By Sean Crose
You know you’ve made it big in life when you’ve got a list of people who speak out against you. With that in mind, it’s safe to assume Gennady Golovkin has now cracked through the stratosphere. Sure, he just bested David Lemiuex and would probably be favored at this point to unify the middleweight division against either Canelo Alvarez or Miguel Cotto. He’s also pretty much single handedly sold out Madison Square Garden and is appearing in an Apple watch commercial. None of those things, however, are as much a gauge of the man’s success as the anti-Golovkin twitter brigade that’s emerged is.
That’s right, GGG is now plagued by what the Twitterverse refers to as “haters.” Yup, there are fans out there who are really suspicious of Golovkin and are resentful of the positive attention he’s been receiving. According to these individuals, Golovkin is downright ducking Andre Ward. What’s more, his opposition hasn’t amounted to the figurative hill of beans. Throw in what these outspoken individuals feel is a distinct lack of top level ability and you have a perfect “hater” storm.
Meet the anti-Golovkins. Chances are they’re going to be around for a while. Of course there would be no anti-Golovkin element if Golovkin himself weren’t enormously successful. Generally speaking, an athlete has to actually be accomplished in order to be resented. Sometimes the criticism is legitimate. Sometimes it isn’t. No matter. Success can’t be begrudged if success isn’t present. Golovkin doesn’t come across as the type to be moved by Twitter scorn, but if he is, that’s something he may want to keep in mind.
Golovkin isn’t alone, of course. Floyd Mayweather, the recently retired pound for pound great, had more scorn heaped upon him than any ring star since perhaps Tyson did during his darkest, ear biting hour. That was by design, though. Floyd was ultimately as much marketing genius as he was ring genius and he knew that playing the villain would reap handsome rewards. Other fighters, however, have not aspired to be vilified. They’ve neither cared about it one way or another, or they’ve just had the misfortune of their good fortune rubbing some people the wrong way.
Jonh L Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard and Tyson all wrought the wrath of various fan elements. Adonis Stevenson does so today. As, to some degree, does smiling Manny Pacquiao. Each of those names coincides with a very successful career, however. No one, for instance, would care if Stevenson was or wasn’t ducking Sergey Kovalev, if Stevenson wasn’t lineal light heavyweight champ.
Haters – and no, most of them aren’t really hateful – have the luxury of always having something to gripe about. That’s what sometimes separates the haters from plain old fans who just have some complaints. The fans who have gripes, for instance, will generally stop griping once said gripes have been addressed. If Stevenson somehow signs to fight Kovalev, for instance, most critical fans will cease to criticize Stevenson.
A genuine Stevenson hater, however, will simply move on to find new things to be critical of the man for. Likewise, even if there are legitimate complaints that can be lodged against Golovkin, less than legitimate complaints will likely follow suit from among the haters. This is unfortunate, of course, but it’s also part and parcel of newfound fame. Politicians, actors and musicians all have to deal with the same thing.
Boxing, however, has always inspired a whole lot of passion – an excessive amount, in fact. And some of it has always been exceedingly negative. Jack Johnson, for instance, was fortunate to have not been killed by racist elements during his title reign (ironically enough, at least one highly regarded fight writer has pointed to anti-white racism being a source of the current scorn for Golovkin). Some people felt Jack Dempsey wasn’t patriotic. Many people certainly felt the same way about Muhammad Ali. Such feelings usually die over time, of course, but that tends to be long after the fighter in question has finally hung up the gloves for good.
Golovkin, then, should get comfortable with being disliked if he wants to have a long and illustrious career. The thing with haters is that they generally can’t be won over. For instance, Golovkin could beat Canelo, Cotto, Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko on the same night and he’d still be called a fraud. It’s just how haters operate. In short, they can’t be pleased.
For instance, there was a whole lot to criticize Floyd Mayweather for, yet even if the man had addressed those criticisms, he’d still be a target of a large element of boxing’s fan base. Admit it – he could have fought Pacquiao back in 2010, won a Hagler-Hearns style brawl and it still wouldn’t have been enough for a lot of people out there.
And that, frankly, is kind of ridiculous. The best thing for most fans to do is to become aware that there’s a point when serious criticism ends and genuine dislike begins to take the steering wheel. Golovkin isn’t a perfect man, but then again, no one is. When this once rising/now legitimate star slips up in the future, he’ll be rightly called out for, it.
It might be wise to be mindful, however, of where the criticism is coming from. Being on the bandwagon can be fun. It can even give a person a feeling of purpose and belonging. Yet bandwagons are often delivering fertilizer of the most natural variety and the stench can carry on to the people riding them. That’s as true in the case of GGG as it was with any legitimate ring star that came before him.