Gennady Golovkin has easier time landing lethal punch than big-name fight

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Gennady Golovkin had been listening intently as his trainer/mentor/friend, Abel Sanchez, spoke about his punching power.

Gennady Golovkin (R) hits Marco Antonio Rubio with a right en route to winning in the second round in October. (AP)
Gennady Golovkin (R) hits Marco Antonio Rubio with a right en route to winning in the second round in October. (AP)

Golovkin's power is quickly becoming the thing of legend. He stopped Daniel Geale in their middleweight title fight last year with a jab. The stories of what he does in the gym are everywhere.

Sanchez said Sergey Kovalev, now the light heavyweight king, had been training at his gym, The Summit, in Big Bear, Calif., but left because he didn't like to spar with Golovkin. Apparently, Golovkin hit too hard for Kovalev's liking.

Kovalev, himself, is one of the hardest punchers in the world, and after his impressive victory over Bernard Hopkins in November is regarded by many as one of the world's top-10 pound-for-pound fighters.

While Kovalev leaving The Summitt sounds like an apocryphal, almost impossible story as a result, Sanchez swears up and down he isn't exaggerating.

A visitor turned to Golovkin, who had been leaning forward, staring to his left listening carefully to Sanchez.

"Is that true?" Golovkin was asked.

Golovkin, who is two weight classes lower than Kovalev, shuffled in his seat. He grinned impishly. He looked up and then glanced back at the floor.

"Yes," he said, softly, sounding almost embarrassed to be discussing it. "It's true."

Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager, denied that was why Kovalev left camp. He said Golovkin and Kovalev were, and remain, close friends. Klimas said the two were often at differing points during their training camp when they worked together, but that ultimately Kovalev left because he was having difficulty getting along with Sanchez.

Still, the innuendo, if indeed it is true and not a fairy tale meant to add to a fast growing legend, can't be understated.

Golovkin will defend his belts on Saturday in Monte Carlo against Martin Murray in a bout televised by HBO. He'll be looking for his 32nd victory in as many fights and his 19th consecutive knockout.

If he knocks out Murray, a hard-nosed Brit whose only loss in 31 previous bouts was a unanimous decision to Sergio Martinez in Argentina on a rainy night in 2013, the pressure for him to take on a big name – any big name – will begin to build.

He's been so dominant in his run that no one has come close to beating him.

If he gets past Murray, the public is going to demand he fight Andre Ward, Julio Cesar Chavez, Carl Froch, Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez.

He has yet to fight a truly big name, or anyone who was legitimately perceived to be a threat to push him, let alone beat him. Golovkin's punching power has been simply overwhelming, but it's overshadowed his ability to box and put punches together.

He appears to be the complete package, but it's impossible to determine until he goes against a known high-end commodity and performs at the same level he has been.

"Yes, of course I do [want to fight those guys]," Golovkin said. "But what can I do? Until I get one of those fights, I just have to do what I'm doing."

What he's done in the last three years is build a cult following that hasn't been seen since the early days of Mike Tyson.

Golovkin reacts after beating Nobuhiro Ishida. (AP)
Golovkin reacts after beating Nobuhiro Ishida. (AP)

The men that Tyson kayoed, often brutally, in those early bouts in Albany, N.Y., before he fought for the title, were largely the misfits of the heavyweight division. They were has-beens and, more often, never-weres, men without the requisite skill to deal with a talented, powerful and aggressive albeit inexperienced foe.

But as limited as they might have been, Tyson finished them so brutally that he himself became a star as a result of it.

And so it is happening with Golovkin. But Golovkin is far more than a free swinger, Sanchez insisted, and is the complete package.

"Gennady is the best I've ever had, by far," said Sanchez, whose one-time fighters include Hall of Famer "Terrible" Terry Norris.

Murray is easily the finest opponent Golovkin has faced. He has superior footwork to the vast majority of middleweights and he is not an easy target.

But neither has Murray defeated an elite foe, so there are as many questions surrounding him as there are Golovkin. For all the eagerness to proclaim Golovkin the sport's next big thing, it's probably prudent to wait until he at least defeats someone with a long and storied résumé.

The most logical choice would be Cotto, who holds the regular WBC belt after blowing out Martinez last year. Cotto has been very deliberate in choosing his next opponent and, until Floyd Mayweather announces his upcoming fight, it's unlikely Cotto is going to sign anything.

But Golovkin, who holds the interim WBC belt along with the WBA strap, would love to face Cotto if he gets past Murray on Saturday.

Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions, said it hasn't been for a lack of trying that Golovkin hasn't had one of the more recognizable names opposite him.

"Give credit to Martin Murray, for sure," Loeffler told Yahoo Sports. "He took the fight. He is the best guy out there who would take it."

Golovkin is an easy-going guy except when he's got gloves on his hand and a man across a ring from him, and he insists he's not getting impatient.

And he knows if he wins long enough, and impressively enough, the big fights will soon come to him and he won't have to chase anyone.

Until then, though, he's simply going to go out and keep trying to impose his will on his opponents.

Murray is a quality fighter who has never been stopped. If Golovkin can keep his knockout streak alive on Saturday, then perhaps fans will no longer arch an eyebrow when they hear stories of his legendary power. At that point, it will be plainly obvious to all.

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