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 withdraws from May 5 fight with Golovkin

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Canelo Alvarez has withdrawn from next month’s middleweight title fight with Gennady Golovkin, two months after Alvarez twice tested for a banned substance.

The May 5 fight in Las Vegas was to have been a rematch of the draw they fought last September. But on March 5, Alvarez’s promoters, Golden Boy Promotions, announced he twice tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol in February. They blamed contaminated meat, and Alvarez agreed to random drug testing.

It was unlikely the Nevada State Athletic Commission would approve the fight after it temporarily suspended Alvarez, who could face a longer suspension.

Alvarez is to appear before the commission April 18 concerning the positive tests. Golden Boy President Eric Gomez said Tuesday the promoters were advised Alvarez likely would not be cleared to fight May 5.

“I have always been a clean fighter and I always will be a clean fighter,” Alvarez said Tuesday during a conference call. “I want to prove without a doubt that I have never intentionally ingested clenbuterol. I have nothing to hide and I want to be open and transparent through this process. . I have never taken illegal substances and this is no different.”

Golovkin is hoping to fight a different opponent at T-Mobile Arena on May 5, but it won’t approach the huge event that the rematch with Alvarez would have been. It’s possible the two could meet later this year, depending on any sanctions placed on the Mexican fighter.

Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, publicly doubted that tainted meat caused Alvarez’s positive test.

“Again with Mexican meat? Come on,” Golovkin said in March. I told you, it’s not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. … Canelo is cheating. They’re using these drugs, and everybody is just trying to pretend it’s not happening.”

Alvarez-Triple G fight in jeopardy on drug complaint

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Nevada boxing regulators have filed a formal complaint against Canelo Alvarez for doping violations, putting his May 5 middleweight title rematch with Gennady Golovkin in jeopardy.

Alvarez could be suspended for a year for testing positive twice for the performance-enhancing drug Clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, in February.

An April 18 hearing was set on the complaint by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, replacing an earlier April 10 hearing that had been set. The hearing is just two weeks before the fight, making it doubtful the fight will proceed on that date.

Nevada boxing regulations call for a one-year ban for first violations, though it can be cut in half at the commission’s discretion. Even if Alvarez gets a six-month suspension, the fight would not take place until August at the earliest.