LAS VEGAS — Last Friday, Gennady Golovkin trained for the biggest moment of his life even while a bigger moment was occurring back home in Los Angeles. The middleweight champion of the world had a choice to make — go to work or go to his wife Alina’s side for the birth of their second child.
The champion went to work, which might be why he’s still champion seven years after winning his first title fight in 18 seconds. Boxing, you see, is an obsessive endeavor. It is a solitary undertaking demanding a singular focus. It is not a sport for someone whose mind tends to wander. To do so is to court not only defeat but the darkness of unconsciousness.
The undisputed middleweight champion of the world is 37-0 with 33 knockouts. He has stopped 23 of the past 24 fighters he’s faced and successfully defended various forms of the 160-pound championship (he holds the WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO versions) 18 times since first winning the WBA portion by knocking out Milton Nunez in the first seconds of their Aug. 14, 2010 mismatch. Golovkin’s approach was the same preparing for that night as it’s been preparing for Saturday night’s far more significant showdown with former junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at T-Mobile Arena.
This is a match Golovkin has waited all his life for. At 35, it is his moment. This fight will determine how he will be remembered. It is more than a business meeting. It is, he believes, the moment he will declare that his name belongs among the greatest middleweights in boxing history. Saturday night, all the sacrifice was worth it or it wasn’t.
To give himself the best chance, life must be put on hold. Even birth, the dawning of life, must be ignored, for to lose for even one day that singular focus is to put at risk all he’s worked for since he was taken by the hand by his older brother, Sergei, and delivered to a boxing gym in Kazakhstan at the age of 9. What Golovkin learned that day has become a simple mantra for success in boxing, and in life’s most difficult moments.
“When you are hit, hit back,” he says. It has been his simple philosophy since the morning he first slipped on boxing gloves and made a choice that one day would convince him even to ignore the birth of his daughter.
When his wife called him at his training camp deep in the San Bernardino Mountains around Big Bear Lake to say she was leaving for the hospital, Golovkin was told by his trainer, the aptly named Abel Sanchez,…