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What’s next for Gennadiy Golovkin? Is it Canelo or bust?

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Gennadiy Golovkin wants Canelo, but will he get him in September?

Gennady Golovkin v Steve Rolls Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Gennadiy Golovkin made his return to the ring last night on DAZN, trucking Steve Rolls in the fourth round of what wound up a predictable affair, a tune-up meant to get GGG busy and prepared for a bigger fight this fall.

So what is next for the Kazakh star?

Canelo Alvarez

The obvious fight, the one that Golovkin wants, is a third meeting with Canelo Alvarez. He’s a disputed 0-1-1 against his Mexican rival, drawing with Canelo in 2017 and losing a majority decision to him last September.

Their story has been a long, drawn-out one that involves more than just the 24 rounds they’ve shared in the ring. It started long before they ever actually fought, with fans wanting to see it long before it happened, and Alvarez not ducking it so much as putting it off until he and Golden Boy felt the time was exactly right a couple of years ago. At one point, Alvarez gave up the WBC middleweight title so he didn’t have to fight GGG. You can call that a duck, but he did eventually fight him twice, so I think a more diplomatic term — “avoided” — is better. But that’s me. Yell about Canelo if you want, I guess.

And then, after they fought once, they were scheduled for an immediate rematch in May 2018. That was (in)famously called off because Alvarez failed VADA tests for clenbuterol, eventually everyone just sort of accepting his explanation that it was tainted Mexican beef. Before the fight could be properly canceled, Canelo nobly bowed out of the date, and GGG assaulted Vanes Martirosyan instead.

Then there was the negotiation period to get the rematch done for Sept. 2018. If you don’t remember, it wasn’t easy. The drug test failure and cancellation of the original date was a big deal as far as getting them back together again. At one point, it really looked like it wouldn’t happen, so much that Billy Joe Saunders, then the WBO middleweight titleholder, canceled a date with Martin Murray in the hopes of landing one of them for a money fight instead. They did get it done at the 11th hour, fought again, and another full fight wasn’t enough to erase any controversy.

I’ve seen a few people in or around the sport, whatever their motives or biases, argue that GGG is the only one who wants to see a third fight with Alvarez in September. This is absolute horseshit, of course.

Since Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015, there have been 19 major boxing pay-per-views in the United States. Four have met or gone over a million buys: Canelo-Chavez, Mayweather-McGregor, and the two Canelo-Golovkin fights. Other than the Floyd-Conor bonanza/circus, the two biggest pay-per-views in boxing since Mayweather-Pacquiao have been the Canelo-GGG fights.

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez: Weigh-in Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

They’ve fought 24 rounds and there are still a lot of debates about who’s really better. Alvarez is 1-0-1, and a lot of people think GGG should be 2-0. They are still by far the two biggest stars in the middleweight division, considered by everyone to be the two top fighters at 160 — I guess maybe the WBO would argue — and they’re two of the biggest stars in boxing, period.

And no matter what games Oscar De La Hoya wants to play on Twitter, this is not 2017 or 2018 anymore, either. What I mean by that is, despite De La Hoya’s #Caneloisyourboss hashtag, the reality for both camps is that DAZN is the boss now. It’s DAZN paying Canelo a huge guarantee for every fight. It’s DAZN paying GGG big money, too. And by all accounts, DAZN want this fight in September, and they should. The company is still trying to gain traction in the US market, and the biggest in-house they fight can make right now is Canelo vs GGG III. Combine that in September with the Ruiz-Joshua rematch in November/December, and you’ve got a nice final third of the year for the company to try to sell some subscriptions.

But like I said before, this all could just be De La Hoya being internet savvy and injecting some juice into a night that honestly wasn’t a hugely spectacular event, one that really didn’t capture a ton of public interest. Either way, by throwing out an obviously controversial tweet, Oscar kicked up more discussion than GGG clubbing Rolls down ever could have alone.

Some would even argue — a few of you did in the post-fight comments last night — that right now is the perfect time for Canelo to face Golovkin again. GGG is 37 years old, slowing down as everyone does, and took some clean shots against Rolls. Golovkin is not going to be better than he was in 2017 or 2018. He just had a fairly long break from the ring, he’s working with a new trainer. He might be ripe for the 28-year-old Alvarez to finally, decisively beat this time around.

There would be plenty to bicker about. Not the pay or anything, that’s what it’s going to be, they both have guaranteed contracts, but location would be a big thing. Golovkin and Co. surely won’t want the fight in Las Vegas again. New York could fit. Los Angeles or Texas could fit.

But let’s say that if nothing else, the Canelo and GGG camps come to some kind of an agreement to wait until Cinco De Mayo weekend in 2020. What else would be out there for Golovkin?

Other Options

What’s left for GGG would be down to what Canelo might do instead.

If Canelo goes for a move to 168 and a risky fight with super middleweight behemoth Callum Smith — where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire in boxing, and that matchup has smoke — then GGG could potentially fight the winner of the June 29 bout between Demetrius Andrade and Maciej Sulecki for Andrade’s WBO middleweight title.

Demetrius Andrade v Artur Akavov Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If Golovkin were to win the WBO middleweight title, a third fight with Alvarez would have even more going for it, a full unification of the division. Even if Canelo were to lose to Smith at 168, he’d still have his 160 belts. The Canelo-GGG fight would take something of a hit, but not so much that the public would totally lose interest.

But what if Canelo fights the Andrade-Sulecki winner for full unification in September?

That’s tougher to figure for Golovkin. He’s already beaten Daniel Jacobs, and Jacobs is likely going up to 168 himself. Jermall Charlo is out there, but Charlo is with PBC and a deal won’t easily be made. It’s not impossible or anything. Also, Charlo has the interim WBC title, and he could prefer to sit on that and wait for an eventual sanctioning body order to face Alvarez.

Without Canelo or Andrade/Sulecki or Charlo or Jacobs in the mix, 160 isn’t that interesting for GGG, and there’s a good chance you’d see him take some other tune-up type bout in the interim, closer to Rolls than anyone would prefer. Even looking at potentially bringing someone up from 154 doesn’t lead to much — most of the top fighters are with PBC, and it’s not like Golden Boy will want to feed Jaime Munguia to Golovkin. If anything, they’ll want to feed Munguia to Canelo at some point.

I won’t be shocked if we don’t get it or if it gets delayed until next May, but I still think the third Canelo-GGG fight in September is where things are headed. It’s the fight that makes the most sense for the people paying the money. As of this moment, it’s the most logical thing. I know Canelo wants to unify at 160, but that just might have to wait until 2020.

If it doesn’t, then it’s really anyone’s guess as to Golovkin’s next fight, at least if Canelo faces the Andrade-Sulecki winner in September instead.