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Golovkin welcomes any foe, aims to thrill

1/16/2013

The more that middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin succeeds in his quest to conquer America, the more imminent danger it poses to any boxer within a stone's throw of contention at 160 pounds.

The unbeaten Golovkin has knocked out 21 of his first 24 opponents using a fighting style he calls "power boxing." In fact, it has been nearly five years since an opponent has been able to go the distance with him.

But Golovkin, who fights out of Stuttgart, Germany, is more than just a knockout machine. A 2004 Olympic silver medalist for his native Kazakhstan, he is a veteran of more than 350 amateur fights and is just as comfortable boxing as he is digging a left hook to the body.

Golovkin, 30, dismantled a game Grzegorz Proksa in his U.S. television debut last September and enters his second fight on American soil Saturday against Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs) on the undercard of an HBO tripleheader from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The underground buzz he has created within the sport as a must-see fighter is just about off the charts. But it's how threatening Golovkin appears to be that could prove to be a double-edged sword as he continues to gain exposure.

Look no further than the saga of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez as a cautionary tale. It was the serially avoided Martinez who went from overnight sensation in 2010 to being forced to wait two full years before landing an opponent of any legitimate name recognition. Martinez, like Golovkin, is a man of multiple countries -- hailing from Argentina before coming of age as a fighter in Spain -- but without a marketable American fan base that is representative of either.

Before ultimately lucking out that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. had improved enough in a short period of time to make a pay-per-view fight against him viable, Martinez was left for too long toiling in title defenses against inferior and unheralded European opponents who did little to further his career. In the cold-hearted business of boxing, it's the relationship equivalent of falling into the friend zone.

Is Golovkin at risk of becoming the next Martinez? Is it possible the more impressive Golovkin looks, the less likely he is to land a big-name opponent?

"Yeah, this is a good question, you know," Golovkin told ESPN.com. "But it doesn't matter for me. Seriously. It doesn't matter, the name. I'll fight everybody."

Golovkin's attitude is refreshing and one can only hope contagious, as well. He's thoroughly enjoying each step of his journey in a way that is palpable, having recently achieved lifelong goals of not only fighting in the U.S. on American TV, but also securing a fight at Madison Square Garden.

Rather than worrying about becoming the next Martinez, Golovkin is too busy having fun trying to figure out how to land a fight against him.

"I want this fight with Sergio," Golovkin said. "I expect to fight him. He is a great champion, and it will be good for my career."

But the similarities between Golovkin and Martinez end nearly as quickly as they begin. Golovkin has been willing to do all of his interviews in English (Martinez has only recently begun brushing up), and he has more time to build his brand than "Maravilla," who was already in his mid-30s when he captured the lineal middleweight crown.

Martinez also had more limitations on potential opponents considering his unwillingness to move up to 168 pounds for a money fight and the fact he was toiling in a then-barren 160-pound division. Finding worthy opponents in his natural division, at junior middleweight, also proved difficult because the big-name welterweights who moonlighted at 154 pounds considered him too big and talented.

The 5-foot-10 Golovkin, meanwhile, has repeatedly stated that he's willing to fight anyone in all three divisions. Just 10 days ahead of the Rosado fight, Golovkin said he sparred comfortably at 162 pounds and felt great. He also referred to the idea of moving down even further, to 154 pounds, as something that "is easy for me."

"Right now my focus is 160; I want to be the best at middleweight," Golovkin said. "Next, it doesn't matter for me. I think next fight, [if] I'm going down to 154, I don't know with who, but it doesn't matter to me. Seriously, it doesn't matter. I just want to fight, and maybe in the future I'm going to 168. I think for me it's good to find good fights there in the future. I like Andre Ward, Carl Froch. There's a lot out there [at 168 pounds]."

With the upper half of his body crouched forward and his chin precariously extended within reach, Golovkin competes with a fighting stance that invites excitement by almost daring his opponents to engage, and that in-ring style could have the same effect on viewers at home. Golovkin, who is promoted by the Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko-owned K2 Promotions, also has a savvy understanding of the business. He calls building a fan base in America his most important goal in 2013.

"I love the fans, and my style a lot of fans like, with hard punch -- like Mike Tyson-style," Golovkin said. "People want power and knockouts and drama. I like this as my style."

In boxing, if you build a reputation for devastating knockouts, the fans will come. And if they keep coming, the marquee opponents won't be too far behind.