At 36-years-old, Gennady Golovkin was spoiled with a three-year, six-fight contract paying him upward of $100 million with global sports streaming platform DAZN.
The deal was designed to create a clear collision course for a third fight with Canelo Alvarez, who also fights on DAZN. But Alvarez instead opted to move up two weight divisions to face light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev rather than give a rematch to the Kazakh KO artist after two highly disputed decisions — one a draw in 2017, the other a majority decision win for Alvarez in 2018.
Alvarez was so adamant on not fighting Golovkin again throughout the summer that he missed out on his customary Mexican Independence Day weekend fight, and in the process, failed to secure a deal with his IBF middleweight title mandatory in Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
The Mexican fighter was promptly stripped of the sanctioning body’s title in August, and now, Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KOs) will take on the Brooklyn-based Ukrainian challenger Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10 KOs) for the vacant 160-pound title Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fight will stream on DAZN and will be Golovkin’s seventh appearance at the venue.
“Canelo just looks like he didn’t want to box with me or couldn’t box with me, so the only choice he had was to go fight Kovalev,” Golovkin said. “The only thing that I see is that he must have had some sort of problem because he was given the option to fight me and for some reason he didn’t. It means that he did this on purpose, to not fight me, and instead to move to Kovalev.
“I don’t know if he’s going to win, but I know that Kovalev is gaining more from that fight than Canelo.”
Golovkin, who lives in Santa Monica and trains in Big Bear, is coming off an easy fourth round knockout win against the unheralded Steve Rolls in June.
It was his first fight since splitting with long-time trainer Abel Sanchez due to financial reasons. Golovkin bestowed coaching duties to former heavyweight challenger-turned-coach Johnathon Banks so he can improve rhythm, movement and timing, all while paying him less than Sanchez. The former fighter is a student of late Hall of Famer Emmanuel Stewart, and a one-time trainer to Wladimir Klitschko.
“We had more time this camp than previously,” Golovkin said. “We have a lot of understanding of each other, we tried a lot of different things. Of course we always need more time than we’re allowed, the more time we have, the more we can try, the better we’ll be. We’ve come a long way.”
Golovkin, who once sported a streak of 23 consecutive knockouts from 2008 to 2017, also brought on board a nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach in addition to Banks as he tries to fend off Father Time.
“We get along great. Only time is going to draw us closer and closer,” Banks said. “He loves what he does and I love what I do, so it’s a pleasure to be there working with a like-minded individual and to perfect the craft … I think it’s going to be a very competitive, tooth-and-nail type of fight.”
Golovkin was quick to squash doubts if Derevyanchenko was deserving of his contender status considering that he lost to Daniel Jacobs, a fighter both Alvarez and Golovkin have beaten.
“Let’s be honest. At this level, every contender is serious. Sergiy has a lot of experience,” said Golovkin, who will fight with a slight height and reach advantage. “We are approaching this as serious as we can … I’ll never underestimate my opponent. No matter what, you still have to prepare.”
Derevyanchenko is looking to put himself in a life-changing position by outworking the heavy favorite Golovkin. At 33, he doesn’t have a hallmark win, but he does sport an impressive amateur record of 390-20 and was a 2008 Olympian.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself. I’m ready to rock and roll,” said Derevyanchenko. “I’m not betting on the fact that Golovkin is getting older, he’s still a very dangerous fighter. Golovkin is still very motivated.
“To be a true star in boxing you have to fight the best people, and this is the next step … The thing that’s left is the world championship title.”
Both boxers will be battling for a crown that Alvarez had little interest owning. It wasn’t the first time Alvarez sidestepped Golovkin, either. He vacated his WBC middleweight belt in 2016 to avoid “artificial deadlines” for a GGG fight. In the process, Golovkin shed interim champion status, and claimed the title — one of which Alvarez ripped right back from Golovkin last year.
“Gennady Golovkin does not represent anything for me right now,” Alvarez said two weeks ago in Los Angeles. “He comes from practically fighting a nobody. He doesn’t represent a challenge that I haven’t had already in our two fights … For me, yes, we are finished.”
If he wins Saturday, Golovkin will turn to DAZN and Golden Boy head Oscar De La Hoya, both of which have said a 2020 clash with Alvarez will happen, and seek closure once and for all if he’ll fight his loathed foe a third time.
“Life is unpredictable and I do my work,” said Golovkin. “My biggest opponent is not a specific person. My biggest opponent is my age and my desire to continue boxing. All those other names that are being thrown out, that’s not as important as my love for the sport of boxing.”