Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin’s goal for years has been to unify belts, but boxing’s most fearsome puncher has not been able to convince any of the other belt holders or big names to face him.
Montreal slugger David Lemieux, also one of boxing’s biggest hitters, will meet Golovkin to unify their 160-pound world titles Oct. 17 in an HBO PPV main event at Madison Square Garden in New York, K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, and Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya, who represents Lemieux, said Saturday.
It’s a match that figures to be explosive — a big drama show, as Golovkin would say — between two of boxing’s most crowd-pleasing and aggressive fighters, both of whom possess devastating punching power.
“In one word: finally,” Loeffler told ESPN.com. “We’ve gone to great lengths to try to put unification fights together for Gennady. We have to give Lemieux and Golden Boy a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate. Gennady will not underestimate Lemieux. He is the biggest puncher he will have ever faced, and Gennady will be the biggest puncher Lemieux will have ever faced.
“It is a great unification fight between two champions and the two biggest punchers in the middleweight division. If Lemieux wins, he takes over the spot as the best middleweight in the world, and if Gennady wins, he stays the best middleweight in the world.”
Lemieux said he is looking forward to the matchup of two powerful punchers.
“This is the fight that all the fans and the world wants to see,” he said. “I hope and expect this will be the best fight of the last five years. There will be blood. It’s going to be exciting.”
Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs), 33, of Kazakhstan and living in Los Angeles, has knocked out 20 opponents in a row, including all 14 in his title defenses. The 26-year-old Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) is also a blistering puncher. But although he dropped Hassan N’Dam four times in their June 20 fight for a vacant world title in Montreal, Lemieux won a unanimous decision.
Shortly after Lemieux’s title victory, which came just a month after Golovkin knocked out Willie Monroe in the sixth round of a one-sided title defense May 16, Loeffler and De La Hoya began talking about making the fight.
Initially, De La Hoya and Lemieux co-promoter Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger said that while they were interested in a unification fight with Golovkin they preferred to have Lemieux make his mandatory defense in the fall — even though the identity of the mandatory challenger has not even been determined — and wait to face Golovkin in 2016.
“What changed my mind and everyone involved is that Lemieux can beat GGG, so why even waste our time with the mandatory? Let’s go straight to GGG,” De La Hoya told ESPN.com. “He has a real shot at beating him. And this is the big fight he wanted, and when we presented this fight to him he was ecstatic.
“Lemieux is fired up. He says, ‘Nobody has ever pushed Golovkin back. He does not know how to fight going back.’ Lemieux has a beautiful jab, and he is going to use it.”
Lemieux said he will show the world what he can do against Golovkin.
“Everyone should be ready to have a new man to fear in the middleweight division,” Lemieux said. “I am well aware of what kind of power I am facing, but I’m not worried about it. It’s going to be a war. I know he’s going to come to fight. He might break my nose, but I’m going break his too.
“I’ve said very honestly that I don’t care who I fight, so long as they are the best, and Golovkin is the best out there in the middleweight division. And I consider myself fully of his caliber. I don’t want any easy fights. GGG is the fight that people want to see. He wants me, then he’ll get me. On the 17th, it’s going to be fireworks. I want history. I want big, big things. And this is another big step.”
Golovkin’s fan base has grown quickly since he came to fight for the first time in the United States in 2012, as he stormed through a series of top contenders, knocking out the likes of former titleholder Daniel Geale, Martin Murray, Matthew Macklin, Gabriel Rosado, Curtis Stevens and Monroe. Now, he and Lemieux will fight on pay-per-view for the first time, but fight organizers have high hopes because of Golovkin’s burgeoning fan base, reputation as must-see TV and the fact that he has a serious opponent in front of him.
“When you talk about getting bang for your buck it doesn’t get any better than this,” De La Hoya said. “When you think about the pay-per-view numbers we’re being real here. This is not a million-selling pay-per-view. We’re thinking along the lines of between 350,000 and 500,000 buys. You have to start somewhere, and this is a perfect fight for both guys to start off on pay-per-view. Obviously, we are going to stack the card like there’s no tomorrow. We want to give the fans bang for their buck.”
De La Hoya said it will be a four-fight telecast, and while they are working on the specific matches, flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs), of Nicaragua, is likely to be in one of the fights, Loeffler said. Gonzalez was a big hit fighting on HBO for the first time on Golovkin’s May 16 undercard, where he looked sensational in knocking out former junior flyweight titlist Edgar Sosa in the second round.
Golovkin drew a crowd 8,572 to Madison Square Garden for the fight with Geale, a third-round knockout, last July. Two of his last three fights (the other was in Monte Carlo) have been in Southern California, where he drew a wild crowd of 12,372 to the Forum in Inglewood in May and an arena-record crowd of 9,323 to the StubHub Center in Carson for his second-round knockout of Rubio last October.
“We put a very fair deal together for Lemieux and Golden Boy, and the Garden put in a very strong offer to get Gennady back,” Loeffler said. “They saw his success in Los Angeles and they wanted him back in New York.”
The crowd total figures to grow even larger with Golovkin’s return to New York because of his popularity combined with Lemieux having his own fan base in Montreal, which is only a few hours by car from New York.
“New York is not a very far trip from Montreal,” De La Hoya said. “We expect a lot of fans from Canada and a lot of fans there for Gennady. Without a doubt it will be a sold-out arena.”
The making of the fight solidifies what amounts to a de facto 160-pound tournament. Golovkin and Lemieux will unify their world titles, and by virtue of Golovkin also holding an interim belt, the winner will be the mandatory challenger for the winner of the fight between champion Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, who are in the final stages of finalizing their fight, which will take place on either Nov. 7 or Nov. 21, either in Las Vegas or New York.