Friday October 16th, 2015

NEW YORK -- America will watch Gennady Golovkin. This much we know. Since hitting U.S. shores in 2012, Golovkin has seen a steady rise in ratings, from the 685,000 viewers he attracted in his HBO debut against Gregorz Proksa to the 1.34 million he drew in for his fight against Willie Monroe last May. 
 
Will America pay to watch Golovkin? We’re about to find out. 
 

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As important as it is for Golovkin to deliver another crowd pleasing performance (read: brutal knockout) against David Lemieux—OK, perhaps not as important, but it’s a close second—is how many people pony up the $50 to see it. A good number, defined by promoters as anything north of 200,000, opens a lot of new doors. A poor showing means Golovkin will continue to struggle to coax the big names into the ring with him. 

 
“If he is successful (financially) it allows us a lot more leverage to get the other champions in the ring,” says Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler. “If Gennady can carry an event like this, we can put in a big offer to someone else.”
 
‘Else,’ of course, is a clearly defined group. It’s the winner of next month’s fight between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez. It’s titleholder Andy Lee. It’s secondary titleholder Daniel Jacobs or the man he faces in December, former champion Peter Quillin. Money talks in this business, and while Golovkin has proven he can sell tickets—nearly 20,000 people, a sellout, will file into Madison Square Garden on Saturday—it’s his ability to drive pay-per-view revenue that will dictate his future. 
 

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Can he? No one knows. Ask Mark Taffet. The HBO Vice President has been a part of 190 pay per views, dating back to the early 90’s. He’s an authority. He’s optimistic; he cites Golovkin’s HBO numbers, his bone crunching power, his desire to entertain. But there is no fool-proof way to predict the result. 

 
“Because Gennady has not spent a lot of time in the United States, you try to keep expectations modest,” says Taffet. “We believe the fans are going to come out and support of him because they know he is going to bring a great fight against a devastating puncher in David Lemieux.”
 
Parallels have been drawn to Manny Pacquiao, another soft spoken, broken-English-speaking knockout artist who developed into a huge PPV star. Pacquiao’s early pay per view numbers were pretty good; he generated 345,000 buys in his first fight, cracked 400,000 buys in his sixth and crossed one million in his eighth fight, against Oscar De La Hoya. Pacquiao, though, had one advantage: Opponents. Popular opponents. Popular Mexican opponents, to be specific. Pacquiao’s early PPV opponents included Erik Morales (twice), Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez. 
 
Golovkin? He doesn’t have anywhere near as deep a pool to choose from. 
 

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​​“Gennady has to earn his place in PPV the hard way,” says Taffet. “He doesn’t have this natural opponent path.”

 
So we are left to speculate. On the plus side, Golovkin rarely disappoints. Fans don’t finish Golovkin fights wondering why they bothered, unlike, say, the 400,000 or so that coughed up $75 to see Floyd Mayweather sleepwalk through a win over Andre Berto last month. The mainstream is starting to notice. The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone are among the non-traditional boxing outlets that have published pieces on Golovkin this week, while (shameless plug coming) Sports Illustrated has a lengthy profile on him in this week’s magazine. 
 

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Competition is an issue; fall weekends are busy ones. Notre Dame—which drew 7.6 million viewers in a loss to Clemson two weeks ago, a game that gobbled up potential viewers for a pair of HBO and Showtime fights—plays USC on Saturday night. Game 2 of the ALCS starts in the late afternoon; Game 1 of the NLCS starts Saturday night. New York, usually a sports media hub, has been engrossed with the Mets' playoff run. 

 
What does it all mean? Maybe something. Maybe nothing. Really, though, all Golovkin needs is boxing’s base to rally around him. And maybe they will. The core fans know: Pressing the buy button brings Golovkin one step closer to a showdown with Cotto or Canelo. It’s a chance to help create a marketable star boxing badly needs. Eventually, Golovkin will need the casual fans to respond with more than just a faint sign of recognition when the name Triple G comes up. For now, Golovkin will hope for the regulars. 
 
His future depends on it. 

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