By Dan Rafael
Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, with the aim to fight four times this year and remain one of boxing’s busiest top stars, will be back in short order following his 11th-round destruction of top contender Martin Murray on Feb. 21.
GGG will make the 14th defense of his 160-pound world title against slick southpaw Willie Monroe Jr. on May 16 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Forum in Inglewood, California, K2 Promotions announced Friday. A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Forum.
Golovkin (32-0, 29 KOs), a native of Kazakhstan, recently relocated from Germany to Los Angeles and will be fighting in Southern California for the second time.
In October, he blew out Marco Antonio Rubio in the second round in his first West Coast fight, drawing a sellout crowd of 9,323 at the StubHub Center in Carson, where additional bleacher seats and standing room only tickets were added because of the heavy interest in seeing boxing’s most exciting fighter. Golovkin, 32, has knocked out 19 opponents in a row. Monroe (19-1, 6 KOs), 28, of Rochester, New York, is riding a nine-fight winning streak since suffering an eight-round split decision loss to journeyman Darnell Boone in 2011.
Monroe has made something of a name for himself over his last four fights in which he swept to victory in the eight-man ESPN Boxcino middleweight tournament last year, including a near-shutout decision against Brandon Adams in the May final, followed by a dominating 10-round decision win against veteran fringe contender Bryan Vera on Jan. 16.
Monroe is the nephew of 1970s middleweight contender Willie “The Worm” Monroe, who defeated Hall of Famer Marvin Hagler in the first of their three meetings before being knocked out in their second and third fights.
“Gennady likes the challenge of fighting a southpaw,” K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler told ESPN.com on why Golovkin selected Monroe over the other candidates. “He has not fought a southpaw since [his American debut against Grzegorz] Proksa [in 2012]. So Willie is a southpaw and he also has been on ESPN four times in the past years between winning the Boxcino tournament and beating Vera. Willie beat two undefeated guys in the Boxcino tournament (Adams and Vitaliy Kopylenko), so he made sense for this particular fight.”
Loeffler is close to finalizing a deal for flyweight world champion Roman Gonzalez (42-0, 36 KOs), 27, of Nicaragua, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, to make his HBO debut in the co-feature against former junior flyweight titlist Edgar Sosa (51-8, 30 KOs), 35, of Mexico. The fight will be Gonzalez’s second defense of the 112-pound title he won by ninth-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi in September in Japan.
Gonzalez, who goes by the nickname Chocolatito, is also a former strawweight and junior flyweight world titleholder and one of boxing’s most dominant champions. He was a protégé of late Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, Nicaragua’s most revered boxer. Sosa has won two fights in a row since losing a decision to Yaegashi in a December 2013 flyweight world title challenge.
The other candidates HBO approved to fight Golovkin were Jorge Sebastian Heiland (25-4-2, 13 KOs), of Argentina, who has never been knocked out and is coming off a highlight-reel 10th-round knockout of faded former contender Matthew Macklin (whom Golovkin knocked out in the third round in 2013), and Tureano Johnson (18-1, 13 KOs), of the Bahamas, an all-action fighter who has won four fights in a row since being stopped in the 10th round by Curtis Stevens 11 months ago; Golovkin knocked out Stevens in the eighth round in 2013. But it was Monroe who got the call.
“It’s a contract of styles, Gennady being the aggressive, come-forward fighter and Monroe being a slick southpaw. He’s never been stopped, only has one loss,” Loeffler said. “So if Gennady is going to keep his knockout streak alive, it is going to come against a credible opponent in Willie. Monroe was one of the rare people who jumped at the opportunity to take the fight with Gennady.”
Golovkin, who owns an interim title in addition to another organization’s full title, would have preferred to fight middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, for whom he is the mandatory challenger. However, Cotto is allowed to fight one optional defense, tentatively scheduled for June 6 against an opponent to be determined, and was not interested in facing Golovkin, at least not yet.
“We never got any response from the Cotto camp,” Loeffler said. “We can’t force guys to fight Gennady. But he wants to stay active and we want to keep the momentum we have in Los Angeles after the Rubio fight going, so we’re going to fight at the Forum. It’s a great venue with the renovations, and it has a long history of some great fights.”
Golovkin also had interest in fighting big-name opponents such as junior middleweight star Canelo Alvarez, super middleweight titlist Carl Froch, inactive super middleweight champion Andre Ward or Julio Cesar Chavez, the former middleweight titlist whose next fight is at light heavyweight. But none of them were interested or available.
If Golovkin retains his belt against Monroe it would be his 14th consecutive title defense and would tie him with Hall of Famer Carlos Monzon for second place in middleweight history; Bernard Hopkins holds the division record at 20.