By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Word on the street is there’s a pretty significant middleweight fight in September.
A kid from Mexico will meet a vet from Argentina, with the winner expected to both wear some new waistline jewelry and take possession of the unofficial “best 160-pounder in the world” handle.
That’s all well and good… unless you’re Gennady Golovkin.
Now 30 years old and six years into an unbeaten pro career, the Kazakhstan native with a German address has some other ideas when it comes to who exactly is best of the best in the storied gloved niche between 154 and 168.
Holder of a dubious “regular” WBA championship at middleweight since 2010 – with apologies to “super” champ Felix Sturm – and the IBO’s more legitimate share as of last winter, Golovkin gets a two-week head start on the celebrated colleagues on Sept. 1, when he’ll risk both belts against once-beaten Pole Grzegorz Proksa at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y.
It’s the second fight of 2012 for the hard-punching claimant, who’s stopped 10 straight opponents since 2008 and 20 of 23 overall since starting his professional ladder climb in May 2006.
It’s also his first crack at the big time under the auspices of cable television giant HBO, which has positioned the bout as the headline act of a “Boxing After Dark” card set to air at 10:15 p.m. ET.
“We feel that Gennady is truly that best fighter at either 154 or 160,” said Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, which works with Golovkin. “Sergio Martinez is recognized as the best middleweight right now and we all have a lot of respect for him.
“I think the winners of the upcoming middleweight fights between Gennady/Proksa, Sturm/Geale, Martinez/Chavez should fight each other to truly determine who the best middleweight in the world is.”
The matchup had been set for Aug. 25 between Golovkin and ex-WBO champ Dmitry Pirog, who was stripped after signing to fight Golovkin instead of mandatory challenger Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam.
Plans and dates changed with Pirog sustained a back injury in training and opened the door for Proksa, who’s ranked eighth on the IBO computer and is 28-1 with 23 KOs since turning pro in 2005.
“HBO has given Gennady the opportunity to perform on their network and now it is up to him to show the world what we have been telling people for a long time now,” Loeffler said.
“The opportunities will come as Gennady continues to perform in the ring.”
It’s already country No. 6 for the frequently flying slugger, who’ll add the United States to a passport that’s previously been stamped in Germany, Denmark, Panama, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
“Gennady realizes that to be truly successful on a world stage, he has to be successful in the United States,” Loeffler said. “He is the type of fighter that will fight anywhere, but wants to be known in the United States, which is the biggest platform and audience for boxing.
“We have gotten a lot of interest since the fight was announced. The recognition and exposure will come as people see the exciting style of Gennady and the fact that he is really willing to fight anyone.”
The U.S. debut comes after an amateur career that yielded gold medals at the 2000 Junior World Championships in Hungary, the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea and the 2003 World Championships in Thailand, and a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
Notable names on the pre-pro victims list include Andy Lee, Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute.
And that prodigious pedigree adds to the K2 enthusiasm.
“Gennady has so much experience and success in the amateurs that he can adapt to any style of fighter,” Loeffler said. “His style is that of seek and destroy. He is the hardest punching middleweight that I have ever seen and he carries his power in both hands.
“When he won the IBO title, he stopped Lajuan Simon, a fighter that had never been down in his entire career, with a perfectly placed left hook in the first round.”
The destruction of Simon last winter in Dusseldorf was sandwiched by a 10th-round stoppage of former 154-pound champion Kassim Ouma six months before and a third-round TKO of Japanese and Oriental-Pacific kingpin Makoto Fuchigami five months later.
Fuchigami hadn’t lost in three years and was ranked 20th by the IBO upon meeting Golovkin, who’d previously topped out in the computer rankings with the skidding Ouma – a loser in five of his previous seven en route to a No. 33 slot at 160.
But in spite of the absence of truly elite foes, Loeffler still claims the competitive high ground and a willingness to massage the scales to maintain it.
“Gennady and his trainer, (the) highly-regarded Abel Sanchez, have made it clear that they would fight anyone from 154 pounds to 168 pounds,” he said. “There are not many fighters that will be willing to move or down from their ideal weight, depending on the opportunities in the ring. If it were up to us, we would continue to take the biggest fights out there for Gennady.
“First would be to fight the biggest names in the middleweight division and defeat all of the other champions. Then he could move down to 154 depending on who is still champion or move to 168. I have never seen a fighter who carries so much power in the middleweight division and can move up or down and keep the same power.”
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NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.