Less than four years ago, middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin, a Kazakhstan native unknown to all but the most hardcore boxing fans, came to fight in the United States with the hope that one day he would make a name for himself. He has done just that.
In another signal that he has crossed over to the mainstream, Golovkin has signed a multiyear endorsement deal with Nike's Jordan Brand, the sportswear and apparel company named for NBA legend Michael Jordan.
"I'm very happy to be sponsored by Jordan and to join their other great athletes," said Golovkin, who is also sponsored by technology giant Apple and has appeared in its national ads for the Apple Watch.
Golovkin is just the third boxer to join Jordan Brand, along with former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. and undefeated light heavyweight contender Andre Ward, the former super middleweight world champion. Jordan Brand has deals with 50-plus athletes.
Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs), 34, unified two 160-pound world titles in October and is scheduled to defend them against mandatory challenger Dominic Wade (18-0, 12 KOs) on April 23 (HBO) at the Forum in Inglewood, California. He has risen to fame and has been selling out arenas on both coasts thanks to an exciting style and one punishing knockout after another.
Golovkin, who lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and son, has defended his middleweight title 15 times, second-most in division history, and he is riding a 21-fight knockout streak.
"We are excited to add Gennady to the Jordan Brand family," Jordan Brand president Larry Miller said. "Gennady's work ethic, dedication to his craft and style make him a perfect fit."
K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler, Golovkin's promoter, who helped negotiate the deal, told ESPN.com they worked on the deal for more than a year before finalizing it last week and announcing it Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed.
"They flew him up to [company headquarters in] Portland, Oregon, twice while we were working on this," Loeffler said. "When we were going through who would be the right athletic wear company for him, it was Gennady's dream to sign with Jordan Brand because Michael Jordan was one of the athletes he held in high regard. He associated the Jordan Brand athletes with being the best on the court."
Loeffler said the deal would be "a full marketing deal" for Golovkin in which a brand image will be developed for him in addition to the company custom making his training and fighting gear.
"There is definitely financial and product compensation in this deal, but more important is the marketing campaign," Loeffler said. "They want to have an international marketing campaign also. They see his popularity in the U.S. and overseas. They see his international appeal.
"He's a good ambassador for the sport of boxing and for their brand. When you have the combination of being that exciting in the ring and being such a likable and respectful person outside the ring, that's the type of athlete they want represent their brand."