By Jake Donovan

The hunt continues in search of a suitable opponent for Gennady Golovkin’s next ring appearance.

Whether or not Dominic Wade fits the “suitable” criteria remains to be seen. For now, he’s among the few boxers in the world willing to next face the man universally recognized as the best middleweight in the world and will spend the next few weeks fielding offers in exchange for his services.

In the wake of Tureano Johnson – previously Golovkin’s mandatory challenger – withdrawing from talks due to a recurring shoulder injury that will keep him sidelined for an undetermined period of time, Wade (18-0, 12KOs) has emerged as the next leading contender in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) rankings.

As is the norm for any contender advanced to the leading challenger position, said boxer and his camp are given a brief period to either accept the offer to negotiate for a title fight – at which point talks immediately commence - or decline and forfeit their ranking. Wade’s team accepted the offer from the IBF, with talks having opened earlier this week.

“This is treated as a normal mandatory fight,” IBF spokesperson Jeanette Salazar confirmed to “[W]e always move on to the leading available contender (in the event of the mandatory dropping out). We would only move on (sooner) if (Wade) wasn’t available.”

As negotiations are underway, Golovkin’s options are now limited for a planned April 23 appearance. The unbeaten, unified middleweight titlist was previously in talks for a showdown with recently crowned WBO beltholder Billy Joe Saunders, who – through promoter Frank Warren - initially priced himself out and ultimately removed himself from consideration.

In the presence of a due mandatory challenge, the defending titlist can file for an exemption, in which case the IBF can either accept or reject. Golovkin was eligible to file for an exemption in favor of a unification clash, though those plans became a bit more complicated once Saunders’ team declined.

Golovkin (34-0, 31KOs) currently possesses the WBA “super”, IBO “regular” and WBC “interim” titles in addition to the IBF strap. The only other available full beltholder is WBC/Lineal middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who is presently in search of an opponent of his own for a planned May 7 return at the newly constructed 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The obvious choice for Golovkin and Alvarez – given current scenarios, as well as the fact that Golovkin is his mandatory challenger – is for the pair of middleweights to fast forward to what is easily the biggest fight to be made in the sport today.

Both are coming off of big wins to close out 2015. Golovkin won his first unification bout in stopping David Lemieux in eight rounds last October at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City. One month later, Alvarez became a two-division champion after scoring a 12-round decision over reigning middleweight king Miguel Cotto last November in Las Vegas.

At the time, Alvarez was given 15 days to either agree to next face Golovkin or vacate the WBC title. Naturally, he was given several extensions on such a deadline before the two sides sat down with the sanctioning body and gave the assurance that a head-on collision will happen at some point in 2016.

For the moment, “some point” appears to be September 17 at a venue to be determined. The super fight would come on the weekend celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day, with Alvarez keen on representing his boxing-rich nation on the date as well as Cinco de Mayo.

The wildly popular red-headed boxer from Guadalajara remains on the hunt for a May 7 opponent. Wishful thinking – with a touch of public demand – has industry insiders clamoring for Alvarez-Golovkin to take place on the date, but the clock is ticking on the necessary time available to properly promote such an event.

That leads back to separate showcase fights as a prelude to the one super fight boxing fans crave.

As such, Golovkin’s choices for a next opponent come down to Wade – who hails from Largo, Maryland, just outside of the greater Washington D.C. area - or Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs, who owns the WBA “regular” title. Both are represented by adviser Al Haymon, whose vast stable of boxers were effectively forced off of HBO’s airwaves in 2013.

The reasoning offered at the time was that HBO was not interested in showcasing Haymon’s fighters, only for the high-powered boxing broker to bring a bigger fighter to another network. At the time, it meant Showtime, but Haymon now has a slew of free-to-air and regional cable outlets that currently run his Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series.

Interestingly, Wade has yet to appear on such a card and in an odd twist of events could first find himself on HBO before making his PBC debut. His past three fights aired on Showtime, last seen in a 10-round split decision win over former middleweight titlist Sam Soliman last June. Showtime has in recent years regularly featured Haymon’s fighters, but whose shows do not carry PBC branding.

If his next fight is in fact for the IBF title, then Wade’s next fight certainly won’t run on the series.

Golovkin is under exclusive contract with HBO, which has aired his last nine fights available to stateside viewing audiences dating back to his network debut in Sept. ‘12. The lone exceptions over that stretch were his successful title defenses versus Nobuhiro Ishida and Osumana Adama, both of which took place in Monaco and did not air on any U.S.-based network.

Should the fight with Wade materialize, it will mark the first time that Golovkin has faced a Haymon-advised boxer. The network affiliation has played a part since his stateside emergence, although K2 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler – managing director of K2 Promotions and the driving force behind Golovkin’s success – has always remained open to working with all promoters and advisers, especially those representing middleweight titleholders.

As for whether all involved parties can agree to work together to bring closure to Golovkin’s current opponent search, only time will tell - specifically, the next few weeks at which a final answer will be due.

Jake Donovan is the managing editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox