Gennady Golovkin was only a few hours off the plane from Los Angeles to London when he was asked: “When was the last time you were in trouble in the ring?”
The reply came with a gentle grin: “I don’t know. I forgot. It was a long time ago.”
Twenty two successive knockouts back up the claim, which is made by the fearsome Kazakhstan boxing superstar without any swagger or bravado. There have been 32 KO’s in total in the 34-year-old’s professional career. He hasn’t been taken the distance in a contest since 2008.
Now he is bringing his devastating combination of style, discipline and ferocity to London after regularly selling out Madison Square Garden in New York and the most prestigious venues of Los Angeles.
It promises to be yet another glittering night of boxing by the Thames when Golovkin defends his WBC and IBF world middleweight title against Sheffield’s Kell Brook at the O2.
This is the sparkling venue which has been made into a home-from-home by Britain’s newest boxing icon, the IBF world heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua.
Brook, the IBF welterweight champion, is stepping up two weight divisions in a challenge most of the global fight cognoscenti view as a courageous but unfathomable attempt to beat the scales and huge odds.
This, at first, appeared to make the fight one to captivate the hard-core boxing specialist fans rather than whooping big-night-out followers who have made Joshua’s nights by the river into big social occasions.
But promoter Eddie Hearn – who is staging this date and runs Joshua’s career – insisted:
“I think this is captivating the casuals as well the specialists.
“I thought it would just be the hard-core boxing fans. But this has the same profile as an
Anthony Joshua fight – and also has also has the seasoned followers.
“The casuals say – I can’t miss an Anthony Joshua fight.
Here you have them saying, ‘wow, its Triple G. ‘I’m not missing it’.”
Golovkin is ranked third in The Ring magazine’s list of the world’s best pound-for pound fighters, although many insist he is the top man and the natural inheritor of that catch-all “title,” last borne by Floyd Mayweather junior.
Is Golovkin the complete fighter, as another questioner asked after his arrival in London on Sunday evening?
“I’m not 100 per cent,” he grinned, gently again. “Just a little bit off it.”
“But I don’t feel this pound-for-pound thing. Mayweather, I respect him, he was a great boxer but I didn’t like his style. I am a little bit different.”
By that he means he is far more hungry and attack-minded than the famously brilliant defensive stylist Mayweather, although Golovkin’s chin is notably durable and he underlies his own power with a superb ability to take a shot.
The hurtful and relentless level at which he makes all of this known in the ring is at complete odds with his softly-spoken, amiable style out of it.
It has also made it difficult for him to secure opponents because there is such wariness of his abilities and negotiations to fight British middleweight champion Chris Eubank junior on this date broke down.
Brook, 30, stepped straight in, even though he is climbing is two divisions in the same way that Amir Khan did to meet Mexican WBC middleweight champion Saul “Canelo,” Alvarez last May – boldly but unsuccessfully.
There is lot of controversy in the USA about Canelo’s apparent unwillingness to meet Golovkin. Meanwhile, the Kazakhstan fighter says: “Big respect to Kell Brook for taking the challenge.”
Here is what will be waiting for the Sheffield fighter, however.
“I become a different guy in a fight,” Golovkin added. ”I don’t know how I switch. But I understand my job, I understand the situation and I understand my business.
“When it is time for fighting, it is my work time. So I am there 100 per cent focused on my opponent. I know what I have to do to do my job.
“I feel something happening when I get hit but I don’t feel any power in it.
“It’s like a game for me. I might leave myself open and say ‘come on, come on’. But that’s not because I’m crazy and I want to get punched in the face.
“It’s just that I just feel comfortable and that this is my time.
“I am 34 but I have a way to go. I am not at my peak yet.”