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Sources: Canelo Alvarez, Gennadiy Golovkin agree to third fight in fall after interim bouts

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Bitter rivals Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin will meet for a third time, just not right away, sources have told ESPN.

After weeks of arduous negotiations that nearly collapsed multiple times, a deal was finally completed under which Alvarez would face Billy Joe Saunders on May 2 with the stipulation that his next fight would be a third showdown with Golovkin, who would also have an interim fight first, according to sources.

But although the deal is done, it was never formally announced, as the sports world schedule began to come undone last week as the coronavirus pandemic caused one cancellation and postponement after another. The latest is Alvarez-Saunders, a postponement that has not been formally announced but is expected later this week, sources told ESPN.

The Alvarez-Saunders deal was really a two-fight amended agreement for Alvarez, Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN within the confines of Alvarez's existing five-year, 11-fight, $365 million contract with DAZN, which insisted that Alvarez agree to a third fight with Golovkin before it would approve any opponent for his now-postponed bout on May 2 -- the Cinco De Mayo weekend, one of Alvarez's traditional dates -- at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Alvarez-Saunders, which is expected to be rescheduled, would see secondary super middleweight titlist Alvarez, in the fourth fight of his DAZN deal, return to the 168-pound division for a unification bout with world titlist Saunders.

Golovkin, who has been desperate for a third fight with Alvarez, against whom he is 0-1-1 in two controversial bouts, is due to defend his middleweight belt against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta. That, according to a source with knowledge of the plans, is penciled in for June 6 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The fight has been moved from tentative dates of Feb. 29 and then March 28 into April or May and now June for various reasons.

There had been the possibility of the bout taking place in Golovkin's native Kazakhstan, but that is now off the table, the source said. One of the reasons for the most recent date change is because Golovkin suffered a right calf injury training in mid-February.

After the interim bouts by Alvarez and Golovkin, their third fight -- at middleweight, according to a source -- is eyed for mid-September, on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, although the coronavirus pandemic could certainly alter the time frame due to the uncertainty of when their interim bouts would take place.

It was an extremely difficult deal to make both in terms of working out the financial aspects with Saunders and his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, as well as Alvarez working out his end of the deal with Golden Boy and DAZN.

The third Alvarez-Golovkin bout was first reported Tuesday by The Athletic.

In his previous fight, in November, Mexican superstar Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), 29, the middleweight world champion, who also holds a secondary super middleweight title, moved up two weight classes and scored a devastating 11th-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win a light heavyweight title.

The victory gave Alvarez, the consensus 2019 fighter of the year, belts in four weight classes overall. But he made the decision to drop back to super middleweight, where he has fought only once before -- when he knocked out Rocky Fielding in the third round in December 2018 in the first fight of the DAZN deal to win a 168-pound belt.

The decision on which opponent Alvarez would face in May came down to a pair of Hearn-promoted super middleweight titleholders -- Saunders and his British countryman Callum Smith. Initially, Smith turned down an offer to fight Alvarez, angering Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, who then publicly lambasted Smith and proclaimed Saunders the front-runner.

However, eventually Smith reduced his asking price and a deal in principle was reached for Alvarez to fight him, multiple sources told ESPN.

DAZN, which recently announced it would launch its streaming service in more than 200 additional territories to coincide with Alvarez's now-postponed May 2 fight, including in the United Kingdom, wanted Alvarez to face Smith in the U.K.

DAZN executive chairman John Skipper flew from New York to San Diego in recent weeks to meet personally with Alvarez at his home there in an effort to convince him not only to fight Smith in his home country of England but also to work out a deal under which DAZN would approve Smith as an opponent as long as Alvarez also agreed to face Golovkin in September, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.

Although Golovkin's deal with DAZN contains provisions for a third fight with Alvarez, the deal Alvarez signed did not, meaning he had to agree to fight Golovkin again. According to a source with knowledge of the meeting between Alvarez and Skipper, Alvarez said he would agree to fight Golovkin again but only if Skipper agreed to sweeten the pot on his already guaranteed $35 million per fight.

Besides wanting more money to agree to a third Golovkin fight, Alvarez also had a change of heart and said he preferred to fight Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs), 30, instead of Smith (27-0, 19 KOs), 29. The issue, however, was that by that time Saunders' asking price was higher than Smith's, according to sources.

Golden Boy, according to sources, preferred Smith because he came cheaper and was perceived as a less complicated opponent than slick left-hander Saunders, a former middleweight titlist who will be making his second super middleweight title defense. Eventually, Saunders lowered his price enough that Golden Boy was willing to finalize the fight, but there was still the matter of Alvarez signing off on a third fight with Golovkin in the fall.

It did not help matters during the negotiations that Alvarez and the Golden Boy hierarchy are not on speaking terms and everything must go through Alvarez's attorney. So the talks dragged on for weeks until, according to a source, they finally came to an agreement on March 10 and then signed the paperwork the next day, although it is unclear how much more money, if any, Alvarez will get above his contract terms to fight Golovkin again.

The deal was supposed to be announced last week with a news conference slated for this week, but Alvarez, Golden Boy and DAZN elected to hold off because of the unfolding coronavirus situation, sources told ESPN.

DAZN signed Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs), 37, who fights out of Santa Monica, California, with the intent of making a third fight against Alvarez but was unable to get it done until now.

Golovkin signed a three-year, six-fight, nine-figure deal with DAZN in early 2019 that also included dates for his GGG Promotions. He kicked off his deal with an easy knockout of Steve Rolls last June at 164 pounds and then won a vacant middleweight title by disputed decision against Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October. Golovkin had reclaimed a belt that had been stripped from Alvarez, who had won it from Golovkin in their September 2018 rematch.