Lure of London drew superstar Gennady Golovkin for showdown with Kell Brook

The big fight night
The big fight night

Gennady Golovkin will fulfil another ambition when he defends his WBC and IBF middleweight titles against Kell Brook on Saturday.

The undefeated Kazakh will fight for the first time in the UK, years after a potential match-up with Britain’s Darren Barker fell through and having defeated Martin Murray and Matthew Macklin overseas.

His status as the main attraction at London’s sold-out O2 Arena is also the latest demonstration of his popularity around the world. Despite years of struggling for recognition and his fearsome reputation meaning he is widely avoided to this day, Golovkin is one of boxing’s biggest draws.

In the era after the dominance of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, he is not only a contender to be the world’s leading fighter, pound for pound, but also the most popular.

A defining fight and the match-up he wants with Mexico’s Saul Alvarez have so far eluded him, but in fighting in England, Golovkin can continue to build the reputation it once looked like he may never have.

“I like the UK fans,” said the 34-year-old, one of American television network HBO’s biggest figures. “People in the UK understand boxing. There’s a lot of history and tradition.

“Every time I told (promoter) Tom Loeffler, ‘Please, give me a chance to fight in the UK’. I have a couple of fights, with Martin Murray, with Matthew Macklin, (but) I want to fight here, in the UK.

“For me, it’s huge. I want the fight with Billy Joe Saunders and the fight with (Chris) Eubank (Jnr). We lost time with the Eubank fight but we have a contract with Kell Brook. I said: ‘I’m ready.’

“I’ve had fights in Kazakhstan, in Germany, in Panama. This is the boxing world. The UK is huge for me. There are some great champions from the UK. People understand boxing here.

“It’s like Mexico. There are true fans. I can’t just stay in Kazakhstan. I can’t stay in the United States. I want to fight all over the world. I want big fights.”

The devastating and widely feared Golovkin’s fight with Brook, who steps up from welterweight, comes with Alvarez appearing reluctant to fight him and Mayweather similarly showing no interest despite him representing what most would consider his greatest test.

At 34, and with the aggressive style of fighting generally more suited to a younger man, Golovkin is short of time to build a truly lasting legacy, but he said: “My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division. Everybody wants all the belts. That’s the dream for everybody.

“We worked out a good deal but he (Eubank) didn’t want the fight with me. It’s not my problem. I’m taking my time. And I have time.

“Kell is a champion and I respect him. I saw a couple of his fights. He has different speed, different movement and different timing. It’s not easy. Yes, it’s a different size for us, I’m a little bit bigger, but right now I can’t say he’s an easy fight for me because he’s a very good fighter.”

Loeffler, who helped attract Golovkin to HBO, added: “When he couldn’t get the other champions to fight - Sergio Martinez, Felix Sturm, Peter Quillin - he kept going forward.

“This does a lot for his brand. This will be the fourth sold-out arena in four different cities, so it shows his marketability isn’t just one state, city, or country. This will be the launching pad for fights in the UK.”