Wrestling & MMA

Golovkin ready to springboard to prominence

A month apart, boxing’s next two noteworthy pay-per-view events could signal an important transition the sport needs from its current top headliner to a new must-see attraction.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Gennady Golovkin are contrasting studies. Although both have yet to lose in their combined 81 professional bouts, attention toward Mayweather transcends beyond sport. Golovkin is known primarily to boxing’s hardcore fans but is gradually converting the casual followers.

And while Mayweather has dominated the pay-per-view landscape for the past eight years, Golovkin will enter a previously uncharted medium in his next bout.

Three months after his victory over Manny Pacquiao that shattered pay-per-view records, Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) will face Miami native Andre Berto on Sept.12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The bout will be Mayweather’s last of a six-fight deal with the Showtime network.

Mayweather, who will attempt to tie 1950s heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record, has said the bout will be his last. But the temptation to eclipse Marciano will likely prompt Mayweather, 38, to continue his career after the anticipated victory over Berto.

Golovkin makes his pay-per-view debut Oct.17 at Madison Square Garden in New York. The middleweight champion from Kazakhstan will face Canada’s David Lemieux in a title unification bout.

“I’ve had a remarkable career; I wouldn’t change anything,” Mayweather said when the fight was officially announced earlier this month. “I always bring my A game, and this fight against Andre Berto is no exception. He’s a young, strong fighter who is hungry to take down the best.”

Like Mayweather, Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) has a spotless record but has yet to crack into mainstream acceptance. But Golovkin’s dominant performances on eight HBO televised fights have served as a springboard for the coveted pay-per-view designation.

“It’s an amazing time for us,” Golovkin said during a four-city press tour last week to hype the Lemieux fight. “Right now I am very excited and very happy.”

Golovkin, already among the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters, possesses the power-punching and fight-finishing qualities that could become a much-needed tonic in the search of a new must-see performer.

Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, which represents Golovkin, believes Golovkin, 33, is ready for the signature events.

“He is the fastest-rising fighter to make his debut in America and to make the transition to pay-per-view,” Loeffler said.

The two pay-per-view telecasts also provide another noticeable angle. Despite the 4.4 million buys and a reported $400 million generated in the Mayweather-Pacquiao telecast, many fans were turned off by the fight’s lack of action, given the event’s five-year buildup. The negative reaction could affect Mayweather-Berto pay-per-view sales.

Moreover, Berto (30-3, 23 KOs) is not considered worthy of a pay-per-view platform against Mayweather, especially since the former welterweight champion lost bouts against previous Mayweather victims Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero.

“The difference between Andre Berto and Pacquiao is [media] put hype behind Pacquiao,” Mayweather said. “My job was to go out there and be Floyd Mayweather and be a chess player, and that’s what I did. I found a way to win.

“I chose Berto because he’s very exciting. Andre Berto is going to push Floyd Mayweather to the limit. That’s the one thing I know.”

For Golovkin, the bout against Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) could test his immediate value as a pay-per-view performer. Although he is not expected to match Mayweather’s pay-per-view audience, a solid debut could vault Golovkin permanently into the premium-fight category and give boxing a much-needed new attraction.

Coming up

Friday (11 p.m., Showtime): Trevor Bryan vs. Derric Rossy, 10, heavyweights.

Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Shane Mosley vs. Ricardo Mayorga, 12, junior middleweights.

Saturday (10 p.m., ESPN): Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares, 12, featherweights.