Gennady Golovkin wants to fight Glendale's Vanes Martirosyan May 5 at StubHub Center as his replacement bout for Canelo Alvarez, but doing so may cost him one of his cherished middleweight belts.
So instead of confirming the bout as expected Thursday at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles, Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 knockouts) stopped short, pending further negotiation with the International Boxing Federation and its mandatory challenger, Russia's Sergiy Derevyanchenko, while a finalized contract with Martirosyan also awaits.
"Everyone was speculating what the announcement would be today … we're announcing that there is no announcement," Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler said. "Gennady wants to fight May 5. There's been a lot of challenges — opponents, sanctioning bodies — we're sorting out an amicable solution while not denying [Golovkin] the opportunity to fight May 5."
The wait, as expected, bothers Golovkin.
"I feel great. I've been in Big Bear [training]. I want to fight," he told reporters. "Just give me a fight. This is just a crazy situation for boxing. Cinco de Mayo is a huge date for boxing … no date? Terrible."
Even though Alvarez didn't withdraw from his scheduled May 5 rematch with Golovkin until last week, the IBF has not blessed Golovkin's defense against Martirosyan because Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) is the mandatory challenger and Golovkin hasn't made a mandatory defense for the IBF since knocking out Dominic Wade at the Forum in 2016.
Derevyanchenko's promoter, Lou DiBella, has told the Los Angeles Times he expects the IBF to strip Golovkin of one of his three middleweight belts if a deal with Martirosyan is finalized. DiBella said as of Thursday afternoon he hadn't accepted a step-aside payment from Loeffler that would permit Golovkin to retain the belt.
Stripping the belt would likely forever deny Derevyanchenko a lucrative match with Golovkin, though, and it would move him to a title fight against someone like Demetrius Andrade, who also lacks name recognition, prompting Golovkin publicist Fred Sternburg to crack, "That fight's not 'Boxing After Dark.' It's 'Boxing After-Thought.'"
Loeffler took a higher road. "We respect all their rules. Now we have to see what can be accomplished. It would be a shame to have a [Golovkin] fight like Derevyanchenko promoted on a three-week basis in potentially a much smaller arena than it would be."
Loeffler admitted making a step-aside payment — DiBella has expressed reluctance to accept one — is possible if it's needed to set a bout with Martirosyan, but time is running short, and Loeffler conceded he needs the situation to be resolved by "mid-next-week" or he might have to scrap the May 5 date.
"I just want a contract. I'll get the money after I win," Martirosyan told the Los Angeles Times in a Thursday text message. "It's weird going to the gym for a fight you don't know," is happening, "but I want the fight."
A 2004 U.S. Olympian, Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), the World Boxing Council's No. 1-ranked light-middleweight contender, hasn't fought since May 2016. Two recent scheduled foes, including Ishe Smith, backed away from Martirosyan in favor of greater purses in other bouts.
The California State Athletic Commission this week approved Martirosyan as a viable opponent for the power-punching Golovkin.
HBO is working to televise the main event around 8 p.m. Pacific, and the StubHub card would include former four-division world champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and women's unified welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (32-0, nine KOs). The Gonzalez and Braekhus bouts are expected to be televised by HBO Latino.
Though Golovkin would be a massive favorite over Martirosyan, the bout would allow him to stay sharp after grinding through several weeks of training camp in Big Bear believing he was going to fight Mexico's former two-division world champion Alvarez.
Last week, Alvarez, who fought Golovkin to a draw at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, agreed to withdraw from the scheduled May 5 rematch after submitting two positive samples for the banned performance-enhancing substance clenbuterol. Alvarez's case is scheduled to be determined at a Wednesday Nevada Athletic Commission hearing in Las Vegas.
While the positive results subject Alvarez to a one-year suspension, he is pleading to have the discipline reduced to six months, which would allow the rematch with Golovkin to take place on Mexican Independence weekend in September.
"Canelo is not a star anymore," Golovkin said. "He's terrible."
Loeffler said if the IBF situation is not resolved by the time of the Nevada hearing, that outcome will determine Golovkin's fight schedule for the remainder of the year. Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez, made it clear they're seeking a fight now to remain sharp.
"I just want to see him fight," Sanchez said. "He just turned 36, and I think the fans want to see him continue to fight at his peak while he's able."
Placing the bout at StubHub Center, which has established a reputation for classic scraps, allows the tradition of important title fights to continue on Cinco de Mayo weekend, and Martirosyan's local ties give further boost to Golovkin's own appeal. Additionally, the television audience can watch Golovkin without the pay-per-view expense.
In 2014, a record crowd in excess of 9,300 attended Golovkin's second-round knockout of Mexico's Marco Antonio Rubio, part of a 23-fight knockout streak built by Golovkin.
If he fights and defeats Martirosyan, Golovkin would tie Bernard Hopkins' record of 20 consecutive middleweight-title victories.