By Keith Idec
It’s becoming increasingly likely that Gennady Golovkin won’t fight anyone May 5.
Multiple sources informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday night that Golovkin’s scheduled May 5 fight is in serious jeopardy of being canceled for various reasons. Settling on an opponent to replace Canelo Alvarez and insufficient time to properly promote an event that appeared headed from Las Vegas to StubHub Center in Carson, California, are among the primary problems that could lead to Golovkin’s fight being officially canceled as early as Wednesday.
Golovkin is tentatively scheduled to fight three weeks from Saturday night, which leaves little time to sell even affordable tickets to his fight at the 9,000-seat StubHub Center. Securing an acceptable, affordable replacement for Alvarez, and one that won’t cost Golovkin his IBF 160-pound title, also has become problematic since Alvarez officially withdrew from their pay-per-view rematch April 3 during a press conference in Los Angeles.
Irish middleweight contender Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan was believed to be the frontrunner to replace Alvarez on short notice. O’Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs) – who’s co-promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, also Alvarez’s promoter – has campaigned for the daunting assignment.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko also wants to step in for Alvarez, however, and the unbeaten Ukrainian is the mandatory challenger for Golovkin’s IBF middleweight title. Lou DiBella, Derevyanchenko’s promoter, has petitioned the IBF to either force Golovkin to defend its title against Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) on May 5 or strip the Kazakh knockout artist of that title.
It is the IBF’s turn in its rotation with the WBA and WBC for Golovkin to make a mandatory defense (the IBO doesn’t order mandatory defenses). Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) hasn’t made a mandatory defense of his IBF belt since knocking out Dominic Wade in the second round of their April 2016 bout in Inglewood, California.
Derevyanchenko is considered a tougher opponent for Golovkin than O’Sullivan. The 2008 Olympian also is a high-risk, low-reward proposition for Golovkin at a time when an eight-figure purse for a rematch against Alvarez hangs in the balance.
The IBF predicament further complicated promoter Tom Loeffler’s plan to have Golovkin fight May 5. Loeffler wants to accommodate Golovkin’s preference for fighting May 5, but as of Tuesday night hadn’t been able to resolve the IBF issue.
The 36-year-old Golovkin has long expressed a strong desire to own all of boxing’s recognized middleweight titles at the same time. If he were stripped of the IBF belt, two of those 160-pound championships wouldn’t belong to Golovkin, as England’s Billy Joe Saunders owns the WBO middleweight title.
Golovkin, who already has at least temporarily lost out on an enormous purse for facing Alvarez a second time, has been adamant about fighting May 5 because the IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC champion doesn’t want to waste what will amount to almost an entire training camp.
Peter Nelson, HBO Sports’ executive vice president, agreed recently to air Golovkin’s fight live on the network May 5, rather than keeping Golovkin in a pay-per-view fight that wouldn’t have drawn anywhere near the amount of buys as an Alvarez-Golovkin rematch. That concession – which would’ve afforded Loeffler a license fee from the network that at least would cover some of the event’s expenses – still doesn’t appear to be enough to have Golovkin fight May 5.
If Golovkin doesn’t fight that night, sources also have informed BoxingScene.com that it is unlikely he would box before facing Alvarez in a middleweight championship rematch. That’ll depend, though, on how long Alvarez’s temporary suspension is extended when he meets with the Nevada State Athletic Commission at its monthly meeting April 18 in Las Vegas.
The NSAC temporarily suspended Alvarez on March 23 for failing two performance-enhancing drug tests. Alvarez twice tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance, on February 17 and February 20.
The Mexican superstar withdrew from their lucrative rematch last week because his handlers were advised that the NSAC would’ve voted against allowing Alvarez to fight Golovkin on May 5 had he sought to remain in the fight. Alvarez claims meat contamination, a common problem in Mexico, is responsible for clenbuterol turning up in his system.
If Alvarez is suspended for six months by the NSAC next week, that suspension would be retroactive to the date of his first positive test. That’d mean Alvarez, assuming he’d have no additional issues, would become eligible to fight again after August 17.
Alvarez then could reschedule his rematch against Golovkin for September 15, which would fall on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Sources also have indicated that Alvarez doesn’t want Golovkin to fight another opponent before their rematch can be rescheduled.
If the NSAC suspends Alvarez for longer than six months, Golovkin almost certainly would take an interim bout before their rematch could be rescheduled. Neither Golovkin nor Alvarez has fought since they battled to a controversial 12-round draw September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The NSAC approved a site switch for Golovkin’s May 5 fight on Thursday – from T-Mobile Arena to the nearby, slightly smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena. StubHub Center emerged as an option earlier this week because the outdoor venue is popular among boxing fans in Southern California, as is Golovkin.
Compared to Las Vegas venues, tickets typically are cheap for boxing events at StubHub Center. That also helped make StubHub Center an attractive alternative because there’s so little time to sell tickets for a May 5 event.
In addition to O’Sullivan and Derevyanchenko, Demetrius Andrade, Jaime Munguia and most recently Vanes Martyrosian have volunteered to challenge Golovkin on short notice.
Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), a former WBA and WBO super welterweight champion from Providence, Rhode Island, is a talented, 6-feet-1 southpaw who would’ve forced Golovkin to completely change his training camp on short notice. Sources told BoxingScene.com last week that the NSAC wouldn’t have approved Mexico’s Munguia (28-0, 24 KOs) as Alvarez’s replacement because the powerful prospect has fought a very low level of opposition and has competed mostly at welterweight and super welterweight.
Martyrosian (36-3-1, 21 KOs) was approved as a potential opponent by the California State Athletic Commission, according to a Los Angeles Times report Tuesday. Nevertheless, Martyrosian, of Glendale, California, has been almost exclusively a super welterweight throughout his career and hasn’t fought since losing a 12-round unanimous decision to former 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara in May 2016 in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.