By Ryan Maquiñana
Steady as he goes.
Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s ascension to superstardom has been forceful as a bulldozer with the consistency of a metronome. Now, after 16 consecutive knockouts, it appears the middleweight titleholder is ready for prime time.
Tom Loeffler, who represents Golovkin’s promoter K2, is close to finalizing a July 12 HBO Pay-Per-View bout for his client with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
“Fans have been waiting for us to get a big-name opponent for Gennady, and so far, it’s been hard to do that,” Loeffler told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday. “None of the champions wanted us to unify with them, not for a lack of effort. Julio would really be the first one to step up and get in the ring with him.”
Considering Loeffler’s mounting difficulty in securing an opponent for the 31-year-old slugger, it comes as a pleasant surprise to boxing fans that Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes Chavez (48-1-1, 32 KOs), has openly welcomed the bout, which would take place at the former home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“The important thing is that both fighters want the fight,” Loeffler said. “I’m going to be sitting down with Bob over the next week and just work out the final details.”
Aside from the dollars and cents, the scale figures into the negotiations in more ways than one. Loeffler stated that the bout would take place at 168 pounds, meaning that Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) would rise eight pounds north of the middleweight limit and compete as a full-fledged super middleweight.
“We’ve said Gennady would move up to 168 pounds if there was a compelling fight, and it doesn’t get much more compelling than that,” Loeffler said. “I think Julio’s confident in the sense that he’ll be much bigger on fight night than Gennady, and that’s what really makes it a compelling fight.
“People on our side, fans are asking, ‘How’s Gennady going to do against a bigger guy?’ Gennady’s moving up with his punching power. He’s one of the biggest punchers in the sport. It’ll be great to see how it turns out. We’re very confident in Gennady’s abilities, but it always has to be proven in the ring, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Of course, any fight involving Chavez’s name instantly conjures concerns that he’ll make the contracted weight, given the popular but beleaguered Mexican son of a legend’s infamous battles with discipline and putting forth an honest work ethic.
“There will be a significant penalty if Julio does come in overweight,” Loeffler said. “But I don’t expect that. I think we saw in the last (Brian) Vera fight that Julio’s taking it a lot more seriously.”
Vera’s team had a $250,000 penalty written into the contract in the event of another Chavez mishap on the scale. With the July fight likely to yield a much more lucrative pay-per-view pie, is Loeffler upping the ante by demanding a larger fine?
“Absolutely,” Loeffler said. “We made the concession to come up to 168, so there would be a major penalty if for some reason, Julio couldn’t make (weight). But I don’t anticipate that. He was 167½ for the Vera fight, so we expect the same here.”
In the meantime, Golovkin remains in his native Kazakhstan. The recent passing of his father has resulted in “GGG” taking care of family matters and canceling his Apr. 26 encounter with Andy Lee.
“He’s still going through the traditional mourning period of 40 days,” Loeffler said. “… He’s doing OK. (Trainer) Abel (Sanchez) and I flew over along with Oleg Herman, his manager, the week his father passed away. It was very difficult on him and his twin brother Max and the whole family. … That’s why it just wasn’t feasible to go through with the Andy Lee fight in April.”
With Golovkin scheduled to return to Southern California on Saturday, however, the middleweight dynamo seems to be at peace.
“Now looking forward, everything would be on track for July,” Loeffler said. “It would be great to fight here in L.A. at the Forum. He trains in Big Bear, and he gets a great response from the L.A. fans.”
There’s something to be said about developing a rabid following in America despite having a limited English vocabulary, but Golovkin’s booming displays of power don’t get lost in translation. The Kazakh’s ability to make foes submit can capture the imagination of pugilist partisans in any language.
Still, much like the conundrum a young Manny Pacquiao faced on the way up, Loeffler admits that linguistic proficiency will be a key component in Golovkin’s quest to cross over into mainstream relevance stateside.
“Absolutely, Gennady realizes that,” Loeffler said. “A lot of people don’t realize that’s his fourth language. But he’s definitely making a concerted effort, and he realizes to become a bigger star in America, he’s got to improve his English.”
But watch a Golovkin postfight interview, and the “it” factor is unmistakable. The words are few, but the energy is infectious; the smile belies a mysterious but irresistible force that has the public salivating over matchups with Chavez, Sergio Martinez, Peter Quillin (if the HBO-Showtime cold war ends) and Andre Ward among others.
“Gennady’s such a likable guy,” Loeffler said. “He has a fan-friendly style that translates well in the ring, but fans really like to support him outside the ring because he’s so humble and respectful of his opponents. Yet he goes in there with a killer instinct.”
If that killer instinct leads to the first stoppage loss in 51 bouts for the iron-chinned Chavez Jr. on July 12, perhaps Golovkin will trade the metronome for a Richter scale to gauge his Q rating.
“Language aside, he realizes he has to put on a show,” Loeffler said. “People look at him as must-see TV. And that’s what this Chavez fight will be for the rest of the boxing world -- the beacon of that.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine's Ratings Panel. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.com or follow him on Twitter@RMaq28.