Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is on the phone from his temporary quarters in Los Angeles, where he’s living in self-quarantine with his wife and three young children. “I’m a law-abiding individual,” he says through an interpreter. “I stay at home. You have to respect the law in place.”
Like boxers, athletes and humans everywhere, Golovkin finds his career stalled temporarily, a byproduct of these most uncertain times. But Golovkin is not most boxers. He turned 38 last month and is far closer to the end of his decorated career than even the middle. He knows he doesn’t have too many fights left, and he knows who handed him his only career loss (Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September 2018). He’s also at least aware that Alvarez and his team have been pushing for the two boxers to complete their trilogy immediately when sports return.
But while Golovkin intends to avenge his loss to Alvarez in the near future, he told SI that he plans to first face off against his mandatory challenger, the undefeated middleweight Kamil Szeremeta, before meeting with Alvarez for the third time (their first bout, in September 2017, ended in a split decision draw).
“I made a commitment before all this situation with coronavirus happened,” Golovkin said. “I’m talking about my fight with Szeremeta. I intend to keep my word. Once the situation changes, as soon as everything is back to normal, I intend to have this fight first.”
Pressed for additional detail, Golovkin pointed to the uncertainty surrounding every potential decision, from where to hold fights, to whether to hold them in front of fans. He did not rule out fighting in an empty arena. He did not rule out anything, really, except for the related points he made clear repeatedly. He wants to fight the mandatory first, and then he wants to fight Canelo, and he wants to resume his career as soon as it’s possible to do so safely.
Golovkin also said he didn’t particularly care that Canelo’s camp has said it would like to complete the trilogy in September, marking the return bout for both boxers on DAZN’s streaming service. Golovkin said that Team Alvarez delayed the bout last fall, forcing him at that point to sign an alternative contract, which he did, with Szeremeta, while Alvarez decided on a bout with Billy Joe Saunders. “I should point out that there is always two sides,” Golovkin said. “They actually avoided this fight in September. They didn’t want to fight in May of 2020. So I went my way. I have my own career, and I figured: How long should I wait?”
Beyond that, Golovkin didn’t offer much in way of specifics. Until he can resume training, until he can actually step foot inside a boxing gym, he can’t even prepare for a fight, let alone actually have one. In 2019, Golovkin won twice, topping Steve Rolls by knockout in his comeback fight last June that followed his first defeat and beating Sergiy Derevyanchenko by decision. In both bouts, Golovkin didn’t look exactly like Golovkin, the power puncher who tied a Bernard Hopkins record with 20 straight title defenses in the middleweight division. Because he won the vacant IBF and IBO titles against Derevyanchenko, Golovkin could register a record 21st middleweight defense against Szeremeta. “It would mean a lot to me,” Golovkin said. “It would be special. This will be something for the first time in history.”
By choosing the mandatory, then, Golovkin appears to want to resemble his old self, thus maximizing what’s possible in a third bout with Alvarez. Perhaps he also desires to see how well he fights after another birthday. He doesn’t admit to that, saying only that he wants to live up to his word.
He’s asked if blowing out the candles on his cake forced him to consider his legacy, the career that is winding down, the loss to avenge, the rival he so desperately wants to beat. Wouldn’t besting Szeremeta and then avenging Alvarez mark the perfect way to go out? He wouldn’t cop to that, either. “I’ve been thinking about my career all the time,” he says. “I’ve been thinking about it when I was 20 years old. But regardless of that, I have ideas, I’m in great shape, I’m in great mood and I’m very, very positive.”
It’s possible that both fights could take place in 2020, depending on when the sport itself is able to return. Just don’t expect it to return with Alvarez-Golovkin III.