From the moment his rematch with Canelo Alvarez was canceled on April 3, unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin insisted that he still wanted to fight on May 5, even though it meant a significant reduction in his purse.
Working out the logistics was difficult, but GGG will get his wish.
Instead of facing Alvarez on HBO PPV at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in one of the year's biggest boxing events, Golovkin will attempt to tie Bernard Hopkins' division record of 20 consecutive title defense against late substitute Vanes Martirosyan on HBO (11 p.m. ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler announced Wednesday morning.
Official word of Golovkin-Martirosyan, in the works for the past couple of weeks between Loeffler and Martirosyan promoter Don King, came just an hour before Alvarez was due to have a hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Alvarez failed two drug tests in February for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol, causing the rematch of his controversial draw with Golovkin last September to be canceled.
But the show will go on, and Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), who has trained through the uncertainty of whether he would fight, couldn't be happier.
"Vanes Martirosyan is now the most important fight of my career," Golovkin said. "He has my respect, and I am training hard to defend my titles against him. I am happy to be back on HBO and fighting at StubHub Center because they have great boxing fans. I will give my fans another big drama show."
Golovkin will have live HBO fight for the first time since 2016. His past two bouts were on pay-per-view.
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's trainer, was happy that his star fighter did not have to waste a training camp and will indeed get to fight.
"Gennady has had such a terrific training camp. ... It wouldn't be fair to him to let it go to waste just because Canelo was being punished," Sanchez said. "Gennady is going to light up Cinco De Mayo as only a true Mexican-style fighter can. I can't wait to unleash him."
Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), 31, from Glendale, California, is getting the title shot without having done anything to earn it, but Loeffler was desperate to save Golovkin's fight date. Martirosyan, a 2004 U.S. Olympian who got the fight after fringe Irish contender Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan turned down an offer, is coming off a loss and has not boxed in two years. He is a junior middleweight who is 0-2 in world title fights, and now he is moving up in weight to face one of the most fearsome fighters in the sport.
"Vanes Martirosyan brings a passionate Armenian fan base from nearby Glendale and an aggressive style of fighting," Loeffler said. "Best of all, he is ready and wants the fight. Golovkin versus Martirosyan will definitely be the fiesta de résistance of Cinco De Mayo."
While Golovkin will defend his WBA and WBC titles in the fight, he faces the prospect of being stripped by the IBF, which deems Martirosyan unworthy of challenging for the title and has declined to sanction the fight. Loeffler plans to file for an exception.
Golovkin, 36, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, will square off at the StubHub Center for the second time. In October 2014, he destroyed Marco Antonio Rubio there in the second round before a stadium-record crowd of 9,323. Loeffler hopes for a similar crowd despite the short notice.
"We are adding extra bleachers to accommodate the demand from Gennady's fans. We are prepared for Gennady to break his own StubHub Center attendance record for a boxing event, which he set in 2014," Loeffler said. "When you think about all the great champions and exciting world title fights StubHub has hosted, that's quite an accomplishment."