CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Gennady Golovkin climbed into the outdoor ring with an exuberant sellout crowd chanting his name. Just a few minutes later, the middleweight champion stepped down with yet another dramatic win.
Golovkin is right at home in Southern California, and the savvy fight fans in his adopted home got exactly what they craved from the biggest knockout artist in boxing.
Golovkin stopped Marco Antonio Rubio in the second round Saturday night, defending his WBA 160-pound title with his 18th consecutive stoppage victory.
Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) punctuated his brief West Coast debut with a crushing left hand to the forehead. Rubio tumbled to the canvas and couldn’t get his wits together in time, the fight ending 1:19 into the second round.
“I liked the fight,” Golovkin said. “Rubio, he does not step back. He is a good fighter. I respect him. It was a very hard punch.”
The flourish of Golovkin’s final blows rocked StubHub Center, which was packed to standing-room-only capacity with fans of the Kazakh-born, California-trained middleweight who has become one of the sport’s most charismatic stars. The crowd of 9,323 — easily the largest turnout for a boxing event at the outdoor stadium — chanted “Triple G!” and leaped to its feet for the stoppage.
“Those cheers were not only for the fighter, but for the person he has shown to be,” said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer.
Golovkin battered Rubio (59-7-1) throughout his 12th title defense, hurting Rubio earlier in the second round with a right hand and a left uppercut. Rubio briefly complained that the knockout punch was illegal, although television replays clearly contradicted him.
“I felt I hurt him with the left hand, and the uppercut was when he was very badly hurt,” Golovkin said. “I knew I had him. … I was happy he came forward. He fought Mexican style, and he tried to hurt me, but my power was too much for him tonight.”
Golovkin won Rubio’s WBC interim belt, which means the winner of WBC champion Miguel Cotto’s likely upcoming bout with Canelo Alvarez must either fight Golovkin or vacate the title.
Golovkin understandably has trouble attracting the world’s biggest 160-pound names, so he hopes to clean out the division by winning every belt.
“He’ll fight anyone, whoever we can get in the ring,” promoter Tom Loeffler said.
Before any fight with Cotto or Canelo, Golovkin intends to fight in Europe in February — although he would shelve those plans if Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would agree to a pay-per-view bout.
Rubio missed weight for the fight on Friday by nearly 2 pounds, costing him the chance to fight for both titles. He entered the ring weighing 181 pounds, but Golovkin floored him with the same relentless style that has been too much for every middleweight opponent to date.
“Gennady is a great champion,” Rubio said. “He hit me hard, but it’s not the hardest I’ve been hit. I came to fight, to put on a good show. I got up, but the referee decided to stop it.”
Golovkin landed 28 power punches in just over four minutes of ring time against Rubio.
Golovkin has trained in Southern California with Sanchez for the past four years, and the Germany-based fighter is contemplating a full-time move to Los Angeles. After starting his U.S. career with five fights on the East Coast, he debuted in California with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ logo on his left hip.
He also took an extra-long ring walk through the crowd, and thousands of Mexican-American fans clearly were cheering for Golovkin instead of the Mexican Rubio.
The fight was a validation of Golovkin’s rising status and the latest highlight in his surge to the top of the middleweight division. Golovkin’s pro career foundered until he signed with the Klitschko brothers’ promotional company in early 2012, but the 32-year-old has been making up for those lost years with a busy schedule and a relentless series of knockouts.
Golovkin made his U.S. debut just over two years ago, gathering savvy fans and HBO’s promotional might with each spectacular stoppage.
“He’s collecting belts,” Loeffler said. “He wants to show he’s a super champion, and 2015 will be a huge year for him.”
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