Boxing's top fighters typically fight twice a year, maybe three if they press the issue, as Gennady Golovkin likes to do.
Golovkin, the unified middleweight titleholder and one of boxing's most devastating punchers, likes to stay as busy as anyone. He hoped to fight three times this year, but that did not come to pass when talks for his mandatory defense against secondary titlist Daniel Jacobs bogged down.
That led both sides to give up on a proposed Dec. 10 date and aim instead for getting it set for early 2017.
But Golovkin is not acting like he doesn't have a fight scheduled and is doing something highly unusual for an elite fighter: He returned to training camp in late October, even though he has no fight set. More surprisingly, he did so only a few weeks after having knocked out Kell Brook in the fifth round on Sept. 10 on Brook's turf in London.
After Golovkin, 34, retained his title for the 17th time and scored his 23rd knockout in a row, he, his wife and his son went to visit family in Golovkin's native Kazakhstan for two weeks. After they returned home to Santa Monica, California, Golovkin left for Big Bear Lake, California, where he is training at Abel Sanchez's gym.
While many are surprised that he would return to training without a fight date, Golovkin said he enjoys himself.
"It's actually my attitude to keep my physical form and keep in shape," Golovkin told ESPN this week. "It's a lot of fun for me to train. I had enough time to relax (after the fight with Brook). I was on vacation with my family. It's now time for me to do what I do best: to train. And it's a lot of fun, but nothing special. I had vacation, now it's time to get back to the life of a boxer.
"I take it very seriously as a professional athlete to always be in shape. As long as I'm in my active career, I have to do it this way."
Said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, "It's a testament to how committed he is to his career and to the sport of boxing that even without a fight, he would go to camp. I've never known of any fighter to go away to camp to stay in shape and to continue to sharpen his skills without a fight."
GGG is doing everything he would normally do in preparation for a fight other than sparring. At this point, there is no need for that wear and tear until the next fight is set.
"This time, I wanted to do something different without any sparring sessions, but I run and do my physical training," Golovkin said. "It's my attitude to keep in the right shape. It's nothing special for me."
Sanchez said he admires Golovkin's undeniable work ethic.
"I wasn't surprised, because that's the kind of guy he is," Sanchez said. "He knows that we have a couple of important fights coming up for guys in our gym, so even though Gennady doesn't have anything scheduled, he came to camp, and he has been in camp training with the guys and helping them. He's not sparring. I won't spar him, but he's doing everything else, hitting the mitts, hitting the bag, doing his running.
"He wants to train. Unfortunately, we don't have enough athletes like that who want to keep themselves in the kind of shape that they should. Gennady does because this is his job. He respects his public, he respects his fans, and he wants to be able to perform at his best."
Sanchez said Golovkin usually drives home to his family on Friday night or Saturday morning to see his son's hockey games.
"But he's here training five days a week," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that GGG has proved to be a tremendous role model to the young men in his gym. Sanchez is preparing 23-year-old cruiserweight Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17 KOs) for his first world title shot against unified titleholder Denis Lebedev on Dec. 3 in Moscow and heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr. (29-0, 19 KOs), 27, for a vacant world title fight against Joseph Parker on Dec. 10 in Auckland, New Zealand. He also prepared 22-year-old welterweight prospect Alex Saucedo (23-0, 14 KOs) for his UniMas-televised eight-round decision win against Ray Serrano last Friday night.
Sanchez said Golovkin's work ethic was noticed by the fighters as they got ready for their fights, and Loeffler said his presence was important for the young guys.
"He's definitely a leader at the camp," Loeffler said. "When the younger fighters see how hard he trains, it's hard for them to make an excuse that they don't want to train as hard as the guy already at the top. He sets a great example."
Golovkin said he is just doing what comes naturally to him.
"Maybe I am a role model for these young guys," Golovkin said. "What maybe I showed these young guys is that if you want to be the best, if you want to be champion, you have to live your life healthy and keep in shape. They were already in camp for a couple of weeks when I arrived, and I was maybe in better shape than them. So they see that, and it's a motivation for them."
Loeffler said he is continuing to try to make a deal with Jacobs' adviser Al Haymon for the fight. While Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) would most like to fight Canelo Alvarez, that highly anticipated showdown won't happen until at least September 2017, which is when Alvarez's team is aiming for. So Golovkin said the next-best fight for him is against Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs), and he hopes a deal is made soon.
"Jacobs is the fight that I would like to be my next fight, because Jacobs is probably the strongest middleweight contender in the world," Golovkin said. "It's a serious challenge for me, and that's why it's a very interesting fight. He has a big name, so this is a very interesting and serious fight. I would like to beat Jacobs, and I would like him to be my next opponent. He is maybe the most qualified fighter to fight against."
Golovkin said he was somewhat disappointed he did not get to fight three times this year but knows that making fights can be complicated. So he is OK with waiting for the Jacobs deal to be made.
"It's not a question of disappointment. It's a question of following the WBA rules," Golovkin said. "I had no choice because Jacobs is my mandatory, so I have to fight against him and deal with the situation. So be it. I will fight against him when we get everything worked out. Now we need to resolve the situation, and then I will fight against Jacobs."
Meanwhile, GGG will continue to train and train and train without his next date being set.