LAS VEGAS • Gennady Golovkin travelled the globe, winning boxing matches in 22 cities and seven different countries, to earn his Las Vegas debut on Saturday.
The 35-year-old waited years for the arrival of this career-defining middleweight superfight against Mexico's biggest star, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Although there ought not to be much argument over the drawn 12-rounder at the T-Mobile Arena, the judging was bizarre.
The sometimes eccentric Adalaide Byrd gave a palpably closer fight 118-110 to the Mexican, Dave Moretti had it a more sensible 115-113 to the Kazakh and Don Trella had enough evidence to justify a 114-114 draw.
Golovkin, who keeps his WBC, WBA and IBF belts as well as the lesser IBO title, will earn a US$3 million (S$4.07 million) purse, while Alvarez, 27, will make US$5 million.
But that glow of satisfaction at ringside might well have been the smiles of the TV executives and casino heavyweights who know the two boxers, who are set to rule the resurgent middleweight division for years to come, will now do it all over again.
"This was a real drama show," Golovkin said. "I want to thank all my fans for supporting me. Of course I want the rematch. This was a real fight."
This was a real drama show. I want to thank all my fans for supporting me. Of course I want the rematch. This was a real fight.
GENNADY GOLOVKIN, on the 12-round encounter in Las Vegas that ended in a controversial draw.
That was a mouthful from the reserved Golovkin, who said that he prefers doing his talking in the ring.
When asked on Wednesday about the recent birth of his second child, a daughter, he said: "Please don't ask me about my family. I am just focused on boxing."
His boxing career started in his native Kazakhstan. Growing up in a family of four boys, he was either scrapping with his brothers at home or fighting much older and bigger kids in the streets of the coal mining city of Karaganda.
He made his professional debut in 2006 at 24, after a superb amateur career which included a silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He fought in Germany and Denmark before joining forces with trainer Abel Sanchez, who taught him how to maximise his strengths.
Sanchez and Golovkin teamed up for fights in Panama, Kazakhstan, Germany and Ukraine before Golovkin made his US debut in 2012.
Golovkin's twin brother, Max, said the Kazakh hero is a very private person.
"Nobody knows about it because his camp is always closed," said Max. "No one knows how dedicated, focused and concentrated he is."
They had two brothers, Vadim and Sergey, who were killed in separate incidents during Russian army service in the early '90s.
The funeral for Vadim, who died first, was held with an empty casket. The family is still trying to find out the details of what happened.
Golovkin named his first child, a boy, Vadim. Tom Loeffler, Golovkin's promoter for six years, said the boxer remains fiercely private and does not discuss his family with the media. Golovkin's wife and young son have never attended any of his fights.
The family did not have much money, so when Golovkin turned 18 he was the one they picked to pursue a boxing career.
When you consider Golovkin's difficult journey to the pinnacle of his profession, it is easy to see why he takes nothing for granted.
He has 19 straight title defences and now needs just one more to tie with Bernard Hopkins for the most middleweight title defences in a row at 20.
There is hope that this will be the beginning of boxing's newest trilogy series, after Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, and Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti.
Alvarez said he would use his rematch clause for a second fight against knockout king Golovkin, who has now gone the distance in his last two fights. In March, the Kazakh had his streak of 23 consecutive knockouts snapped when he outpointed Daniel Jacobs.
Alvarez said Golovkin might have lost some of the fear factor. "He has a different power (from) others I have faced," he said. "But he is not the monster everybody is talking about."