Why boxing stars like Floyd Mayweather want to avoid Gennady Golovkin

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – Gennady Golovkin peered out of a window on the south side of a penthouse lounge in the Mandalay Bay Resort, staring at a lush golf course that the high-rolling visitors to this gambling capital eagerly fork over $300 or more a round to play.

It is unlike anything that Golovkin may have ever encountered in his native Kazakhstan. Asked if he played golf, the middleweight champion snickered.

Turning away from the window, he said, "A little, but I'm not that good. Not like boxing."

The truth is, Golovkin could be a PGA Tour regular and still not be as good as he is in boxing.

The WBA middleweight champion, who will face Marco Antonio Rubio on Oct. 18 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., has quickly earned a spot among boxing's elite.

The fight with Rubio is his debut in Southern California and is already such a hot ticket that officials have released standing room tickets, which is a first for a boxing match there.

But the Rubio fight isn't the one that really is going to get the juices flowing, for either Golovkin or the public. He wants a marquee match in the worst way in which he can prove himself against one of boxing's established major names.

There is no bigger name in boxing now than Floyd Mayweather, who on Saturday defeated Marcos Maidana to retain the WBC welterweight and super welterweight titles. Golovkin said he could make 154 pounds easily and would be willing to fight the pound-for-pound champion as early as Mayweather's next fight, whenever that might be.

Rest assured, though, that fight will never occur, and not just because of Mayweather's ties to Showtime and Golovkin's to HBO. Mayweather has one of boxing's most astute minds and he knows a Golovkin fight would be extraordinarily difficult for him.

Mayweather is 47-0 and still a marvel inside the ring, but his once-impregnable defense has been broken down by Maidana. He'd have great difficulty at 38 years old standing up to the punishing onslaught Golovkin would bring.

While the Mayweather sycophants would undoubtedly say that Golovkin has never seen anyone like Mayweather, the reverse is also true: Mayweather has never faced an opponent as dangerous, and with as many tools, as Golovkin.

Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking out Daniel Geale to retain the WBA middleweight title. (Getty)
Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking out Daniel Geale to retain the WBA middleweight title. (Getty)

The two men are polar opposites of each other in many ways. Mayweather was a master defender, while Golovkin is a crushing puncher who may be the finest offensive machine in boxing since a prime Marvelous Marvin Hagler more than a quarter of a century ago.

Mayweather is brash, over-the-top and spends lavishly. Golovkin is quiet, respectful and quite aware of where every penny of his money goes.

"I don't want to say he's frugal, but he's very smart with his money," Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler says. "He's not one of those guys who's just rolling through his money and is going to be destitute when his career is over."

As different as they are, however, Golovkin shares one trait with Mayweather that defines him: he's committed to stardom, almost as if he believes being a star is his birthright.

Golovkin is already a star inside the ring, where his powerful, accurate punches, killer instinct and superb conditioning have already made him a much-feared man. He's equally committed, though, to becoming the successor to Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as boxing's next big pay-per-view star.

To that end, he is looking to purchase a home and live full-time in Los Angeles. Golovkin's son, Vadim, is five and the middleweight champion wants his boy to begin school in the U.S.

Golovkin himself is taking English lessons. He already speaks Kazakh, German and Russian, and his English has improved immeasurably over the last three months. Good, though, is not good enough for Golovkin.

It's hard for a fighter who can't communicate in the language to become a star, unless, like Pacquiao had, there are a number of big-name opponents available to beat.

Outside of Miguel Cotto, there are no truly big names in boxing's middleweight division. Golovkin will either have to go down in weight to challenge the likes of a Mayweather at 154, or move up to 168 where he potentially could meet Julio Cesar Chavez or Andre Ward.

"One of the great things about Gennady is that while we know there aren't a ton of guys right now at middleweight, he essentially has the ability to fight in three divisions," Loeffler said.

Chavez passed on a Golovkin fight and is showing little interest in fighting anyone. Ward is in the midst of a bitter contract dispute with promoter Dan Goossen and not only has nothing lined up, he has no prospects for a bout in the foreseeable future.

Golovkin, who is 30-0 with 27 knockouts, is a wise man who understands the process of building himself, in and out of the ring. He's in the midst of introducing himself to the American audience, which has clearly appreciated his particular form of mayhem.

He's drawn a TV audience as big as 1.4 million already on HBO, and after a dip for his July bout in New York with Daniel Geale, it's a good bet he'll draw a massive number when he faces Rubio.

He's mobbed most places he goes, and frequently can't walk more than 20 feet without being hounded by an autograph seeker or a well-wisher who'd like to take a quick photo.

On this day, though, an NFL Sunday when fans are glued to the hundreds of television screens inside the resort, Golovkin manages to go from one side of the casino to the other without being recognized.

He has a disarming smile, and he flashes it in all its toothy brilliance when it's mentioned that he got through without being bothered.

"I wouldn't say I'm a big star just yet," he says, grinning. "Just a little. I get recognized sometimes, but it's not crazy. Not yet."

When he walked to his seat at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., in May to watch the Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado fight, it was as if a head of state had arrived. He could barely take four steps without having to stop to sign his name or pose for a picture.

What should have taken two minutes took 15.

That kind of thing takes some getting used to, and Golovkin still retains some of the child-like innocence that is enjoyable to see. He becomes animated as he describes his reaction to drawing a crowd.

 Gennady Golovkin knocked out Daniel Geale in the third round. (Getty)
Gennady Golovkin knocked out Daniel Geale in the third round. (Getty)

"My first reaction was, 'Wow!' " he said. "It was interesting. Very cool. I didn't expect this, at least at first, and it was surprising to me. But it's a start. Every day is new for me. It's getting bigger, but it's still not that bad. I think after this fight, the Marco Antonio Rubio fight, it will be much bigger. It's [my first fight] in California, Mexican-style, and this is going to take me to a different [level], I believe."

This is a man who learned how to fight – really fight – from the time he was a young boy. His older brothers, both of whom died in military service, used to take him to the streets, pick out someone and ask if he thought he could beat the person. He'd always say yes, and frequently his brothers would make him prove it.

He was successful then and he's never lost his winning ways. He not only sports a perfect record, but there is no one on the horizon in his division who appears a serious threat to defeat him.

Part of that is because of his attention to detail. He's naturally gifted, but he's also consumed by putting in the time and making sure he's tied up every loose end.

"I had Terry Norris, who I always thought was the hardest worker I ever saw," Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, said. "But what Gennady does makes Terry Norris look like he wasn't even trying."

As he's committed to becoming the best fighter in the world, he's equally committed to growing his brand and building his out-of-the-ring portfolio.

After attending the Mayweather-Maidana fight with Sanchez, Golovkin hung around the next day to spend the morning with a reporter. Undoubtedly, he'd have preferred to have hopped into the car and made the trek back up the mountain to his training camp in Big Bear Lake, Calif., where he is in the midst of preparations for Rubio.

But he stuck around in an effort to help himself away from the ring. He's engaging and accessible and that is a reason, in addition to his all-action style, that boxing writers love him.

It's a lot of work, and it doesn't leave a lot of free time, perhaps one of the reasons why his golf game isn't up to his standards.

He's not complaining, mind you. There will be plenty of time for golf later.

"It's OK," he says, trying to convince a visitor more than himself that he's fine with his workload. "This is what I've wanted. It's why I've come here. I'm just doing what it takes to reach my [dreams]."

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