NEW YORK -- From 2010 to 2018 Gennadiy Golovkin owned at least one middleweight world title belt. Then, 13 months ago, he lost a heavily disputed majority decision to rival Canelo Alvarez in their mega rematch.
Gone were GGG's three unified belts, and his historic title reign, during which he tied the great Bernard Hopkins' record for most consecutive 160-pound defenses at 20, came to an end.
Following the loss to Alvarez, and for the first time in 21 fights, Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KOs), 37, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, participated in a nontitle bout on June 8. He destroyed Steve Rolls in the fourth round of that fight, contested at 164 pounds, and then set his sights on claiming another world title.
Golovkin now has that chance when he faces top contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10 KOs), 33, a Ukraine native fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, for a vacant title on Saturday (DAZN, 9 p.m.) at Madison Square Garden. Golovkin will be headlining in the main arena for the fifth time.
In this bout, GGG will have the opportunity to reclaim the IBF belt he was stripped of in 2018 when he failed to face his mandatory challenger and instead fought Vanes Martirosyan when a rematch with Alvarez was postponed because of Alvarez's positive drug test. His mandatory challenger at that time? Derevyanchenko.
One and a half years later, Alvarez, who won the IBF title from Daniel Jacobs in May of this year, was stripped of the title as he failed to finalize a deal to face the mandatory, who again was Derevyanchenko. That meant the next two leading available contenders were ordered to meet for the belt: Derevyanchenko and Golovkin.
Golovkin has wanted a chance to become a two-time titleholder and is excited for the opportunity, even if it is not in the third showdown with Alvarez that he really wanted.
"I feel like [a] champion. Every fight for me is like a championship fight," Golovkin said. "I'm so happy. I'm happy because my opponent is so great, so strong. Everybody is ready."
Derevyanchenko is aiming for the upset.
"I know exactly who I'm getting in the ring with," Derevyanchenko said through an interpreter during a news conference to announce the fight back in August. "He's the former middleweight champion of the world, one of the best fighters in the world, but his time is coming to an end and I want to be the one that makes that time come to an end."
This is your Ringside Seat for the fight:
GGG: Canelo turned down trilogy fight
Gennady Golovkin says he isn't thinking about Canelo Alvarez before his next fight, but does claim Alvarez turned down a potential September trilogy bout.
It is no secret that GGG desperately wanted to fight Alvarez for a third time to right the wrongs he felt were laid on him by the judges in a controversial draw in 2017 and the razor-close defeat in 2018.
DAZN, which signed Alvarez to a then-athlete record 11-fight, five-year, $365 million contract last year, and then earlier this year signed GGG to his own three-year, six-fight, nine-figure deal, also made getting a third fight a priority and was not pleased when Alvarez decided, at least for now, to go in another direction. Canelo faces light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2.
"Canelo just looks like he didn't want to box with me or couldn't box with me, so the only choice he had to go to fight Kovalev," Golovkin said. "The only thing that I see is that he must have had some sort of problem because he was given the option to fight me and for some reason he didn't. It means that he did this on purpose, to not fight me, and instead to move to Kovalev."
If Golovkin defeats Derevyanchenko, he knows what he wants next.
"After we win this fight, we will continue moving forward with unification and other bouts. Right now, our focus is only on this fight," he said. "A lot of attention is paid to what Canelo says, and what he is and is not willing to do. There is little we can do. We had the contract signed, we had the date. Canelo said no. His promoter [Golden Boy] tried to persuade him. He said no. Let's talk reality. Let's talk about today. We can't talk about Canelo because we are not fighting him. We are fighting [Derevyanchenko]."
And if there is never a third fight with Canelo, GGG said he will be OK with that.
"My biggest opponent is not a specific person," he said. "My biggest opponent is my age and my desire to continue boxing. All those other names that are being thrown out, that's not as important as my love for the sport of boxing."
Another shot for Derevyanchenko
While Golovkin will have the opportunity to regain one of the belts he once owned, Derevyanchenko -- known as "The Technician" -- is getting a second chance to win a title that eluded him last year.
After Golovkin was stripped, Derevyanchenko squared off with longtime stablemate and sparring partner Daniel Jacobs for the vacant title last October.
Jacobs scored a first-round knockdown and won a closely contested split decision and the belt. In April, Derevyanchenko shook off the loss to Jacobs and won a unanimous decision over Jack Culcay in a title eliminator to earn this mandatory shot.
"After the Jacobs fight, I had my fight with Jack Culcay. That's where my focus was," said Derevyanchenko, who will earn a career-high $5.2 million to fight Golovkin, which is more than he was offered to fight Alvarez. "Once that fight was over, I was just waiting to see who was going to give me the opportunity, but it didn't really matter which one it was going to be."
It didn't take Derevyanchenko long to get back into a mandatory position because promoter Lou DiBella adeptly worked the IBF rules to their advantage.
"There is a process to become a mandatory challenger. There's a process to move up in the ratings," DiBella said. "When I took a look at the rankings there was an opportunity to make an eliminator ... We realized Culcay was sitting there and there had been no IBF mandatory. We were able to make the fight. No one made money. Sergei got paid on that fight, not a lot, but no one around him made any money on that fight. That fight was an investment to get into this mandatory situation and to be sitting there for either Canelo or, if [the fight with] Canelo wasn't able to be made, to be sitting there for Golovkin. So it was a chess play. It worked. We were able to get him this opportunity really quickly."
Banks camp No. 2
When Golovkin faced Rolls, he went into the ring with new trainer Johnathon Banks in his corner after having split with longtime trainer Abel Sanchez in a dispute over Sanchez's pay.
Golovkin hired Banks on relatively short notice and they had an abbreviated camp before the Rolls fight. Now they go into the second fight together having had a full camp to prepare for Derevyanchenko.
"We had more time this camp than previously. We have a lot of understanding of each other," Golovkin said. "We tried a lot of different things. Of course, we always need more time than we're allowed. We've come a long way and we've accomplished a lot. We will demonstrate whatever we achieved this Saturday."
Banks said he has worked on getting GGG to have a better rhythm when he fights and to move more rather than be a stationary target looking to land one big shot.
"Everyone focuses on his knockouts, and they certainly are impressive, but there is so much more to Gennady than that," Banks said. "It's like when you transplant a small plant into a bigger pot. The roots are able to expand, which leads to more growth and in some cases more flowers. The plant blossoms. Gennady is experiencing impressive growth because he is able to spread out and take in more. I learned that from [the late trainer Emanuel Steward]. Manny is with me at all times. I hear his voice when I'm training a fighter, reviewing tapes or just meditating on strategy. I am so lucky to have had him as a mentor.
"We are working on making Gennady's style more technical. In other words, display all his talents, skills and power. Knockouts alone are not enough. I want to dress up Gennady's knockouts -- having him looking great leading up to that knockout. The goal for all fighters I train is to let your hands go, be more active. Gennady is a student of the game who enjoys learning. He really listens and absorbs. His energy in training is constant."
Banks said Golovkin is a model student.
"The happier the fighter is, the better the fighter becomes," Banks said. "Gennady is a happy warrior. He loves his work. He fights with such joy."
Rafael's prediction: Golovkin by middle-round knockout.