Unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, though an assassin in the ring, has always come off as charming outside it, thanks to his boyish grin and easygoing demeanor.
While Golovkin has been storming through the division for years -- up to 18 consecutive title defenses, two shy of tying Bernard Hopkins' all-time division record -- he has rarely trash-talked opponents or boasted about the exploits that have him ranked by most as one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
But when Golovkin got hit more than expected last September as he defended his titles against Kell Brook (who held a welterweight world title at the time but was moving up in weight), critics suggested he might be slipping -- even though he literally broke Brook's face in a fifth-round knockout victory.
When Golovkin eked out a unanimous decision against Daniel Jacobs, whom he knocked down in the fourth round on March 18, many thought GGG lost, and the critics became more vocal that he might not be the monster he was made out to be.
Now, barely a week away from a megafight with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16 (8 p.m. ET, HBO PPV) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Golovkin has become more outspoken.
Perhaps stung by the criticism, Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) took a shot at Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) on Friday, as well as at those who have been slow to give him credit for the victory against Jacobs.
"I am not Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Canelo is no Danny Jacobs. There are no survivors in my fights," said Golovkin, who has been asked constantly about the comparison between his difficulties with Jacobs and Alvarez's easy time with Chavez in his last fight.
Alvarez rolled to a shutout decision against Chavez on May 6 in a fight where Chavez barely threw any punches and did not appear to try to win.
"Boxing is a business," Golovkin said. "If I look great against Jacobs -- if I knocked him out -- I would not be getting this fight with Canelo now."
Golovkin and his team believe that Alvarez and his promoter, Golden Boy's Oscar De La Hoya, would have continued to avoid him had he looked great against Jacobs. Instead, Golovkin looked human, and shortly thereafter, Alvarez and De La Hoya made the fight.
"Jacobs was a very good fighter and gave me good learning experience going 12 rounds," said Golovkin, whose 23-fight knockout streak ended after that fight. "I have never done that before. I felt amazing going 12 rounds for the first time. Jacobs gives everyone problems."
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's longtime trainer, agreed with his pupil.
"Danny Jacobs is the second-best middleweight in boxing. It was a tough fight because the two best in the middleweight division were fighting each other," Sanchez said. "The matchup was as good in the ring as it was on paper. Jacobs also gamed the system by skipping the IBF's mandatory fight-day weigh-in, where the fighters are only allowed to gain 10 pounds from the previous day's official weigh-in. Gennady, as defending champion, honored the IBF's rule and weighed in the next morning. Who knows how heavy Jacobs was the night of the fight?
"But even with that advantage, Gennady was able to win. Jacobs was easily one weight division heavier than Gennady. Not getting the knockout may have been a double blessing for us: It showed that Gennady was capable of going 12 rounds with an elite fighter, and it gave us the fight with Canelo.
"If Gennady had knocked Jacobs out, there is no way Golden Boy would have the confidence to put Canelo in with us this year," Sanchez continued. "Now let's look at Canelo's last fight. Chavez hasn't fought under 167 pounds in five years. He was drained [to get to the contract limit of 164.5 pounds] and barely threw a punch. If that same Chavez fights Gennady, there is no question Gennady knocks him out. Chavez was a sitting duck. There is no debate on who had the better win against the better opponent. Watching Canelo's performance against Chavez gave us a lot of confidence too."