They’ve spent several years as part of each other’s lives.
And though it’s been 1,193 days since they fought the first time and 829 days since their compelling rematch, precious little has changed in the relationship of Gennadiy Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
Though Triple-G has the Olympic pedigree, the bogus title-defense record and a better case to make to suggest he ought to be unbeaten in their rivalry, one other thing about him remains just as crystal clear.
He still needs Canelo far more than Canelo needs him.
It was that way while the Kazakh boogeyman was pining for Alvarez to climb to 160 pounds and rescue him from an endless treadmill of overmatched, uninteresting opponents. It was that way during a prolonged wait for a return bout after frustrating draw. And it was that way again this weekend when both men took center stage atop DAZN-streamed cards from drastically different venues.
There was Golovkin at a hotel/casino in Hollywood, Fla., playing a Friday night gig opposite another no-hope foil at a fan-free venue. And there was Canelo a day later, starring in a heavily-produced show that featured Mariachi bands channeling ’80s anthems for a crowd of 12,000 that sounded like twice that.
The 38-year-old was taciturn while steadfastly refusing to say his rival’s name during fight week, but stood by beaming as Eddie Hearn began beating trilogy drums once Kamil Szeremeta was sent packing.
Problem is, while Canelo III is Golovkin’s only path to the sort of high-end financial windfall that justifies the competitive risk, it’s no sure thing after Saturday that he holds a similar place on Alvarez’s radar.
Canelo pocketed a reported $20 million for his 36-minute assault of Callum Smith, nearly three times more than the reported $7 million guarantee Golovkin had for meeting Szeremeta.
And given the alacrity he’s shown in jumping weight classes, it’s certain that Alvarez will have his pick of lucrative options no matter what division he visits – and each would justifiably be labeled a mega-event.
Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev entice at 175. Caleb Plant and David Benavidez are willing at 168. And Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade beckon at 160, or perhaps 168, if Canelo makes that demand.
Each would provide an attractive B-side and represent a compelling new challenge. Though, based on past results, the reigning A-side would be no worse than a narrow favorite against any.
For Golovkin, meanwhile, the path forward is not quite so straight.
Though his middleweight track record dwarfs any active foe’s, there’s no guarantee, at 38, he’d even get past a powerful Charlo or an awkward Andrade on the way to another Canelo cash-out.
And it seems increasingly unlikely, given how comfortably fit and powerful Alvarez looked on Saturday, that he’d be interested in a third bout at anything other than at 168 pounds – where Golovkin has never fought. So if that becomes a take it or leave it, what choice would Triple-G have but to take it?
While it’s true Canelo makes more money against Golovkin than any prospective opponent, it’s also true – given the fiscal proceeds from Saturday – that his take from fighting anyone else will be far greater than what Golovkin can make elsewhere. Which, if you’re Alvarez, is a pretty good spot to be in.
He can take the fight in May and make great money. He can fight someone else in May and still make good money, while pushing his nemesis another year closer to the end of the line before he pounces.
So, if Canelo goes elsewhere, where does Golovkin go?
Former 154-pound champ Jaime Munguia was on the short list two years ago during Alvarez’s “tainted meat” suspension, but was nixed by the Nevada Athletic Commission because he'd not faced anyone close to Golovkin's level. These days, though, it’d make a lot more sense.
Munguia earned his title at 154 just a week after Golovkin fought Vanes Martirosyan, and he defended five times through the end of 2019 before moving his 6-foot frame to the Kazakh's realm at 160.
Two fights since have yielded two KO wins over foes with a combined 51-5-1 record, leaving him eager for the Golovkin challenge.
"It would be a great opportunity for me," he told Fight Hype. "We decided amongst ourselves that we're ready to take that risk."
Also an option for either man, one Billy Joe Saunders.
The brash Briton product was WBO middleweight champion during a chunk of Golovkin's initial title reign and his was the only belt Golovkin never secured a chance to win.
Golovkin says it’s because Saunders never wanted the bout. Saunders predictably disagrees.
And if Alvarez does demand the trilogy go to 168, it wouldn’t be a bad move for Golovkin to get a belt.
Hearn himself suggested Saunders could be a good match for Golovkin, and added Andrade to the conversation, too. But the guy who fought Saturday is the biggest star in the sport, provides the best shot at satisfaction for Golovkin and promises the biggest buck for his bang.
So any Golovkin fight not involving Alvarez will be considered a consolation prize.
And though he never mentioned him by name, there's little doubt who Golovkin was referring to when he said, "I'm open for anybody. The best opportunity for me, for business, for DAZN, for fans. I'm ready."
Hearn, too, seemed anxious to get the storyline started.
"When he faces the best next year, you're going to see an even better fight," he said. "Gennadiy is the boss. He's earned the right to fight who he wants to fight. We want to see him in the biggest fights. Trust me, guys, we'll bring the best fight for next time."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
This week’s trash title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBA “world” super middleweight title – Los Angeles, California
David Morrell (No. 1 WBA/No. 76 IWBR) vs. Mike Gavronski (No. 11 WBA/No. 61 IWBR)
Why It’s Trash: This is bad even for the WBA, which is saying something. Morrell is their No. 1 contender. Read that, their No. 1 contender. Ahead of guys like Danny Jacobs and David Lemieux and David Benavidez, etc., after fighting precisely three times as a pro. Hey, maybe he’s next for Canelo.
Last week's picks: 3-1 (WIN: Golovkin, Alvarez, Makabu; LOSS: Akhmedov)
2020 picks record: 38-9 (80.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,155-374 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.