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What’s next for Gennady Golovkin?

Gennady Golovkin needs at least one more opponent before he might face Canelo Alvarez. Who could it be?

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Gennady Golovkin’s well-earned reputation as a destroyer means that first of all, he’s semi-cleared out the middleweight division already, and second of all, there aren’t a lot of quality fighters lining up to face, to the point that on September 10, he had to resort to facing welterweight titleholder Kell Brook.

Canelo Alvarez is the fight everyone wants. There’s no arguing that. But with that fight unlikely to happen for at least another full year, what will GGG do next?

Billy Joe Saunders

Boxing at Manchester Arena Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Saunders, 27, holds the WBO middleweight title, which is the only one of four recognized world titles that Golovkin does not have in his possession. As it has been Golovkin’s stated goal for years to unify all four belts, Saunders is surely his top target.

Saunders was offered a fight with Golovkin earlier this year, but passed. He then got injured training and had to cancel a title defense against Max Bursak. Currently, he’s slated to return on October 29 in Manchester, opponent to be named. It will be the first defense of the belt he won from Andy Lee last December.

Saunders has said he’ll fight Golovkin, but a lot of people in boxing say a lot of things, and that doesn’t mean any of it is actually going to happen. But with Alvarez out for the rest of 2016 and unlikely to fight again until May 2017, a fight with Saunders in March or April would make sense, and would be, on paper, the best fight out there, in that it would be the only unification fight left to go.

Daniel Jacobs

Speaking of things that get said but probably won’t happen, the WBA has ordered that Jacobs, their "world champion," must face Golovkin, their "super world champion."

Now, if Jacobs and his team do choose to negotiate a deal and fight Golovkin, that would be great. If Golovkin-Saunders is the best fight on paper due to the title implications, Golovkin-Jacobs is probably the best fight on paper in terms of the potential action, and the fact that with good power, Jacobs does present a threat to Golovkin that almost no one else really does.

Jacobs, 29, is a good fighter, but he’s under the Haymon/PBC banner, and in all reality has shown no great desire to face Golovkin, and has been happy to be promoted as and call himself "the WBA champion," which is bogus. We’ll have to see what comes of the WBA’s order, but it’s entirely possible that Jacobs could vacate the belt. Golovkin, though, seems highly unlikely to give up his WBA strap, so if Jacobs is willing, this could be the fight, as it’s a mandatory.

Andy Lee or Chris Eubank Jr

Boxing at The O2 Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Let’s say Saunders and Jacobs pass. Who’s the next best option?

That would be either former WBO titleholder Lee, 32, or Eubank, 27. Both have been supposed Golovkin opponents in the past. Lee agreed to fight Golovkin in April 2014, but that fight was canceled when Golovkin pulled out to mourn the passing of his father.

So we know that Lee is willing to take the risk, and with one-punch power in his left hand, he is dangerous to anyone he faces, to at least some degree. The problem with selling a fight against Lee is that he’s 0-1-1 in his last two, going to a valiant draw with Peter Quillin after being dropped twice early, and losing a split decision to Saunders, also after being dropped two times early in the fight. Lee is resilient, but, well, Golovkin tends to finish opponents he drops.

Eubank was supposed to be Golovkin’s September opponent, but his team dragged their feet, got a little cute, and the fight went to Kell Brook instead. Eubank and his father are already notorious for being hard to deal with, which goes two ways. It sucks for Eubank that his dad cost him a big fight he supposedly wanted, but his father also does know how the boxing business works, and if the deal wasn’t right for them, then who are we rooting for in that situation? A promoter? Call it a draw.

Eubank has speed, power, and skills, but he’s never been in with anyone like Golovkin, either. His best opponent, Billy Joe Saunders, beat him, though it was a competitive fight and Eubank seems to have learned and improved since.

Eubank would be the easier fight to sell. He has some birthright name value, he’s the fresher fighter, and he talks a great game. Lee is pretty soft spoken, likable, and tough, but he’s more of a known quantity, and what we know isn’t enough to beat GGG.

Avtandil Khurtsidze or Tureano Johnson

Let’s say nobody wants to fight Golovkin. There’s always Avtandil Khurtsidze, the 37-year-old Georgian, now fighting out of Brooklyn. "Tazman" is a 5’4" whirlwind of violence, hence the nickname, and his only loss in the last 11 years came in 2010 against Hassan N’dam, and that was debatable, with N’dam at home in Paris.

Khurtsidze most recently fought in March, "upsetting" Antoine Douglas, a notable prospect. He just had too much firepower and was too relentless for Douglas. But Golovkin is not Douglas, and Khurtsidze is no defensive genius. Would it be fun to watch? Sure, for as long as it lasted. But would it last more than a couple rounds? Likely not. Khurtsidze is all pressure, doesn’t have big power, really, and that can work against a lot of fighters, but hard to imagine Golovkin not just bombing him out.

Johnson, 32, figured to be a Golovkin opponent this year, which is why he fought on the Golovkin-Lemieux undercard in 2015. But an injury put him on the shelf, and he hasn’t fought since then, in a fight where he outclassed the overmatched Eamonn O’Kane over 12 rounds.

A native of Nassau, Bahamas, Johnson is/was acceptable as a stay-busy sort of opponent in a world where nobody seems to want to fight Golovkin. And we’re still in that world, so he might get the shot we expected, even if later than we thought.

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