Golovkin-Lemieux title unification fight is close to sellout

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Three years ago, Gennady Golovkin was largely unknown outside hard-core boxing circles. In two months, he’ll take on David Lemieux in an HBO pay-per-view fight for their four combined middleweight title belts at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Although the Kazakh star’s charisma and his Canadian counterpart’s passionate fans played roles, Golovkin’s reputation for violent knockouts is the biggest reason these fighters have already sold more than 15,000 tickets. Only the cheap seats are left in New York’s famed arena for the Oct. 17 fight.

Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) said he won’t allow his soaring stardom to distract him from the goal of unifying every middleweight championship. He already holds the WBA 160-pound title, the WBC interim title and the IBO belt, while Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) is the IBF champion.

“Right now is an interesting time for me,” Golovkin said before a packed news conference in downtown Los Angeles, his adopted hometown. “I don’t lose motivation. My goal is all the middleweight championships. This is a big year for me, and next year will be even bigger.”

It’s tough to get much bigger than a title unification fight at Madison Square Garden, where Golovkin will try for his 21st consecutive stoppage victory. Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, deliberately set the ticket prices slightly lower than other high-profile New York fights to entice fans – and they responded even more aggressively than he expected, guaranteeing an eventual sellout.

Golovkin and Lemieux also will make their debuts as HBO pay-per-view headliners on a card featuring vaunted Nicaraguan flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez against Brian Viloria.

The pay-per-view decision rankled some Golovkin fans who have tracked his rise from relative obscurity in Germany to major bouts in New York and Los Angeles in the past two years. Yet Golovkin’s camp made a major financial offer to entice Lemieux into the ring after years of getting turned down by champions and well-known stars wary of Golovkin’s power and skill.

“This is the first time anybody would agree to step in the ring with Gennady when they had something to lose,” said Loeffler. “I figured it would sell out (Madison Square Garden), but the response now, that exceeds whatever we thought. With every fight, he grows.”

Golovkin’s stateside rise also led to a spike in his popularity back home in Kazakhstan, where he’s greeted as a hero whenever he returns.

“I’m not a hero,” Golovkin said. “I’m a regular man. I’m a boxer.”

Sure, GGG. On his last trip home to visit his mother, Golovkin stopped in at a soccer game and got a raucous, lengthy standing ovation from the crowd of 30,000 when it realized he was in the arena.

Golovkin is even getting recognized regularly in Los Angeles, where he moved with his wife and young son. Although the champ doesn’t mind the attention, he doesn’t invite it, either.

“I go to kindergarten, and I go to the gym,” he said with a grin. “That’s it.”

Lemieux said he didn’t hesitate to take the biggest test of his career, and he could land legions of new fans with his brawling, relentless style. He claimed the vacant IBF title in June by knocking down Hassan N’Dam four times in a decision win.

“What’s a better time than now?” Lemieux asked. “He’s at his best. I’m at my best. I’m confident in my abilities. I’m not scared of him. He’s a smart guy. He knows what he’s in against, but he’ll be surprised by my power.”

Golovkin and Lemieux got along well during a three-city publicity tour this week, exchanging compliments on the dais before laughing at each other during the staredowns. Golovkin also enjoyed the chance to be around Bernard Hopkins, a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, which backs Lemieux.

Those good feelings will evaporate in October when Golovkin goes after the victory that would move him to the next level of stardom in his meteoric three-year rise.

“Right now, I more understand Bernard and what he did,” Golovkin said of Hopkins, who famously made 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses. “I promise an amazing show. Everybody understands this is a new step to the story.”

‘Canelo’ Alvarez dominates Chavez Jr., Golovkin next up

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LAS VEGAS — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez dominated a grudge match against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday night, winning a unanimous decision in a fight that left no doubt who is the top active Mexican boxer.

Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) used a punishing jab to take control early in the 12-round matchup of former middleweight champions. The bigger Chavez (50-3-1, 32 KOs) started bleeding from the nose in the third round. His left eye swelled in the sixth and started to close a round later.

Alvarez, a 4-1 favorite, was much quicker against the largest fighter he’s faced and won every round on all three judges’ cards.

After the beating, Alvarez immediately announced he will next face middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in September in a long-awaited bout. Golovkin then quickly joined Alvarez in the ring.

The 31-year-old Chavez, son of iconic Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., was trying to revitalize a career derailed by positive drug tests, weight issues and lax training. But he proved no match in the bout fought at a catchweight of 164 1/2 pounds.

Chavez avoided a $1 million-per-pound penalty when he weighed in at 164 pounds Friday, a half-pound below the catchweight and the lightest he’s been since losing his middleweight title to Sergio Martinez in 2012.

The 26-year-old Alvarez also weighed in at 164, nine pounds heavier than he’s ever fought. Alvarez, whose lone loss was to Floyd Mayweather Jr., got against the ropes several times and absorbed combinations from Chavez before quickly recovering with uppercuts.

Despite the 4-inch height advantage and an obvious weight edge after he rehydrated, Chavez was overmatched in his first fight under iconic trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.

A confident Canelo didn’t bother to sit in his order after the seventh round, in a fight that wasn’t nearly as competitive as hoped.

A week after Anthony Joshua stopped Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round of a thrilling heavyweight bout in front of 90,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium, the sport staged another big fight. Only this time there was a distinct Latino flavor.

Mexican bands played outside T-Mobile Arena more than three years before the main undercard began. A majority of the 20,510 fans inside the sold-out building wore either red (Canelo) or green (Chavez) headbands as they celebrated the Cinco de Mayo weekend by chanting “Mexico, Mexico.”

There was tension between the two fighters along with political overtones as a commercial for the fight depicted both boxers bursting through President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The red-bearded Alvarez is normally mild-mannered, but he had criticized Chavez for his work ethic. Chavez then needled him for refusing to fight the bigger Golovkin.

Alvarez was guaranteed $5 million and Chavez $3 million.

In the co-main event, former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux of Montreal took a unanimous decision over stubborn Mexican Marco Reyes in a catchweight bout at 163 pounds.

A left by Lemieux (38-3) opened a large gash above Reyes’ right eye in the second round. Lemieux later twice knocked out Reyes’ mouthpiece with punches. But Reyes (35-5) stayed upright for 10 rounds as blood streamed down his face and onto his chest.

Lemieux hopes to get a shot at Alvarez.

“I could have done better but I hurt my hand after round two,” Lemieux said.

Other matches on the undercard included Lucas Matthysse, a former junior welterweight champ, ending a 20-month layoff by dropping Emmanuel Taylor (20-5) of Maryland twice before the referee stopped it in the fifth round. The Argentine (38-4) was making his welterweight debut.

Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (24-0) out-pointed fellow Californian Manuel “Tino” Avila (22-1) in a one-sided 10-round featherweight bout.

For much of the undercard, fans traded “Canelo” and “Chavez” chants on a festive night that brought out several stars, including Evander Holyfield.

GGG outlasts Jacobs in close unanimous decision

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NEW YORK (AP) Gennady Golovkin outlasted Danny Jacobs in an exhausting 12-round defense of his middleweight titles Saturday night.

Both fighters are knockout artists, yet this one went the distance – the first time GGG has not had a KO in 24 fights, and his first time going 12 rounds. The Kazakh won 115-112 on two judges’ cards and 114-113 on the other.

The AP had it 114-113 for Golovkin.

In the toughest fight of his stellar career, Golovkin often was stymied by Jacobs changing to a left-handed style. But a series of hard rights throughout the bout were enough – barely – to bring his record to 37-0.

“Daniel did a very good job,” Golovkin said. “Daniel is my favorite fighter. I can’t destroy him.”

He didn’t, unlike so many other opponents who felt the fury or GGG.

“I thought I won it by at least two rounds minimum,” said Jacobs, nicknamed Miracle Man after he overcame bone cancer in 2011-12 to win 10 straight fights. “I did feel like I had to win the 12th round to make sure.”

He won it on two of the three cards, but it wasn’t enough, perhaps because he was knocked down in the fourth round, which went to Golovkin 10-8 on all three cards.

Still, with Madison Square Garden reverberating from chants of “Triple G” or “JACOBS,” no one could be sure of the outcome right until the final punch.

Jacobs is 32-2. Golovkin holds on to his belts and took Jacobs’ WBA middleweight title.

Golovkin, a world champion since 2010, is 5-0 at the Garden, which he calls a “second home.” But Jacobs, from Brooklyn and, oddly, a representative of the competing arena the Barclays Center, tested him more than anyone has.

Golovkin keeps his WBC and WBO crowns – the IBF belt was not at stake because Jacobs skipped that organization’s fight-day weigh-in. On the horizon for GGG could be that elusive meeting with Canelo Alvarez if the Mexican wins his fight in May against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

“Of course I am ready to fight Canelo, of course I want that fight,” Golovkin said. “I am like an animal for that fight.”

But there’s another option, GGG admitted.

“I will give Danny Jacobs a chance for a rematch.”

Earlier, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai stunned previously unbeaten Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, knocking down the Nicaraguan in the first round, bloodying his face with an unintentional head-butt in the third, then winning a majority decision for the WBC super flyweight championship.

Even though Sor Rungvisai was docked a point in the sixth round for another head-butt – there were several in the brutal bout – he never backed off. He relentlessly attacked the cut over the right eye of Gonzalez, who clearly was hampered by the blood streaming down his face. The challenger carried the fight in the eyes’ of the judges through the latter rounds.

In only his second fight outside Asia, Sor Rungvisai improved to 42-4-1 with 38 knockouts. Gonzalez, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, is 46-1.

One judge had the fight even at 113-113. The other two gave the Thai the nod 114-112 in the action-packed bout.

A sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden vigorously booed the decision.

The AP had it 115-113 for Gonzalez, who has held some sort of world title since 2008.

Gonzalez went down from a hard right to the body in the opening round, but he then took charge – even after his face turned to a bloody mask in the middle rounds. However, Sor Rungvisai landed enough punches and moved well enough to keep in it.

And then, despite being outpunched decisively, with Gonzalez landing 441 to 284, the Thai got the surprise decision.

Earlier, Carlos Cuadras outpointed fellow Mexican David Carmona in a super flyweight fight.

Both from Mexico City, Cuadras and Carmona were coming off defeats. Neither was particularly sharp Saturday night, and the decision drew a lusty round of boos from the crowd.

Perhaps the unorthodox manner in which Cuadras fought, at times looking off-balance and awkward, didn’t win over the fans. Or maybe it was the way Carmona came on late in the 10-rounder.

Regardless, the judges went for Cuadras 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94.

Cuadras (36-1-1 with 27 KOs) lost a close unanimous decision to Gonzalez in a sensational September matchup for the WBC belt he’d held since 2014. He wasn’t nearly as impressive in his win at the Garden.

Carmona (20-4-5) was also coming off a loss, to WBO world champion Naoya Inoue of Japan.

Cleveland’s Ryan Martin improved to 18-0 with 11 knockouts when he totally outmatched Bryant Cruz before stopping him in the seventh round of their lightweight bout.