a step closer to unification since Cotto would be stripped, but he again loses out on facing a superstar.
Golovkin turns somber and then dismissive when hearing this potential scenario out loud. Since debuting on HBO in 2012 and subsequently signing an exclusive contract, he’s caught on quick regarding big network business aspects. But he still can’t quite wrap his head around the concept of not facing your division’s top challenger.
“Sometimes I get disappointed. Guys says they don’t want to fight me because of money and blah blah blah,” Golovkin mocks. “Look, champions don’t say that. Champions fight best challenges… My goal is still all the belts. WBC says next, I’m ready for Cotto. IBF I want. Andy Lee and WBO, I’ll take fight. Being number one is very important to me.”
Build Your Own Superfight
Golovkin’s promoter, K2, has tried to be proactive in landing a big fight for their man. The previous middleweight kingpin, Sergio Martinez, was shielded from them by his promoter Lou DiBella, who flat-out said GGG was “too dangerous.” A fight with Chavez Jr. was nearly done last year before Junior walked away, balking at contract extension provisions with his own promoter Top Rank. With Oscar De La Hoya stating he would prefer to look at a Canelo-Golovkin fight in “two years,” that leaves one name.
Before his own contract disputes with former promoter Goossen Tutor, Andre Ward was poised to take over the Pound 4 Pound #1 spot after the Mayweather. The contract issues have kept Ward sidelined since November 2013, and that forced sabbatical ends on June 20 when he faces Paul Smith in a tuneup fight and his first under Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
Between 154-168 pounds, Ward is the only fighter most would consider a clear favorite over Golovkin. He has the size advantage, faster hands and one of the best defenses in the game. But when considering a fight between the two, K2’s managing director Tom Loeffler says it’s a fight that needs rebuilding.
“Andre Ward unfortunately had his issues on the promotional side. He also said he wanted to get back in the ring with a tuneup fight first,” said Loeffler. “Ward clearly established himself with the Super Six tournament, but that was awhile ago. He’s lost a lot of traction in that time period. Gennady has clearly established himself with the ratings, ticket sales and sponsorship he brings.
The Roc Nation signing will create a lot of momentum for his career. We’ve always said Gennady will move up to 168 or down to 154 for a big fight. The financial package for an Andre Ward fight on HBO isn’t big enough right now for a pay-per-view fight. If Andre gets back and is active with Roc Nation’s media platform, I can see that fight happening.”
Rumors abound that the two camps have already started preliminary talks to face each other next year should they keep their winning ways. Golovkin himself would neither confirm nor deny, but he did hint at expecting 2016 to be a year of defining fights.
“It will be important time for me and big time for my team. The big fights, Cotto and Canelo, they can happen. Ward, he’s good. It’s good he’s coming back. That’s a nice fight, good challenge. Right now, middleweight is perfect fit for me. But I will move up and he is the challenge.”
And this brings us back to Saturday night and Willie Monroe. May 16 is not just about a new “southpaw challenge.” It’s an opportunity for Golovkin to further his case for middleweight and boxing supremacy. His hope for future superfights rests not just on winning, but doing it in world-class fashion.
In his last fight against Martin Murray, Golovkin saw the 11th round for the first time while achieving a stoppage. The fight had ceased being competitive several rounds before and it looked like Golovkin was simply using Murray to try new punches and conduct an extended cardio session. When asked if that’s possible for Monroe, the colder change in Golovkin’s voice in jarring.
“I could. I’ll do what needs to be done.”
Golovkin vs. Monroe airs on May 16 on HBO Championship Boxing at 10 p.m.