SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Gennady Golovkin has thrown out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium, and he has been given a hero's welcome back home in Kazakhstan.
He has claimed multiple middleweight belts, and he has brutally stopped all 19 opponents willing to face him over the last seven years.
Until the rest of the world's best boxers run out of reasons to avoid getting in the ring, Golovkin (32-0, 29 KOs) has plenty of ways to keep busy — and boxing fans know they'll never be bored by the ever-smiling fighter reigning atop the 160-pound division.
"I just like fights," Golovkin said. "I like lots of action, lots of fun. This is why I have this career."
His next task could be among his most difficult, but also his most rewarding. A crowd of more than 12,000 will pack the Forum in Inglewood, California, on Saturday night when he takes on Willie Monroe Jr. (19-1, 6 KOs), an elusive left-handed fighter on a big winning streak, in a showcase spot on HBO.
"Different style for me, but this is a good test for me," Golovkin said. "I want to show my fans I beat any style. I can beat a southpaw. I know this fight is not easy for me, but I like a drama show. I like a good fight."
Golovkin still hasn't been able to book a fight with Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Andre Ward or Carl Froch. Instead, Golovkin has plowed through every middleweight willing to tangle with his power and persistence, building his legend and marketability with every bloody knockout.
Golovkin also has built a strong fan base in Los Angeles, his adopted home and a town that loves the next hot thing. This fight card, which also features dynamic Nicaraguan flyweight champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, has a good chance to sell out the venerable Forum.
"All Gennady can do is fight whoever agrees to get in the ring with him," said his promoter, Tom Loeffler. "He's become one of the most marketable fighters in the sport today, but his career is also dependent on somebody else accepting the challenge. We can make it worth their while financially, but you still have to be in that ring with Gennady."
Golovkin wants to be one of the new faces of boxing, and this fight is a chance to cement the role. Alvarez got a showcase of his knockout skills last weekend against James Kirkland, and now Golovkin knows what's expected of him two weeks after Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fought to a dispiriting decision in front of the world.
Yet the charismatic Monroe is remarkably confident he can end Golovkin's 19-fight knockout streak. He points to his southpaw style, his athleticism and the momentum from three straight wins in an ESPN middleweight tournament last year.
"I'm a stylistic enigma to this guy," Monroe said. "I knew from the outset that he didn't want to fight me. I'm not his first choice here. A lot of people are going to be surprised by the way I hit him. A lot of people are asking me, 'Are you scared?' I relish being the underdog. I've literally been the underdog since I was conceived in my mother's womb."
Yet Golovkin has been too much for every opponent since he began fighting stateside three years ago. Middleweights with more impressive reputations than Monroe's have been unable to withstand Golovkin's punching power and relentless work rate.
Monroe admires Mayweather's defensive fighting style, and he said he intends to make it difficult for Golovkin to find him.
Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez welcome that strategy: They would love to take the fight into the later rounds to test Golovkin's conditioning and durability.
"He wanted the most significant fight he could get, and he wants the chance to go 12 rounds," Sanchez said. "At least Willie Monroe can give him what he's looking for. The mental stuff we learn could be really important down the road."