He smiled, answered questions in an exceedingly humble manner, listened to another question, grinned again and answered with halting but improving English. It was hard to look at the Kazakh-born middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin and comprehend, if you didn't already know as you watched him at the Refinery Hotel on West 38th Street in Manhattan on Wednesday, that this kid with the Justin Bieber face has some of the most feared hands in the sport, in any weight class.
Word is most definitely spreading on the 27-0 (24 KOs) boxer, if you're judging by the info delivered by his promoter, Tom Loeffler of K2, who reported that the presale figures for the Nov. 2 scrap at the MSG Theater between WBA middleweight champion Golovkin and Brownsville, Brooklyn's Curtis Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs) made it the fastest seller in Theater history.
Further evidence that the Golovkin story is spreading? HBO, which will televise the Golovkin-Stevens scrap, ran one of the "2 Days" mini docs in June before Golovkin's fight against Gabriel Rosado and it was their highest-rated episode of that program.
Loeffler saw it with his own eyes when Gennady attended the Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka card at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and "a whole bunch of the Mexican fans started chanting 'Triple G' [his nickname].'"
Might his exploits travel even wider if he didn't look, seriously, like the older brother Bieber doesn't have, so unlike the grizzled pug that non-fight fans picture in their heads when they conjure "boxer"? Maybe, maybe not. There is something so compelling about the duality present in Golovkin, seeing the humble guy who grins constantly, and then seeing the predatory way he walks foes down, and then looks to land on them, hard, with virtually every shot.
"I want to fight," the 31-year-old Golovkin said, straight up, when asked about what other fighters he's targeting if and when he handles Stevens. "I want drama," he said, and banged his fists into each other. He mentioned Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. -- even if he needs to go up to light heavyweight to get to him -- as fighters on his wish list.
I asked the boxer if he ever gets angry, ever kicks the cat. After pondering, he joked that maybe when he argues with his wife. But no, he said, he maintains an even keel. Trainer Abel Sanchez said he has never seen the fighter get mad. He is a certified punisher, Sanchez says -- he predicts Golovkin will stop Stevens before Round 5 -- but Golovkin sees boxing as a sporting enterprise, and doesn't need or use anger to fuel him.
To get a better handle on how good Sanchez thinks he is, know that when the trainer was asked how Golovkin would do against Marvin Hagler in his prime, Sanchez said, "I think he beats Marvin." You can pooh-pooh that contention, but that Golovkin has an incredible chin seems to be undisputed. In more than 350 amateur fights, in a bunch of street fights as a teen, and as a pro, he has never been so much as knocked off his feet, let alone stopped. Stevens said in NYC he'd be the first to do it.
Golovkin indicated he thinks that will not occur.
Of course, while he did so, he grinned, and then looked down, humbly.