The last time Gennadiy Golovkin lost a fight, he was away from the sport he loves for nearly a year. He dropped a disputed decision — sound familiar? — to Russian Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov in the middleweight gold medal match on Aug. 28, 2004 at the Athens Olympics.
He went nearly 15 years between losses, becoming world middleweight champ and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
But nine months ago, Golovkin lost yet another disputed decision in an important middleweight fight. He dropped a decision, and his belts, to arch rival Canelo Alvarez in their rematch at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
His reaction to the defeat was similar to the one he had after losing the gold medal.
“After that Olympic fight, so many people came up to me and said, ‘G, you know, I watched that fight and there is no way you lost; no way,’” Golovkin told Yahoo Sports. “It was the same with Canelo. The first one [a 2017 split draw], ‘Everyone, fans, media, boxers, everyone, they told me, ‘That was no draw. You won that fight.’ The same thing in the [rematch]. That’s how it was.”
Golovkin stayed out of the spotlight for a long time after the loss to Alvarez before re-entering the public eye. When he did, he made several dramatic changes. He signed a lucrative multi-fight agreement with DAZN that is believed to be worth in excess of $100 million.
He let go his managers, Oleg and Max Hermann; and his attorney, Ron DiNicola. He wanted to reduce the percentage he paid his trainer, Abel Sanchez, and when Sanchez balked, he replaced him with Johnathon Banks. He even asked that the spelling of his first name be changed to include an “i” before the “y” at the end.
He’ll debut with DAZN on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in a super middleweight fight against Steve Rolls that is designed to be a tune-up but which, after Andy Ruiz Jr.’s shocking upset of then-IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in the same ring last week, has become anything but.
“Great job by Andy Ruiz in that fight; really, I mean it, great job by Andy,” Golovkin said. “But that is a lesson. You [in the media] like to ask me, ‘Who’s next?’ But it’s a hard question [to answer] because I know there are no easy fights. You have to put in the hard work and focus and after the fight, you worry about what is next. Never before.”
Golovkin, of course, wants another crack at Alvarez, and believes that because DAZN committed nearly a half-billion dollars between them, the fight shouldn’t be that difficult to put together.
There will be no rematch with Alvarez if he loses to Rolls. He knows that and insists he’ll be ready to perform at a high level.
He raves about the work he’s doing with Banks, a former heavyweight contender who was tutored in the art of training by the legendary Emanuel Steward.
He sees what Banks is doing with him as a supplement to what Sanchez taught him, not a replacement for it.
“Who said ‘Mexican Style’ is going away?” Golovkin asked rhetorically. “No. No. No. I’m not quitting Mexican Style or forgetting what Abel taught me. I’m taking that and adding Johnathon Banks’ style to mine. Detroit boxing, meet the Mexican Style.”
He laughed, and for a second it was like the old, affable Golovkin appeared. His bearing has changed to a large degree because he’s so intent on getting it correct in this, the homestretch of his career.
It’s a challenge for Banks in replacing a legendary and successful trainer like Sanchez, but Banks said it’s a bigger challenge for Golovkin.
“The difficulty is more on Triple-G than me,” Banks said. “He made the decision to go another direction with his training and he brought me on. I assume it’s because he knows what I’ve done and how I train people. I’m just going to do the things that I do, that Emanuel taught me.
“He’s adapting to it well, though. He’s come to the gym excited each day and hungry to get better. Things are coming together.”
The peak, they both hope, will come if and when Golovkin steps into the ring for a third time to fight Alvarez. Even the most diehard fans of both fighters would admit the two bouts were close.
Golovkin will have to take his performance to another level if he is to win. He said he’s watched a replay of the fight just once, and wasn’t too eager to dissect it.
“Watching on tape, I saw quite a few lost moments,” Golovkin said, “on my side and on Canelo’s side. But I still think I won on points. We can talk about Canelo more later, though. This fight, [against Rolls], that’s all that matters. That’s the one I need to be ready for.”
More from Yahoo Sports: