Gennady Golovkin considers himself a patient man, and the path to the most important fight of his career required extreme tolerance.
Not even an Olympic pedigree and lengthy middleweight reign provided Golovkin a quick pace to the premium fight opportunities. The native of Kazakhstan and 2004 Olympic silver medalist established his professional roots in Europe before becoming a middleweight contender and champion.
Moreover, a new title, a move to the United States and rampage of knockout victories weren’t sufficient for Golovkin to move to high-profile settings that win crossover appeal. Golovkin needed the right “dance partner” to earn the lucrative ring opportunity.
Without a noteworthy middleweight to help Golovkin, the appealing opponent finally emerged from the lighter divisions.
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Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, already an established pay-per-view attraction and currently the most popular fighter in his native country’s storied boxing history, will enable Golovkin to finally fight under the coveted spotlight.
On Saturday night, Golovkin will defend his multiple middleweight titles against Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“Right off the top, the interest for me is it’s a huge fight,” Golovkin said in a recent conference call. “So many stories are huge in the middleweight division. To be a champion is huge.
“And Canelo — he’s a very special guy.”
Golovkin, 35, is on a seven-year run as middleweight titleholder. Until his recent title defense, when he won a close decision against Daniel Jacobs in March, Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) knocked out his previous 17 challengers.
Despite the noteworthy streak that has linked him to boxing’s middleweight greats, Golovkin could not win over the masses. Sales for each of Golovkin’s first two pay-per-view headlining appearances against Jacobs and David Lemieux fell under 200,000.
Enter Alvarez, whose popularity in Mexico and the United States makes him an established pay-per-view attraction. Alvarez’s fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. four years ago generated 2.2 million pay-per-view buys.
After winning a middleweight belt against Miguel Cotto in November 2015, Alvarez returned to the 154-pound class for two knockout wins against outclassed opponents. Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) made another stop at middleweight in May, when he won a lopsided decision over countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“Canelo is a proven pay-per-view star,” said Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter. “The event is sold out in Vegas. Gennady brings his fan base. This just brings — the sum of both fighters is much bigger than themselves individually, both from an international level and just a competition level.”
Although Golovkin is the established middleweight, Alvarez, 27, has experience in marquee settings, such as his bouts with Mayweather and Cotto.
“I’ve been in big fights already,” Alvarez said in a separate conference call. “I’ve always wanted to be in big fights and the biggest challenges. So, for me, it’s something that I was asking for and that I wanted, and I’m ready for it.”
Friday (10:15 p.m., ESPN): Claudio Marrero vs. Jesus Rojas, 12, for Marrero’s WBA interim featherweight title.
Saturday (8 p.m., pay-per-view): Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 12, for Golovkin’s IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles.