CARSON, Calif.—Gennady Golovkin has stopped his last 17 opponents while rising to the top of the middleweight division. When he takes the outdoor ring Saturday night, the sellout crowd fully expects Golovkin’s West Coast debut to end with his 18th straight knockout.
Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) hasn’t disappointed anybody during his climb to stardom, but he knows Marco Antonio Rubio is tough enough to force Golovkin to work harder than ever before to get his next stoppage.
With his ever-present smile, Golovkin welcomes the challenge presented to him under the stars at the StubHub Center on HBO.
“I know it’s going to be a big drama show,” Golovkin said. “For who, I don’t know. Everybody agrees it’s a big fight.”
The Kazakh-born, California-trained WBA middleweight champion’s 12th title defence has been advertised with the title “Mexican Style”—the phrase Golovkin created to describe his favourite way to fight. Golovkin’s aggression and skill have made him into a star, and he intends to keep his career momentum going against Mexico’s Rubio (59-6-1, 51 KOs), the longtime title contender who has won six straight fights.
“My style is great with his style,” said Golovkin, who has never fought a Mexican boxer. “Just fighting. Not a lot of technical. Not a lot of moving and dancing. Just power and boxing.”
That’s music to Golovkin’s promoters and fans, who have watched his ascent through steadily improving opposition. He has stopped four top-level middleweights in the last 16 months alone, culminating in his third-round victory over former champion Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden in late July.
“He doesn’t go out there putting pressure on himself to knock out everybody he meets, but that’s what happens,” trainer Abel Sanchez said. “He’s trained to go 12 rounds if he has to, and he knows it’s a possibility. But he also knows what the fans came to see.”
Golovkin is eager to claim Rubio’s interim WBC title to put pressure on regular WBC titleholder Miguel Cotto for a unification bout. Cotto, Sergio Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and most of the world’s elite fighters at 160 and 168 pounds have been uninterested in taking on the intimidating Golovkin, even with HBO’s money behind him.
“I want unification fights,” Golovkin said. “I want to prove who is the best in the middleweight division.”
Rubio wants to be more than a footnote on Golovkin’s rise to stardom, and he was encouraged by moments of success for Geale and other recent Golovkin opponents. But the Mexican veteran realizes he must figure out a way to negate the aggression that has doomed everybody who stepped in the ring with the Kazakh champion.
Golovkin and Rubio aren’t the only reasons for the record crowd coming to Carson. In the co-main event, four-division champion Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21 KOs) takes on Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20 KOs) in a much-anticipated featherweight title fight.
While Golovkin’s eagerness to fight has been his trademark, Donaire candidly acknowledges his disenchantment with boxing after his lengthy list of accomplishments. The Filipino-born, Bay Area-raised champion struggled for motivation before losing his 122-pound titles to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April 2013, ending his 30-fight winning streak.
“The toughest test is motivating myself,” said Donaire, who has won two fights and a featherweight belt since his loss. “I know I have the power and the intelligence to keep fighting, but when a boy accomplishes his dream, he looks for another dream. That’s where I was, and when I lost, I realized I didn’t want to walk away from this dream. I wasn’t finished.”
Walters has talked a brash game before his biggest fight, promising a stoppage. Donaire laughs at it.
“This guy has never experienced this quality of fight,” Donaire said. “He’s a hard puncher, but I’m one of those things that just disappears right in front of you. If he can punch that, then we’ll see.”