Unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin and boxing fans everywhere are hoping that a much-anticipated super fight against world champion Canelo Alvarez comes off in the fall, but both fighters agreed that they would each take an interim bout first.
Alvarez announced his last week, a May 7 HBO PPV fight in Las Vegas against England's Amir Khan, a former unified junior welterweight titlist, in a pairing of two of boxing's biggest names. On Wednesday, Golovkin made his interim match official as K2 Promotions announced what everyone expected -- that he will make his 16th title defense by facing mandatory challenger Dominic Wade on April 23 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
The fight will be Golovkin's second at the Forum, where a raucous crowd witnessed a sixth-round knockout of Willie Monroe Jr. in May 2015.
"Since fighting at the StubHub Center (in Carson, California) in October 2013, the Southern California boxing fans have embraced Gennady as the biggest ticket seller in the state and we're expecting another massive crowd and an outstanding night on April 23," K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler said. "The Fabulous Forum has been the Southern California home for decades to the biggest stars in the sports and entertainment world and we're honored to add GGG to that distinguished list."
While Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) looms in Golovkin's future as long as they both continue to win, and many view their eventual showdown as the biggest fight that can be made in boxing, Golovkin said he is focused on Wade first.
"I'm happy to fight again at the Forum in front of my fans and friends in Los Angeles," Golovkin said. "Dominic Wade is a very hungry and skilled middleweight who is undefeated and will be another big test for me. Thanks to my coach, Abel Sanchez; my promoter, Tom Loeffler; my team, HBO and the Forum for another opportunity to defend my middleweight titles."
Golovkin would have preferred to face Alvarez next. But Alvarez and promoter Golden Boy worked out a deal with Golovkin and Loeffler, as well as the WBC, whose interim title Golovkin also holds (making him Alvarez's mandatory challenger) under which they would both have interim bouts.
Loeffler said he hopes that Alvarez and Golden Boy will stick their word and fight Golovkin in the fall as long as they both win.
"It wasn't our side that asked for the voluntary defense. It was a request from Canelo and Golden Boy," Loeffler said. "It builds the fight with Canelo and Gennady. We have the voluntary defense against Wade, Canelo has his against Khan and after that it's clearly stipulated that the winner of Canelo-Khan has 15 days to say they will fight Gennady (or Wade) or they'll get stripped of the title. It's in writing, but I can't predict if Canelo will take the fight or not."
Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs), 33, who is from Kazakhstan and lives in Los Angeles, is coming off a dominant eighth-round knockout of Montreal's David Lemieux to unify 160-pound belts on Oct. 17 at sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York.
The knockout was Golovkin's 21st in a row as he retained his title for the 15th time to move past Hall of Famer Carlos Monzon into second place for most in division history. GGG stands just five defenses away from tying the great Bernard Hopkins' division record of 20 in a row.
After defeating Lemieux, Golovkin was planning to face mandatory challenger Tureano Johnson, who easily outpointed Eamonn O'Kane on the undercard in a title elimination fight. However, when Johnson came up with a shoulder injury and had to drop out of negotiations with Golovkin, Wade was next in line of IBF-ranked contenders and quickly accepted the fight.
"I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to fight GGG on April 23rd," Wade said. "I've worked hard my entire career to get to this point. I'm poised and ready to take on the challenge. I thank my manager Jerry Vines, Team Wade and all of my trainers, opponents and supporters for preparing me for this moment."
Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, Wade's promoter for the fight, said: "Dominic is a young and hungry middleweight with an outstanding amateur pedigree that jumped at an opportunity so many have avoided."
Loeffler said he knows many will not give Wade much of a chance against Golovkin, one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters, but he said he should not be written off.
"Wade had a great amateur career, he's young, he's undefeated and he didn't balk at all to agreeing to the fight," Loeffler said. "Credit to Wade and Tom Brown. We made a deal in about a week."
Wade's adviser is Al Haymon, whose fighters have not been welcome on HBO since 2013 after a bitter falling out. But HBO agreed to put Wade on because he is a mandatory challenger. Loeffler said he has no problem doing business with anyone in boxing. Khan is also with Haymon.
Wade (18-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Largo, Maryland, is a good puncher and was a good amateur, but he has never faced a top-level professional since turning pro in 2009 and is relatively unknown.
His most notable victory came in his last fight in June, when he struggled to a 10-round split decision against faded 41-year-old former titlist Sam Soliman.
Flyweight champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs), boxing's pound-for-pound king in the wake of the retirement of Floyd Mayweather last year, will defend his title in the co-feature.
Gonzalez's opponent is not yet signed, however, but it could be former title challenger McWilliams Arroyo (16-2, 14 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico. Arroyo has won his only fight since suffering a split decision loss to titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng on his home turf in Thailand in September 2014. A more remote possibility to face Gonzalez is Juan Hernandez (30-2, 21 KOs), 28, of Mexico, who has won 12 fights in a row since a unanimous decision loss challenging Kazuto Ioka for a strawweight world title in 2011.
Gonzalez, 28, of Nicaragua, made his last defense in the Golovkin-Lemieux co-feature in which he scored a dominant eighth-round knockout of former unified titlist Brian Viloria.