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Main | 6 Years Later »

Cheering on GGG

I am a boxing fan. Have been nearly my whole life. 

First there was Sweet Pea
When I was a kid, my dad took me to the Olympic trials where I got to see Tyrell Biggs and Pernell Whitaker. I remember getting Biggs’ autograph, but I became a much bigger fan of Whitaker.

I watched Sweet Pea a bunch of times growing up. His speed and shifty-ness were mezmerising for fight fans and enfuriating for opponents. Sweet Pea had knockout power, but that wasn’t his way most of the time. He toyed, he frustrated, he dodged, he mastered the art of hitting and not getting hit. He was slick during an era of boxing when slick wasn’t the way most fighters fought. And I liked that. I have a soft spot for contrarians.


Then Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin
Sweet Pea retired years ago (and tragically passed away in June of this year). Over the last decade there’s been another fighter that I’ve followed closely. Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin. GGG’s story and style are uniquely his own. He’s from a smaller, less known country – Kazakhstan – and his rise to stardom and championship status has been gritty, grinding yet consistent. He too is an Olympian, earning a silver medal in the 2000 olympics.

What I like about GGG is he stalks. He moves forward, cuts off the ring and marches toward his opponent. He’s not a brute or a brawler, but neither is he quick, shifty or elusive in the ways Sweet Pea was. But, GGG is efficient. During one stretch of his career he had 23 straight knockouts. Of his 41 fights, he has 35 knockouts. He would circle his opponent, take a round or two or three to get a sense of what was needed to neutralize the other boxer’s strategy and then he’d pounce. And it would be brutal and sometimes fast.

I watched him dismantle heavy hitting David Lemieux in Madison Square Garden forcing Lemieux into a TKO because of crushing body shots.

He had two great fights with wildly popular (and great) Canelo Alvarez. There’s bad blood between Canelo and GGG. They fought twice. The first to a draw, the second a split decision that went Canelo’s way. Many boxing fans (myself included) believe GGG won the first and the second was a draw. There has been talk of a third fight between them, but I doubt it will happen.

One more time…maybe two?
GGG has a fight this weekend. Back at Madison Square Garden where he’s fought several times before. He’s facing a hard hitting Sergey Derevchenko. It should be a good fight. But I’m nervous. I’m nervous because in some ways GGG means a coming of age for me.

Sweet Pea was the boxer of my youth. GGG is the boxer of my adult years. And at 37 GGG is getting old for a boxer. I’m just a few years older than GGG and am now in that stage of life where my athletic heroes are no longer older than me, and neither are they my age peers, but they are younger…soon they’ll be my children’s ages and that will take some getting use to.

Watching GGG line ‘em up and knock ‘em down inspired me because I could see myself in him. I’m not a boxer, but still there was something within GGG that I wanted to identify with. I was inspired to identify a task, see a vision, pursue a goal…stalking it down, efficiency of movement, unshakable, taking licks but still coming forward, being elusive when necessary, nuanced yet strong. There’s a power and a stamina in that that I appreciate and am attracted to.

But I’m getting older too. Now, I’ve still got years and miles ahead, for sure…and good ones at that. But this is a season for reflection for me. I’m not as young as I used to be. As poet Harry Baker rightly notes, “I’m too old to train to be a Jedi”.

I hope GGG wins this weekend. I hope he’s got a couple more fights in him. But I know I’m watching his last ones. I hope he goes out on top, retires with championship belts at middleweight. 

The thing is though, I don’t know what GGG will do when he retires from boxing. I suspect he’ll do a bit of charity work for the country of Kazakhstan. He’s already begun some good will projects around education in rural parts of the country. And when he stops boxing, I can imagine him taking that same, stalking, steady, efficient, dogged approach to humanitarian efforts that he’s taken throughout his fighting career. I hope so. Because I want him to continue to inspire me in a new, future season of life just as he has in this present season.

Good luck GGG. I’m in your corner.

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