Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin was forced to wait four years for his long-awaited trilogy clash with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
He will now have roughly four months to clear off the first of two mandatory challengers to his unified middleweight title reign.
The third and final entry in the Alvarez-Golovkin rivalry saw Guadalajara’s Alvarez (58-2-2, 39KOs) successfully defend his undisputed super middleweight championship following a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory this past Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight was blessed by the WBA on the condition that Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (42-2-1, 37KOs) immediately decide whether he will return to middleweight, where he reigns as unified WBA “Super”/IBF titlist and who will be required to next face secondary WBA titlist Erislandy Lara.
“The Committee decided to approve the request for permission and if Golovkin wins the fight against “Canelo” he will have five days (until September 23) to inform which title he wishes to keep and defend,” noted the sanctioning body at the time of granting an exemption request filed by Golovkin. “If it is the middleweight title, he will have 120 days to face Erislandy Lara in a mandatory fight.
“If he loses, he will have the same deadline to defend his middleweight title against the Cuban in his next fight.”
Golovkin, 40, will have until mid-January to face Lara (29-3-3, 17KOs) to avoid having to vacate the primary WBA middleweight title. He already declared after the loss to Alvarez that he plans to drop back down to middleweight after fighting at the full super middleweight for the first time in his sixteen-year career.
"Remember guys, I still have three belts at 160,” Golovkin noted after his unsuccessful bid to become a two-division champ. “I'll come back, guys. I'm still [the middleweight] champion, guys.”
Golovkin inherited Lara as a mandatory challenger after scoring a ninth-round knockout over Ryota Murata in their unification bout on April 9 in Saitama, Japan. Golovkin defended his IBF title while ending Murata’s WBA ‘Super’ title reign with the win, his fourth straight following his first defeat to Alvarez in their September 2018 rematch.
Lara claimed the secondary WBA ‘World’ (Regular) middleweight title following a first-round knockout of aspiring contender Thomas ‘Cornflake’ LaManna last May 1 in Carson, California. The Cuban export has since made one successful defense, an eighth-round knockout of Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan on May 28 in Brooklyn, New York.
Esquiva Falcao has been the number-one contender in the IBF middleweight rankings since a technical split decision win over Patrick Volny in their title eliminator last November 20 in Las Vegas. Falcao—a 2012 Olympic Gold medalist who lost a disputed decision to Murata in the finals—has fought once since the win while waiting on the IBF to eventually order the title fight.
Golovkin-Lara would come as part of the WBA’s ongoing title reduction campaign if the sanctioning body remembers to follow through on its own order and prior commitment. Progress has been slow even as the WBA’s hand was forced last summer in the matter. Middleweight remains one of seven divisions where the WBA still claims two recognized titleholders.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox