Sports

Gennady Golovkin’s Rough Childhood Prepared Him for Boxing Glory

Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is best known for his role in one of the best developing modern boxing trilogies. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) put part three on hold for now, but it remains one of the most hyped potential fights in the sport. Yet his drama inside the ring barely registers compared to the life that led him there. For Golovkin, boxing is not a burden, but a release.

Golovkin is much more than his intense rivalry with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez. His life is one completely alien to most of his global fans, marred by the shadow of his war-torn corner of the world. Let’s explore how Golovkin overcame tragedy on an almost unimaginable scale and channeled that into the fearsome force in the ring he is today.

Gennady Golovkin’s difficult, violent childhood

Golovkin was born on April 8, 1982, in the Kazakh SSR, part of the then-Soviet Union. His childhood unfortunately aligned with a period of major political instability and sustained violence.

That might explain his two older brothers’ attraction to combat sports: a place where violence was controlled, where you were responsible for yourself against one other fighter.

Vadim and Sergey encouraged their younger brothers — GGG has a twin, Maxim — to get in the ring at just eight years old. Both took to it, but Gennady was consumed by it almost immediately. He dominated fighters his own age, so Vadim and Sergey found increasingly bigger and older kids for GGG to take on.

This coincided with the period where the USSR collapsed. Sporadic violence erupted into war around the Golovkin family. When Gennady was just nine years old, his older brothers were conscripted to fight. Neither survived the long, painful conflict.

How Gennady Golovkin’s brothers’ passing affected the rest of his life

For years, GGG avoided saying much about his brothers beyond the fact that he loved them and misses them dearly. He finally opened up in a 2017 piece for The Players’ Tribune, revealing the depth of both the history and emotional distress he experienced in the early ’90s. It turns out, Vadim and Sergey weren’t the only members of the family with an interest in boxing.

“Even after Sergey and Vadim were gone, Max and I kept boxing,” Gennady wrote. “I was getting very, very good. But my parents wouldn’t come watch me box, like my brothers did. My mom worried a lot. She didn’t like boxing.”

GGG spent two years training with his brothers. Then they went to war, and he never saw them again. Yet here, in 2020, he still walks the path they opened up for him.

Rise to international boxing fame

Golovkin’s amateur career effectively began when he was 11 years old, when he won a regional tournament in 1993. His professional career kicked off in 2006, and he quickly rose to international prominence as he took on the biggest names in boxing.

By 2012, he was ready for his splashy Pay-Per-View American debut, solidifying his status as one of the biggest middleweight names in boxing.

Picking fights with teens and adults as a literal child served Golovkin well in his professional life, as brutal as it is to think about. According to BoxRec, he won 32 of his 40 fights via K.O. But Alvarez is not one of the fighters on that long list.

Their first match ended in a controversial split-decision. The rematch, Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year for 2018, upended expectations of both fans and GGG’s corner. Alvarez went full-on aggressive, leading to one of the most entertaining middleweight brawls across 12 brutal rounds. GGG narrowly lost the bout, leading to immediate calls for a third go between the two.

That fight isn’t happening in 2020. The two reportedly came to terms to fight this year, but the COVID-19 outbreak dashed the tentative plans. Yet the feeling remains that this is a when, not if situation. Depending on the timing, Alvarez vs. GGG 3 could be the first huge, internationally-renowned matchup of the post-pandemic era.