Dan Rafael: Dimitry Pirog
March, 27, 2013
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, usually with a smile on his face, loves to fight and wants to stay as busy as possible.
He hopes to fight at least four times this year and got his 2013 off to a blazing start with a good old-fashioned beatdown of game Gabriel Rosado, whom he stopped in the seventh round on Jan. 19 in New York.
Although the executives at HBO love Golovkin -- and many American fans are also falling in love with him thanks to his exciting, go-for-broke style -- he doesn't want to sit around waiting for the network, which has him penciled in for a June date but couldn't accommodate him before that.
That's why Golovkin is in Monte Carlo this week.
Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOs), the 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Kazakhstan, who now trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear Lake, Calif., isn't in Monte Carlo to party in the glamorous gambling hot spot.
Rather, Golovkin is there on business -- to make his seventh title defense when he faces Japan's Nobuhiro Ishida (24-8-2, 9 KOs) on Saturday in the main event of a good-looking card.
Ishida isn't a top contender or the kind of opponent to get anyone all pumped up. Although a former interim junior middleweight titlist, he is living off his first-round knockout and giant upset of James Kirkland in 2011. Since then, Ishida is 1-2 with a win against a nobody followed by lopsided decision losses to Paul Williams and then-middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog.
However, a couple of things: Ishida has never been stopped, so I want to see if Golovkin, a tremendous offensive fighter, can become the first to do it. Second, Golovkin could be fighting some hobo outside a bar and I'd want to watch. He is must-see TV. So if he is facing Ishida, a solid pro, count me in.
Besides, the rest of the PPV is interesting. It includes both 10-round semifinals in what organizers are calling the "Monaco Million Dollar Super Four" tournament. In one semifinal, super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., will face Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (19-0, 13 KOs), a 2008 Olympian from Argentina, and in the other semi, former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) of Hungary will face San Diego-based Russian Denis Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KOs) -- who knocked out Ismayl Sillakh and pushed Lucian Bute to the limit in a tight decision loss -- in a light heavyweight fight.
The semifinal winners are scheduled to meet July 13 in Monte Carlo at a maximum of 171½ -- which is between the super middleweight and light heavyweight limits -- with the winner getting $600,000 and the loser getting $400,000 (hence the $1 million title).
Also on Saturday's card, European junior middleweight champion Sergei Rabchenko (22-0, 16 KOs) of Belarus will defend against Adriano Nicchi (20-3-2, 9 KOs) of Italy.
Ishida was given no chance to beat Kirkland, but he comes into this fight with his typical go-get-'em attitude and uncaring about the odds.
"We know that [Golovkin] is a great and powerful champion," Ishida said through a translator at Tuesday's final news conference. "He is very strong and one of the best fighters pound-for-pound in boxing, but we are here for the upset. We are prepared to do whatever we have to do to take this championship home with us."
Said Daisuke Okabe, Ishida's co-trainer: "This could be Ishida's last chance at a world title. He is like a samurai warrior and will do everything possible to win."
Golovkin is one of those fighters who will literally fight anyone. Time and again, he and K2 promoter Tom Loeffler have said Golovkin will fight anyone HBO wants him to, from junior middleweight to super middleweight. No exceptions.
"We have a lot of respect for Ishida for agreeing to fight Gennady while others have avoided him at all costs," Loeffler said. "Gennady wants to fight all over the world and it's very important for him to put on exciting fights. Our plan is to stay at 160 until a more attractive fight presents itself either at 154 or 168."
Loeffler went on to say that Golovkin would be willing to face Sergio Martinez, the division's real champion, in his home country of Argentina. He also said Golovkin would happily go down to 154 for an opportunity to face the winner of the April 20 Canelo Alvarez-Austin Trout unification fight.
Meantime, we'll see who Loeffler and HBO can line up for Golovkin in June, assuming he beats Ishida, which seems likely. Before that, however, Golovkin is, as usual, looking forward to fighting.
"I know Ishida well and I know this is going to be a difficult fight," Golovkin said. "I am ready to put on a great performance for everyone on Saturday."
Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, who is the lead promoter of the card, warned Golovkin about looking ahead.
"Complacency is every boxer's biggest enemy," Berman said. "Let this be a warning to Golovkin."
Still, Golovkin reiterated his willingness to fight anyone, even with Ishida in front of him.
"It's no problem for me to fight from 154 to 168," he said. "My style means that I will never be in a boring fight."
And that's why we'll watch, no matter who is across the ring from him.
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