Grief forces Gennady Golovkin to take boxing break

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After roaring through the middleweight division and standing on the threshold of super stardom, Gennady Golovkin, the WBA middleweight champion, is going to take a step back from boxing.

It’s not because of some physical malady, but due to one of the most devastating of human emotions – grief.

Golovkin is mourning the death of his father, Gennady Ivanovich Golovkin, who died after a sudden heart attack on Feb. 18. Golovkin was supposed to fight Andy Lee in a middleweight title match at Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 26. But Golovkin is taking an extended leave from boxing to be with his family in Kazakhstan. There is a traditional 40-day mourning period in Golovkin’s culture and Golovkin is expected to help his family get through the grieving process.

Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2, which promotes Golovkin, was in San Antonio, Texas for the middleweight match between Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr and Bryan Vera on Saturday night. Loeffler told Yahoo Sports that he heard from Golovkin's manager Oleg Hermann earlier on Saturday that Golovkin would definitely be unable to fight as planned on April 26.

"He's going to be there every day for 40 days with his family," Loeffler said Saturday. "He's not even thinking of boxing at all. That's his priority, family. His two older brothers passed away earlier and he's pretty much the patriarch of the family. He has to deal with his brother and his mother and his whole family is pretty much there."

Loeffler, who attended the funeral in Kazakhstan last week, said he had a sense Golovkin would not fight in April. But he wasn't sure until he heard from Hermann on Saturday. Loeffler doesn’t know when Golovkin will return. He thinks could be June or July at the earliest.

Loeffler and trainer Abel Sanchez were in San Antonio to formally announce the April 26 bout with Lee, and to try to firm up talks with Bob Arum of Top Rank on a potential match with Chavez, Jr. on July 12. But everything is on hold until Golovkin deals with one of the toughest foes a human will ever face – grief.

It will be a tough process for Golovkin. His two older brothers, Sergey and Vadim, were killed while serving in the Russian Army. Sergey was killed in action in 1990 and Vadim was killed in 1994. The government never told the family exactly what conflict they were involved in when they were killed, which added to the family’s heartbreak.

One of the reason that Golovkin and his twin brother, Max (Gennady is 20 minutes older), got into boxing was to help soothe their sorrow. Sergey and Vadim introduced them to boxing to help them protect themselves in the rough neighborhood where they grew up.

Gennady and Max were two of the best amateurs in Kazakhstan in the 1990s. They were so good that they often ended up in the finals of tournaments fighting against each other. It was too much for their mother so Max gave up the sport.

Gennady earned a gold medal at the World Championships in 2003 and a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games before leaving the amateur ranks with 350 fights. He had a successful, but unsatisfying pro career in Germany before deciding to campaign in America.

Golovkin’s star began shining brightly last year when he fought four times and blasted all of his opponents, continuing a 16-fight KO streak and proving to be one of the scariest boxers in the sport with his 90% KO rate.

It will be interesting to see just how his extended leave from the sport will affect his rise to stardom.

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