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A transformed Gennadiy Golovkin is done being the nice guy

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4-min read

Gennadiy Golovkin’s omnipresent grin was nowhere to be seen. When you are a fighter and you haven’t fought in 14 months, it’s nothing to smile about.

Golovkin leaned back in his seat, dutifully answering questions about his fight on Friday (7 p.m. ET, DAZN) for the IBF middleweight title against Kamil Szeremeta. But though he was physically present, his mind was miles away.

He chuckled a bit and said that yes, he’d provide “a big drama show.” It was the line he gave once following yet another knockout in the ring following a title defense on HBO. Then, it was filled with humor and brightness and it helped American fight fans to fall in love with him.

Golovkin, 38, seems in a much different place as he prepares for his only fight of 2020. Perhaps it’s the lingering aftereffects of his two fights with Canelo Alvarez, in 2017 and 2018, which he firmly believes to this day that he won. He got a split draw and a majority decision defeat for his trouble and he hasn’t really been the same since.

Oh, he battered an overmatched Steve Rolls into submission in his first post-Alvarez fight, and then despite suffering from effects of the flu, he edged Sergiy Derevyanchenko at Madison Square Garden in a Fight of the Year-type battle, but the public perception of him has most definitely changed.

Before the Alvarez fights, he was the smiling assassin, a killer in the ring and, to use his words, a “good boy” outside of it.

Whether it’s the business of boxing that finally got to him or the bad outcomes in the Alvarez fight, it’s not the same happy-go-lucky Golovkin who vaulted to stardom in the U.S. after debuting on HBO in 2012.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 08: Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan looks on during his Super Middleweights fight against Steve Rolls of Canada at Madison Square Garden on June 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs) hasn't been the same since suffering the first loss of his pro career in 2018. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

In an interview with Rob Woollard of Agence France-Presse, Golovkin couldn’t contain his ire any longer. After speaking to dozens of reporters over several days in individual and group interviews, something snapped in Golovkin when he was asked about Oscar De La Hoya.

Golovkin hasn’t cared for De La Hoya since prior to his first fight with Alvarez, who at the time was promoted by De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. The ire was made worse during talks for the rematch.

De La Hoya has recently been discussing a comeback despite having retired following a 2008 bludgeoning at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. De La Hoya said he thought Golovkin would be an easy fight for him.

Under normal circumstances, it was a remark Golovkin would have laughed off. But when Woollard asked him about De La Hoya’s comment, Golovkin’s mood was such that he didn’t hold back.

“You know Oscar, you know how dirty his mouth is,” Golovkin told Woollard. “Everything involving Gennadiy Golovkin for him is a nightmare. He can say whatever. But let me put it this way: If I got an opportunity to legally kill a person in the ring, I might seize it.”

Well, OK then.

Now, certainly Golovkin wasn’t saying that he would actually try to beat De La Hoya to death, but the message was clear and unvarnished. Golovkin is done being the nice guy and taking what he perceives as the short shrift.

The question is, does that attitude spill over into the fight with Szeremeta, and he does he try to make a statement by punishing Szeremeta, or does he stick to the plan that he’s worked on for the last six months with trainer Johnathon Banks?

Banks said that despite Golovkin’s glowing knockout ratio, he’s been surprised in their two fights and this third training camp together how good his boxing skills have turned out to be.

“I loved watching Gennadiy fight as an amateur,” Banks said. “He was a really good boxer with good movement. He had a beautiful rhythm, boxing and punching. As his professional career evolved, he became known as a knockout artist, stalking his opponent and loading up for the knockout.

“Now, don’t get me wrong: I love knockouts, but there is more than one way to get one. Gennadiy worked hard on combining boxing, punching and rhythm in training camp, and he looks tremendous. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, speed and power, that is what we worked on a lot in camp. Training Gennadiy is always an education because he has a good boxing mind.”

Golovkin’s mind appears to be going places that it hasn’t gone in a while, so it could be debated what impact that is going to have on Szeremeta.

There are two things, though, that can’t be debated: First, Golovkin is among the hardest middleweight punchers in recent times, perhaps the hardest since Julian Jackson. And second, De La Hoya would be wise to forget the comment about Golovkin being an easy fight for him. Looking elsewhere for an opponent is the only way to go for Oscar.

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