The boxing secrets GGG learned from Manny Pacquiao


What did Gennady “GGG” Golovkin learn from Manny Pacquiao?

With Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao exiting the stage within the past year, Gennady Golovkin, or simply “GGG” to the boxing public, is becoming the most talked about fighter in boxing. Even more surprising than his amazing knockout streak has been his crossover appeal; he’s landed promotional deals with the Apple iWatch and Air Jordan among other smaller ones. He was recently the guest of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at a race in California and he has three times thrown out a ceremonial first pitch at Chavez Ravine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, an event newsworthy enough to be covered in the British press and a public relations move that he also picked up from Manny Pacquiao.

GGG, in his path from cult fighter to superstar, owes much to the Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao.

Boxing has always been a freakishly globalized sport in many ways, even more so than soccer to some points. The United States is the most lucrative market, but it has been a tough market for foreign stars to crack.  In 1925, the Philippines’ Pancho Villa, the greatest flyweight boxer ever and Battling Siki, the first world champion born in Africa, both died while in the United States under mysterious circumstances.

Some 75 years later Vitali and Wladimirr Klitschko received a much warmer reception, but neither really caught on. Vitali is now the mayor of Kiev in the Ukraine and his 40-year-old brother now fights out of Germany. Lennox Lewis, the English-speaking former Olympian, failed to catch on in the United States during his reign as the world’s heavyweight champion.

Pacquiao and now Golovkin have had to build their support from scratch.

Manny, unlike other fighters who tried to make in the United States, realized that the key to unlocking boxing support in the United States was appealing to Latinos.  For an example from the present time, in Mexico alone the fights of middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez get higher television ratings than the Super Bowl in the United States. Pacquiao, throughout his career, readily fought the great Mexican fighters of his era –Eric Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Juan Manuel Marquez– beating all of them at least once and earning the nickname “The Mexicutioner.” In doing so, he also earned the respect of many fight fans.

While Pacquiao had built a base of fans, he also was able to tap into Filipino-American fans as well. Among basketball-mad Filipino-Americans, boxing was an afterthought. That was until Pacquiao’s rapid rise changed all that. Soon Pacquiao was able to cross over with mainstream media appearances on late-night television, sing a duet with Will Ferrell and was even lampooned by pop star Drake. The Mexican national anthem was even performed before last year’s highly-anticipated fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather.

Golovkin, like Pacquiao, has sought to appeal to boxing’s key demographic. Golovkin has moved to Los Angeles and notes in interviews his favorite “cheat food” is Mexican food. Golovkin’s November 2015 fight at Madison Square Garden set a single event merchandise sales record. One of the most popular items was a “GGG” hat in the red, white and green of the Mexican tricolor. In previous bouts, a large contingent of fans wore shirts that read “Mexicans for Golovkin”.  Following his knockout of Dominic Wade this past weekend, Golovkin was quick to tell the fans in Los Angeles “Muchas Gracias” for their support before switching to English and Kazakh.

For Mexican fight fans, GGG resembles Julio Cesar Chavez, widely considered the greatest Mexican fighter ever with his body attack and use of powerful uppercuts from unorthodox angles. The resemblance is not accidental. Abel Sanchez, GGG’s trainer, has sought to craft GGG in the mold of the great Chavez. Sanchez and Golovkin have studied closely Chavez’s famous 1987 victory over Edwin Rosario. Coupled with GGG’s natural power — the results have been explosive.

Golovkin is in search of a name opponent in the near future, which would boost his mass appeal even further. Last month Bernard Hopkins told the author that he had tried to fight GGG, but negotiations had fallen through. When asked by the Living Daylights, GGG admitted that such had talks had taken place.

“Yes, I hope that fight could be made between us. It would be great if it happened. If there is a chance it is my dream,” Golovkin said.

“It would be great if it happened. If there is a chance it is my dream,” Golovkin added.

Most fight fans would prefer to see GGG fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September, but the dream of fighting the Mexican superstar appears to be fading. Canelo’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, has shown little interest in making that fight happen. With that being the case, Golovkin could face WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders.

Golovkin is focused on the middleweight division but has made it clear he could consider moving up a division to the super middleweight ranks. “If I move up in weight class in the future, I don’t know but I need to focus on this division now, it is very competitive,” he explains.

But one thing is for sure, no matter which weight class he’s fighting in — Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will continue to be one of the major crossover stars the sport of boxing has, appealing to as many cultural masses as he can.

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