By Keith Idec
Gennady Golovkin and his handlers haven’t decided whether he’ll keep the IBF middleweight title after Saturday night.
The IBF granted Golovkin an exception that will allow him to fight Vanes Martirosyan without being stripped of his IBF 160-pound championship. The New Jersey-based organization refused to sanction Golovkin-Martirosyan as a title fight, though, and has ordered negotiations between representatives for Golovkin and mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko to commence immediately after the Golovkin-Martirosyan match, assuming the heavily favored Golovkin wins.
The IBF has given Golovkin just 90 days from Saturday night to make his mandatory defense against Ukraine’s Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), the IBF’s No. 1-ranked contender at 160 pounds. Otherwise, Golovkin would be stripped of that title and Derevyanchenko would fight another highly ranked contender for it.
When asked during a conference call this week if Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) would indeed defend his IBF belt against Derevyanchenko, Golovkin’s promoter was noncommittal.
“The IBF did grant our request for an exception,” Tom Loeffler said. “So they approved our request. We’re in the process of clarifying some of those conditions, because there was some uncertainty on those. We’re dealing with that on our side, and Gennady and [trainer] Abel [Sanchez] are just completely focused on hitting the ring for Saturday.”
Derevyanchenko was willing to challenge Golovkin on short notice, but Golovkin preferred a seemingly safer optional defense against Martirosyan. The IBF didn’t sanction Golovkin-Martirosyan as a championship match because Martirosyan is moving up in weight, hasn’t fought in nearly two years and lost his last fight – a 12-round unanimous decision to Erislandy Lara in their 154-pound championship rematch.
Golovkin’s goal long has been to own all of boxing’s recognized middleweight titles.
In addition to the IBF championship, the Kazakhstan native possesses the WBA, WBC and IBO 160-pound crowns. England’s Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), the WBO champion, holds the only other relevant middleweight title.
The most lucrative option after facing Martirosyan would be for Golovkin to reschedule his pay-per-view rematch with Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican superstar’s six-month suspension for two failed performance-enhancing drug tests is set to end after August 17, which would allow Golovkin and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) to fight again September 15, the date on which Alvarez has stated that he’ll return.
Taking that route apparently would cost Golovkin the IBF title he won by stopping Quebec’s David Lemieux in October 2015 at Madison Square Garden.
“You know, it really depends what happens May 5,” Loeffler said. “I always try to look forward. But these days, everything is so convoluted. With Canelo’s suspension, he says he’s ready to fight September 15th.”
Loeffler added, however, “Gennady does have responsibilities for mandatories.”
The 36-year-old Golovkin is consistently listed as a 30-1 favorite over the 32-year-old Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), who agreed to replace Alvarez on just 2½ weeks’ notice. HBO will televise their fight as the main event of a “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader from StubHub Center in Carson, California (11 p.m. ET).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.