Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, who owns the highest knockout percentage of any active titleholder in boxing, rolled through all four of his opponents in 2013. He knocked all of them out, including crushing KOs of Nobuhiro Ishida (head shot) and Matthew Macklin (body shot) that were knockout of the year contenders.
With his devastating power in the ring and nice-guy attitude outside of it, Golovkin went from a virtual unknown in the United States to seeing his popularity blossom. He quickly became must-see TV. His final bout of the year, an eighth-round knockout of Curtis Stevens on Nov. 2, drew the third-biggest boxing audience on premium cable (1.41 million viewers) in 2013. Only fights involving far more well-known stars Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. drew more viewers.
Now it's time for GGG to begin his 2014 campaign, which he hopes will mirror 2013, in which he was a strong candidate for fighter of the year honors.
Just as Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs) did in his bout with Ishida last year, he is fighting in Monte Carlo, Monaco, the European gaming capital where he will make his 10th title defense when he faces Osumanu Adama (22-3, 16 KOs) at the Salle des Etoiles in front of about 900 elite casino customers.
"I feel great at this time. I feel very strong and happy that I can be busy," said Golovkin, who will be fighting for the fifth time in 13 months. "Last year I was busy and this year we are already planning four more fights. I wish I could fight every month. I am happy. No injuries, just happy and ready to fight."
As Golovkin promoter K2 Promotions announced, Saturday's fight will be televised in more than 100 countries, including Indonesia, Slovakia, Japan, England, Russia, Israel, China, Australia, Spain and Hungary, as well as throughout Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
Conspicuously missing from that extensive list, however, is the United States -- a shocker that has caused a firestorm against HBO from angry fans on social media.
When HBO, which has exclusive broadcast rights to Golovkin's fights in North America, initially said it wouldn't have room for Golovkin in its February schedule, K2 promoter Tom Loeffler made a deal with South African promoter Rodney Berman to put on the Monte Carlo fight, just as he had for Golovkin-Ishida.
Then HBO changed its mind and tried to work out a deal to air the bout on a brief tape delay on its HBO2 channel. But HBO said it couldn't work out the logistics, citing the small venue as being unable to accommodate its production needs. Unlike the networks airing the fight in 100-plus countries, HBO insisted on doing its own production and transmission.
So American fans will have to fend for themselves, having no other choice but to turn to illegal Internet streams if they want to see the fighter whom many consider to be the world's most exciting.
Golovkin, 31, is almost always upbeat, but even the man who seems to smile almost perpetually couldn't hide his disappointment that the fight won't be televised in the U.S.
After all, Golovkin, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist for Kazakhstan who now lives in Germany, made a determined effort with Loeffler in 2012 to seek stardom in America. Golovkin even trains in the United States, at Abel Sanchez's gym in Big Bear Lake, Calif.
"I'm disappointed because this fight will not be seen in America. I am very disappointed," Golovkin said. "I think about my fans who have been waiting to see me fight again, who want to see me fight again. I appreciate them. But at the same time, that's life. I am obviously disappointed. It is what it is."
Despite the lack of American television coverage, Golovkin -- seeking his 15th consecutive knockout dating back to 2008 -- still has to deal with Adama (22-3, 16 KOs), 32, a native of Ghana who lives in Chicago and will be fighting for a world title for the second time.
Adama, who has never been knocked out, traveled to Australia and lost a unanimous decision challenging then-titleholder Daniel Geale in March 2012. Adama has won two fights in a row since.
"Like Ishida, before he faced me, Adama has never been stopped," Golovkin said. "You know what my goal is? My goal is to get him. My goal is to knock him out. I put a goal like that in all my fights. I think all fighters are strong, but if the fighter didn't get knocked out before, I want to be the guy to get him and knock him out.
"It doesn't matter to me if he had not been previously knocked out. He never faced me before."
Said Loeffler: "A lot of people underestimate Adama. He's a very solid guy. Just because he's not well known does not mean he isn't a good fighter. He had a very competitive fight with Danny Geale and he's never been stopped."
With Loeffler planning four fights for Golovkin, it could be another big year for the fighter.
"We want Gennady to follow up his strong showing in 2013 with another four fights in 2014," Loeffler said. "There are challenges GGG is up for. He gave us the mandate that he wants to fight often. It didn't make sense to wait for an HBO date and when we had the opportunity to go back to Monaco, we took it. It's too bad it didn't work out with HBO, but a big thing is to build Gennady's global brand.
"We feel he is the definition of a world champ, so a fight like this will let him fight in Europe in their prime time with the priority of building him in the U.S. with three other HBO dates this year."
Golovkin wants a title unification fight, although the odds are slim for 2014. Lineal champion Sergio Martinez appears unlikely to fight him and is working on a deal to face Cotto in a major fight in June. Titleholder Felix Sturm avoided Golovkin like the plague when he was the mandatory challenger. And Peter Quillin -- the final belt holder in the division -- is promoted by Golden Boy, which was booted from the HBO airwaves last year, and fights on rival network Showtime.
Should things go well against Adama, Golovkin will be back in action on HBO on April 26 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, where Golovkin fought twice last year.
With a unification fight unlikely, Loeffler said the opponents under discussion are Geale (29-2, 15 KOs), who first will face Garth Wood on Feb. 19; junior middleweight banger James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) of Austin, Texas, who is coming off a sixth-round stoppage of Glen Tapia in a Dec. 7 brawl; and Ireland's Andy Lee (31-2, 22 KOs), who has won three fights in a row since being knocked out in the seventh round of a middleweight title fight by Chavez in June 2012.
"Everybody looks ahead to April 26, to maybe Kirkland or Geale, but at this point my main focus is [Saturday]," Golovkin said. "Everything goes well? Then I will be back in New York and looking forward to being on HBO again.
"Soon I will be in big fights. Obviously, I want big fights. But I understand this takes time. It's a huge and big process. But the guys I am fighting now, Adama, maybe Kirkland or Geale in the future, they are strong and good opponents. But I don't want to sit and wait for a big fight. I want to fight the best."