Golovkin and Rubio promise
Although in his day Biggie Smalls mistakenly thought one only came to Cali strictly for weather, women and sticky green weed, in that order, it would appear that this past week and Labor Day weekend, even the most die hard New York boxing fan would have been hard pressed to pass California over as a must see destination.
After starting their press tour off with a bang in Macau, none other than Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38KO) and Chris Algieri (20-0, 8KO) are due in California after a successful spin in Las Vegas to promote Pacquiao vs. Algieri set for November 22, 2014 at the Venetian in Macau, China. On Labor Day, Pacquiao throws the first pitch at Dodger Stadium for an adoring Los Angeles crowd. Later that week both fighters will cap off their LA press week with a stop at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel. So far for Pacquiao, even simple face offs with his opponent for the press are an invitation to giggle. Pacquiao suffered a notable laugh attack in one of his last face-to-face poses for the assembled press en route to LA. However, rightly so, no one took this spasm of hilarity as indicative of any underestimation of the fight ahead of him in November:
FREDDIE ROACH, PACQUIAO’S TRAINER: “I underestimated Algieri when he faced Ruslan Provodnikov in June but I won’t make that mistake again…. Algieri is going to face the best of Manny Pacquiao because Manny is going to have his toughest training camp ever. I am looking forward to a great fight and Manny’s finest hour on November 22.”
PACQUIAO: “Chris Algieri fought an exceptional fight in June to win the world title from Ruslan Provodnikov…. He may be the smartest and the fittest athlete I have ever faced and that makes him the most dangerous. I worked hard to reclaim my welterweight title and I will work harder to make sure I keep it on November 22.”
Algieri, enjoying the current ride his recent fame is affording him seems not to be fooled by Pacquiao’s light and easy demeanor:
ALGIERI: “My last fight against Ruslan Provodnikov got the world’s attention, now I am going to show what I can really do. I have the utmost respect for Manny and his great team, but make no mistake — I am here to win and I have nothing on my mind but beating a legend.”
The fun didn’t stop there as on Wednesday, August 27th on Los Angeles’ historic Olvera street – the center of all things authentically Mexican Style in LA - WBC super middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (30-0-27KO) and veteran Mexican champion Marco Antonio Rubio (59-6-1, 51KO) kicked off the Los Angeles area promotion of their “Mexican Style” Match up set for Saturday, October 18th at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Golovkin and Rubio appropriately held their first “Mexican Style” Media day at the venerable El Paseo Inn restaurant situated dead center on calle Olvera. In close proximity to some of the best made to order Mexican food and ambiance this side of the border, both fighters were as cordial and gentlemanly as ever in the genteel surroundings, leaving any pot stirring to the men looking to earn that other sticky green that is part and parcel of promoting true champions of their very deserving ilk. The first one to bang down the gauntlet was Rubio's promoter, the well-heeled Sampson Lewkowicz. Delivered with a “killing you with a smile” finesse that could easily rival Jack the Knife, Lewkowicz was international when it came to his use of metaphors as threats. In words crafted to get the fans in a tizzy, Lewkowicz used the metaphorical lure of Argentina’s dance of the tango to call out Kazakhstan’s good boy Gennady GGG Golovkin:
LEWKOWICZ: “Let's dance the last tango….I want to see how you dance the last tango with Rubio because he is coming to fight… many fighters…absolutely favored…come up to be the underdog by the end of the night. Good luck to you.”
Nevertheless, irrespective of any camp-to-camp animosity real or feigned, both trainers weren’t shy in revealing that they had some genuine familial love and real respect for one another from the way way back. Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez has known Rubio's trainer Robert Garcia from when Garcia was a child as well as when Garcia was a world championship fighter. Knowing each other so well, both see a seasoned and dangerous asset directly across the ring come October. The gravity of the situation as well as the abilities of their respective fighters escapes neither man and in the case of Golovkin the knowledge has trickled down from trainer to fighter:
GOLOVKIN: “A very strong team. Robert is a very smart team. Is a big pressure for me.”
SANCHEZ: “Marco has more knockouts in his record than we have fights so we know he can hit…. A big plus for Marco Antonio Rubio in this fight is that he’s got a very accomplished coach – an ex world champion in Robert. If he has a plus going for him aside from his own stuff, Robert is going to help him a lot”
GARCIA: “We love challenges. We've done it before…I don't see it as being impossible. We respect GGG and the team behind him…I was probably five or six when I met Abel Sanchez…but here we are now. We're getting ready to fight the best middleweight in the division, the best middleweight in the world, one of the best in history so the challenge is great. We couldn't say no to this fight.”
With respect to what “Mexican Style” is, pre fight it would seem to mean the same to all of the major players; a close fought high pressure duel with no clinches, non stop power punches and a race of chicken to see who falls lights out first. What is interesting is that the phrase guiding the fight came from Kazakhstan born and bred GGG well before Mexican champion Rubio was even in the cards.
TOM LOEFFLER, GGG PROMOTER: “The phrase for this fight, “Mexican Style” really was born from Gennady's post fight interview and his comments after he knocked out Daniel Geale… He said 'I'm not a boxer I'm a fighter. I fight Mexican Style.’"
In GGG’s camp it is not only Golovkin who seems to have a yearning towards this sort of battle, but Abel Sanchez too. As the man wielding the most influence with regard to style shaping and honing skills in Gennady’s corner and also being of Mexican descent himself, he is chomping at the bit to set his protégé loose in what will be Gennady’s biggest test yet:
SANCHEZ: “There's not going to be a track meet. It's going to be two guys… punch for punch… exchanging with each other like it used to be in the past. Ten fifteen years ago you never saw a clinch in a fight….you seldom saw a referee… Now it seems like there's ten clinches in a round… it messes up the opportunity for something dramatic to happen… It’s going to be Mexican style war. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a war where neither guy has defense, but it will be a war where both guys are trying to give the public a great show…. Either way, Marco lands his punch, it’s goodnight for Golovkin. Golovkin lands his punch, goodnight for Marco.”
Certainly before and during his triumphant shut out of Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden, given Golovkin’s unprecedented knockout percentage the smart money knew that Golovkin could deliver power. However, what was more on view was Golovkin’s ability to take a solid punch and the firmness of his chin. In the round before Geale retired on his stool, Geale was able to land a rocking shot to Golovkin’s chin. Likely a considerable part of the mental equation that led Geale to quit on his chair was Golovkin’s freakishly fluid response to Geale’s best punch of the night. Golovkin not only weathered the shot but answered back with fluidity that was as uninterrupted and immediate as it was authoritative. When asked directly at El Paseo how he was able to weather the shot so well, Gennady was at a loss for words. Even the well-spoken Sanchez didn’t quite know how to explain the unexplainable exhibited by Golovkin:
SANCHEZ: “This is not ballet. This is boxing. So we are going to get hit. That’s just part of the game… I hope that his chin is as good as he showed there and if it is then we are going to have a helluva fight.”
While both Golovkin and Sanchez are unquestionably of one mind in their desire to do whatever it takes to further Gennady’s career and meteoric rise, the one sacrifice that cuts the deepest for Golovkin would seem to lie in the necessary fragmentation of his private versus public persona when it comes to his wife and son. Business or not, distance is distance when it comes to blood, and Gennady’s wife and son remain in Germany and have done so for the five years that he has spent building his career in California. When asked about whether he would ever buy a house in California, Gennady answered in the affirmative but when Golovkin was queried directly about whether that proposed house would be in Big Bear Lake, Sanchez quickly jumped in and put the kibosh on the notion:
SANCHEZ: “Actually no… his business is his business and his home is his home. So he’s going to try to keep them as separate as possible. But close enough so he has his family next to him … we run a very disciplined camp. There are times, there are schedules and I think that’s what he appreciates…. We don’t have any distractions per se up there in Big Bear cause it’s work time.… he is one guy inside the gym, kind of the same guy at home real easy going…but when he steps in the ropes it means something. He changes. Now he’s GGG. Fight night.”
Golovkin conceded this point, but one could detect some wistfulness when it came to exactly how separate those two parts of his life remain and will remain for some time. On the subject of his wife and child even appearing ringside for one of his fights, surprisingly it would seem more for them than for him it is a non-issue.
GOLOVKIN: “My work is in Big Bear Lake….I think it’s much better for us – my family.... I never talk about it before you know…my wife…Boxing, it’s not interesting for her. My son – it’s a different life… He is too small. He is too smart. In the future.”
SANCHEZ: “The wife doesn’t come along. The son is not interested… his wife is making sure that he is educated, making sure that he’s doing other things, other sports so that he’s not so concerned with his father going to work… She’s in college. She speaks three or four different languages so they are very educated people. And I’m sure that’s what they want to do for their son also…His (Golovkin’s) father came from the mines… His mother worked in a chemical lab in Kazakhstan …he’s the first guy that really got to this point as far as education is concerned.”
In other words, Golovkin has come too far with too much to lose to let the distance get to him.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photos by Kylie Krabbe
September 8th 2014
Gennady Golovkin and Marco Antonio Rubio pose for the cameras during the press conference announcing their fight.