In December, Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) made his return to the ring after a 14-month layoff. His opponent was a rather unfortunate and outclassed Kamil Szeremeta (21-1, 5 KOs).
Szeremeta proved that he had world-class toughness, if nothing else, in taking a seven-round beating. Golovkin dropped him four times, and never looked like he pushed himself past second gear. Szeremeta ultimately had to retire on his stool between Rounds 7 and 8.
That matchup was the fault of neither fighter. Once again, the onus lies with a title sanctioning body. The IBF made Szeremeta the mandatory challenger to the world title which GGG held. Golovkin was forced decide between fighting an undeserving challenger and losing his belt: an easy choice to make.
Now that Canelo Alvarez has abandoned the Middleweight division (at least for the time being), Golovkin’s next move is far less certain.
Canelo Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs)
Canelo won’t be returning to 160 pounds in the near future. The clock is ticking on Golovkin, who will turn 39 before his next fight; by the time Canelo returns to Middleweight, the Kazakh will most likely be in retirement.
Immediately following his dominant decision win over Great Britain’s Callum Smith (27-1, 19 KOs), Canelo vacated his remaining two belts at 160 – the WBA and Ring titles. In short, Golovkin’s only shot at completing the tightly contested trilogy with Canelo is to move up in weight.
History has shown that Golovkin won’t do that. As far back as 2016, Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) took to calling “GGG,” “Little G” for his refusal to move up and fight Ward. A move to 168 pounds that seemed unlikely in Golovkin’s prime is now all but impossible to see.
Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs)
This almost certainly won’t happen for Golovkin, for the same reason why the Canelo fight won’t. Saunders, a two-weight champion who formerly held a Middleweight strap, has a unique blend of skills to give GGG fits.
But, with his move to 168, he has been calling Canelo out increasingly more often. It looks like he and the Mexican will be squaring off in May, per Canelo’s latest two-fight deal with Eddie Hearn.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-3, 10 KOs)
In a world without Covid-19, Golovkin likely would have given Sergiy a rematch in mid-2020. Their bout saw Derevyanchenko go down in Round 1, only to surge late, giving Golovkin all he could handle. Derevyanchenko appeared to visibly stun his older opponent on a couple of occasions. A novel sight for Golovkin fans.
Whether rumors of a Golovkin fight-week flu bug were to be believed, a rematch would have given the boxing public another classic. The two are made for each other, stylistically speaking.
Instead, Golovkin stayed away from the ring for over a year, and Sergiy fought WBC champ, Jermall Charlo instead.
It was a one-sided beatdown by the elder Charlo twin, which unfortunately eliminates Derevyanchenko from title contention for the foreseeable future.
Jermall Charlo (31-0, 22 KOs)
Charlo, who turns 31 in May, is in his prime. Considering the level of opposition, and the circumstances necessitated by a global pandemic, his last bout against Sergiy Derevyanchenko was the best he has looked.
A matchup between Charlo and GGG would start off as a tactical battle between Golovkin’s timing with the jab and Charlo’s timing with his lethal uppercut on GGG’s way in. Both possess upper-echelon skills, with Charlo having the edge in athleticism, and the older man having the superior chin and experience.
Should they fight next, it would be a WBC/ IBF title unification, with the Ring and Lineal Middleweight titles up for grabs. Since they are number one and two in the Ring Magazine rankings, those additional belts would be on the line in the wake of Canelo’s move up.
Al Haymon will, in all likelihood, stonewall GGG’s representation if this bout is proposed. It is often talked about, but the most secretive promoter in sports is reticent to make any fights happen where he is at risk of losing control of a world title or hot prospect.
Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs)
The former 154 pound champ, and current WBO 160 pound titleholder is something of a boogeyman. A southpaw, with elite skills, and relatively little notoriety.
Top fighters have consistently avoided him in both of his stints as champion. The only reason this matchup doesn’t fall in the “least likely” category is Andrade’s promotional affiliation. Both he and GGG fight on DAZN, and are closely affiliated with Eddie Hearn.
Andrade hasn’t fought in a calendar year, since knocking out an overmatched Luke Keeler. The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted his career, but hasn’t stopped him from calling out all of the big names consistently.
Canelo, Billy Joe Saunders, Charlo…Golovkin. Still, there is maybe a 30 percent chance of that bout happening. Andrade isn’t known to many casual fans, which shouldn’t matter nearly as much as it does. This presents a high-risk, low-reward target for GGG, should the fight be made.
Ryota Murata (16-2, 13 KOs)
Golovkin could potentially break into the colossal boxing market in Japan by taking on Murata. He is more than credible, having an Olympic gold medal (2012) to his name, as well as multiple title reigns. He has also avenged both losses on his record, decisively.
His promoters at Top Rank seem far more eager to make fights with Eddie Hearn/ Matchroom fighters (Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua, for instance,) which bodes well for this potential matchup coming off.
The two caveats here are that Murata hasn’t fought since December 2019, and that he has vacated his WBA (regular) 160 pound title in the process. They could still fight for the vacant belt, but Murata would likely want to have a tune up fight first. Who could blame him?
Jaime Munguia (36-0, 29 KOs)
Remember Spring of 2018? Canelo Alvarez had just tested positive for clenbuterol ahead of his scheduled rematch with Gennadiy Golovkin, prompting a six-month suspension. Golovkin needed a replacement opponent and, at one point, his camp’s search landed on Jaime Munguia.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission rejected the largely unproven Munguia… only to approve of Vanes Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 KOs) in his stead. Golovkin obliterated him, but was later stripped of his IBF title (since regained) as a result.
My, how the tables have turned. Munguia, now much more developed at age 24, put together a solid run of fights in the intervening three years.
Then at 154, he won the WBO title and amassed five defenses before moving up to 160. In his two fights at Middleweight, he has two knockouts, over Gary O’Sullivan and Tureano Johnson.
An added incentive for GGG could be the opportunity for revenge against De La Hoya, who he sees as complicit in the controversial decisions during the Canelo fights.
Gennadiy Golovkin, now nearing 39, has precious little time to spare. Now that Canelo is likely in his rearview, he will focus on making as big an impact as possible against the opponents who are available to him.
He is a fighter to whom legacy definitely matters. If he is denied the opportunity to unify titles at this late stage in his career, look for him to make the most eye-catching, crowd-pleasing fights possible.