Los Angeles loves GGG…and vice versa
Last October as he faced Marco Antonio Rubio at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin drew over 9,000 patrons. This weekend, his name is on the marquee of the Forum in Inglewood as he takes on Willie Monroe Jr. (HBO, 10 p.m. ET).
As they look ahead to tonight, Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions, who has masterminded Golovkin’s rapid rise to prominence, has set the over/under for attendance at 12,000.
“I’d like to think we’ll be over 12,000. We had 9,300 at the StubHub Center; we broke all the ticket sales there, all the records. We added bleachers; we added ‘standing room only’ and we couldn’t sell just the capacity. So it would be great if we had that [12,000]; it would be another 30 percent increase in ticket sales.
“That would probably be the biggest event in California for a long time.”
Last May 17 at the refurbished Forum – which has a rich history with boxing – just over 12,000 filled the building located on Manchester Blvd. to see Juan Manuel Marquez defeat Mike Alvarado. Marquez is a longtime star who has the advantage of being Mexican and having began his career with Forum Boxing. It’s not a surprise that he drew such a throng, given this and his Hall of Fame credentials.
You expect a Mexican national or Mexican-American to draw well on the West Coast but a Kazakh?
It was less than three years ago when Golovkin was a virtual unknown to American fans and he began his run in the States at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in upstate New York. Since that Labor Day weekend in 2012, he has fought eight times (three times in Monaco) and has firmly entrenched himself as a draw in both New York and Los Angeles. K2 wasn’t going to just television-package Golovkin into being a B-side with no leverage for future negotiations; they have taken risks to build him as an attraction as well as a television draw.
Loeffler said to UCNLive.com, “He’s had a tremendous rise, both in his ratings and his ticket sales. With this fight coming up on Saturday night, Gennady will be the highest ticket seller in the state of California over the last two years and from someone from Kazakhstan to do that, who was basically unknown in the United States, two-and-a-half years ago, it’s a tremendous statement.
“I think it’s a statement by the fans who react to the quality of product that we’ve been putting on. When he fought Rubio, [Nonito] Donaire [vs.] [Nicholas] Walters was the co-feature. Now we got ‘Chocolatito’ [Roman Gonzalez] as the co-feature and we’re providing fair priced tickets – as low as $30 – and fans have definitely responded by buying tickets.”
Loeffler, one of the most reasonable individuals in this business, has been more than willing to add co-features that will help out at the box-office with no affiliation to K2.
What’s interesting is how Golovkin has resonated with the Mexican-American fan-base in the Southland, who have even made shirts that state its allegiance.
In fact, there is a cottage industry of independently produced Golovkin t-shirts that rivals the heyday of “You Can’t Touch This” and Malcolm X gear. There is a street artist in Los Angeles who has devoted several pieces of work around the city to Golovkin.
Yes, Golovkin has gone viral.
If you think about it, what makes this ascension so remarkable is that in North America, Kazakhs haven’t had all that much of a social imprint compared to, say, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans or African-Americans. With these groups, you can name a multitude of figures in pop culture from athletes, singers, athletes, rappers and actors. Kazakhstan? Well…you have a fictional character in “Borat.”
How Golovkin – who will be sporting trunks that represent the Los Angeles Lakers, after wearing Dodgers colors back in October – has gained a foothold with at least the hardcore fans is remarkable. Of this dynamic, longtime boxing observer Larry Merchant says, “I think that Golovkin has, say, a similar connection as [Manny] Pacquiao had because of the type of fighter he is and I think that a non-American fighter, particularly, needs to have a crowd-pleasing – maybe even dramatic style – to connect with boxing fans.
”Whether that transcends the boxing fans, that’s still to be proven and, in a way, problematic because it’s a very rare occurrence.”
Merchant later added (via email), “With the exception of Pacquiao, who galvanized a [Filipino] fan-base we didn’t know existed, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for a non-American fighter, who doesn’t have a Mexican or Puerto Rican heritage, to become an A-side pay-per-view attraction. Not even Wladimir Klitschko, as a longtime heavyweight champion, has been able to do it.”
For Golovkin, that will be the next frontier.
But to further put the inroads he has already made into perspective, on the night of April 18 at the StubHub Center, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fought Andrzej Fonfara in a largely papered arena. AEG (the corporation which owns and operates this venue) was cold-calling past ticket buyers and offering discounted tickets and group rates – even going as far as waiving fees and dangling free parking passes – and, as the fight got closer, Cal State Dominguez students and faculty were offered freebies and Galaxy fans were allowed to stick around the StubHub Center and watch the fights after that day’s soccer game had concluded. Sources say around 1,000 tickets were actually sold for the event.
On June 20, Andre Ward makes his return to the ring at the Oracle against Paul Smith. It’s doubtful he’ll draw anywhere near close to 10,000 paying customers unless Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are putting on a three-point shooting exhibition between rounds. The last time Ward performed – in Nov. 2013 – only a few thousand came out to see him at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario against Edwin Rodriguez.
As of now, Los Angeles (and perhaps California) is clearly now Golovkin’s territory – until, of course, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez returns. Regardless, for Golovkin – who just moved his family out here to Santa Monica – this is where he hangs his hat.
“This is my second home,” he said on Tuesday, with his trademark grin. “First time out versus Rubio. It’s an amazing area, a lot of thanks to my fans. Right now, my second fight is the Forum. I respect my fans. Last four years, my training camp, my coach [Abel Sanchez], my fans, my friends, from California. My family lives in California. My son goes to school in California. This is my second home. I’m very happy.”
This will be a busy day for boxing as NBC will have its next prime time Premier Boxing Champions show featuring Shawn Porter versus Adrien Broner in “The Battle of Ohio” – taking place in Las Vegas from the MGM Grand and BET will feature the aforementioned Ward-Smith bout. Also, from Montreal, the contest for the vacant IBF middleweight belt between David Lemieux and Hassan N’Dam takes place. The television rights for this bout, as it pertains to the States, is still unresolved.
Get those DVRs set.
It’s really not going to rain on fight day out here in Southern California, right?!…When Canelo fought Matthew Hatton at the Honda Center in 2011, he drew just over 11,000. And when Oscar De La Hoya faced Stevie Forbes at the soccer stadium of StubHub Center in 2008, he drew around 28,000, if I recall correctly…If Golovkin was really about “Mexican Style,” he’d come out in an LA Lazers motif on Saturday night…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.