Boxing: ‘GGG’ on Verge of Crossover Stardom

By Joseph Santoliquito Jul 25, 2014
Gennady Golovkin is 29-0, with 26 knockouts. | Photo Courtesy: Will Hart/HBO

Despite the huge, glittering billboard behind Gennady Golovkin -- it bears his face and scrolls his name across in blinking neon letters -- some walk by him with a few curious head turns on a crowded Times Square weekday. It does not matter much to “GGG.” He still wears that same smile, the same impish grin as he flexes his deceivingly powerful arms underneath the white polo shirt for the cameras.

Not many crossover sports fans may know the most devastating puncher in boxing, but if Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs), of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, continues on his current course, they soon will.

Golovkin faces another challenge on Saturday, when he defends his WBA middleweight title on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” against former two-time belt holder Daniel Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) at Madison Square Garden.

Golovkin, 32, owns the highest knockout ratio of any active world champion at 89.66 percent. He is dynamite in a tiny package, his granite fists responsible for stopping his last 16 opponents. His timing is impeccable, his leverage a great base for his power. He has everything a fan-friendly knockout artist should have. What makes this fight so fascinating is that the 33-year-old Geale has never been knocked out.

Doubling the intrigue: A Golovkin victory could set up a potential blockbuster, pay-per-view-worthy showdown with world middleweight champion Miguel Cotto. Would Top Rank, Cotto’s promoter, be willing to risk that?

First, Golovkin has to get by the Australian Geale, who poses “GGG’s” toughest threat to date. The hazard lies with looking ahead, something against which Golovkin is bracing himself.

“This is a very important fight for me to fight in the big arena at Madison Square Garden,” Golovkin said. “I’m really looking forward to it. Daniel Geale is a great fighter; he throws a lot of punches and has a different style being from Australia. I saw the [Darren] Barker fight and know what a very good body puncher he is. I love Madison Square Garden and love coming to New York City. Right now, my focus is on 160 [pounds] and unifying the titles.

“There’s where my focus is, but of course, I would love to exchange the belts,” he added. “Cotto would be a very interesting fight for me. I want to be the best [middleweight] in the world right now.”

Geale has even more at stake than Golovkin. Another loss, regardless of whether or not it comes against “GGG’s” heavy hands, may relegate him to high-end journeyman status. He suffered a bad loss in a split-decision setback against Barker in August. Geale knocked down Barker in the sixth round, but as the fight continued, Barker grew stronger while Geale’s work rate depleted.

Much of the Barker fight was sloppy, as both fighters fell into each other swatting at air. Geale actually landed the higher percentage of punches, connecting on 259 of 693, while Barker threw and landed more, at 292 of 862. The real difference was in power shots, an area of concern when it comes to fighting a big hitter like Golovkin. Barker connected on 244 of 582 power shots, while Geale scored on 211 of his 503 power punches thrown. There is no way Geale will be able to withstand that amount of power shots from “GGG.”

“The Barker fight was frustrating, knocking him down in the sixth and not getting the decision, but you have to take it on the chin and come back from that,” Geale said. “Mentally [for GGG], I’ve been preparing for the toughest fight of my life. I have wanted to fight Gennady for a while.”

Although the Australian is a rugged fighter who has not been stopped, Geale has been down, tasting the canvas in the eighth round in a brawl in December 2008 against Daniel MacKinnon. Geale knows what he is in for against “GGG.”

“Gennady has got a powerful punch and everyone knows about his skills to back that up,” Geale said. “You can’t be one-dimensional in any way because he will find a hole. To me, that is good because I have to improve and I have to step up and fight at my best. Normally, when I do fight great fighters, I step up and fight better, as well. In this case, I am going to make that happen.”

The pressure is obviously on both to win, but there is far more pressure on Golovkin to perform. He is at the boxing-star level of his career -- not a superstar, like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Could that lead “GGG” into taking a few more chances against Geale than he normally would? That remains to be seen.

“GGG” has all the potential to cross over; he just needs time to prove it.


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