Gennady Golovkin says he's never been off his feet even in sparring. Ask him who hit him the hardest, and he jokes, "My parents." Press him to name an opponent with a punch that hurt, and he just shrugs and says, "No. Nothing."
As a man with a streak of 20 straight stoppages, Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs) is the one accustomed to dishing out punishment. "He's a predator," trainer Abel Sanchez says of the WBA and IBO middleweight champion.
But IBF middleweight champ David Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) says there's a first time for everything, and he not only plans to put Golovkin on the canvas Saturday night but to exit Madison Square Garden with all the belts.
"This is more than a fight," Lemieux said before the final news conference Wednesday at the Garden. "It's a statement I'm going to make. I'm going to put my flag on this territory . . . I'm an all-or-nothing person. I know what I can do, and I'm not leaving the Garden without those belts.
"My mindset is that I'm going to be different than his other opponents who were beaten before they went in the ring with him. He's got a good chin, but let's see. I'm pretty sure I will put him off his feet. He's only human."
Bold talk is part of boxing hype, but Montreal's Lemieux delivered his lines with uncommon conviction. Boxing fans obviously are buying into the hype. MSG boxing head Joel Fisher presented each fighter with a silver ticket commemorating a sellout of the main arena.
Oscar de la Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions, which handles Lemieux, said the HBO pay-per-view telecast, which is priced at $49.95, will give fans their money's worth in terms of action compared to, say, the defense-oriented clinics staged by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who claims to be retired as the pound-for-pound king of boxing.
"This is the fight game, the entertainment game," de la Hoya said. "Yes, we are going to get a war. We are going to get a real fight."
Golovkin, who has fought on four previous Garden cards, has been working hard to build a U.S. following and sees this as the first major step toward succeeding Mayweather as boxing's biggest draw. But Lemieux, who is coming off his first world title win in June against Hassan N'Dam, who was down four times in a 12-round decision, is fighting outside of Canada for just the second time.
Although Lemieux suffered back-to-back losses in 2011, he has stopped seven of his past nine opponents since switching to trainer Marc Ramsay. Golovkin rates him as the most dangerous opponent he's ever faced.
"I have no fear," Lemieux said of Golovkin. "His power doesn't concern me. I'm confident in what I can give back . . . I'm not here to play. I'm here to make history."