Gennady Golovkin’s plans for Cinco de Mayo weekend are finally set, even if it’s not the against the opponent or in the city he wanted.
The unbeaten WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champion will defend his titles against Vanes Martirosyan on 5 May at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), the crowd-pleasing Kazakh knockout artist, had originally been slated to fight Canelo Álvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a rematch of their September blockbuster, which ended in a controversial split draw.
But the Mexican star pulled out of the highly anticipated bout after failing two positive tests in February for the banned substance clenbuterol under looming threat of suspension, forcing Golovkin’s team to scramble to find a replacement opponent.
Martirosyan (36-3-1, 23 KOs), who competed for the United States at the 2004 Olympics on the same team as Andre Ward, twice challenged for world championships at 154lbs but lost on points both times: to Demetrius Andrade in 2013 and Erislandy Lara in 2016. He has never fought about junior middleweight professionally.
“Vanes Martirosyan is now the most important fight of my career. He has my respect and I am training hard to defend my titles against him,” Golovkin said in a release. “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.”
By taking a relatively low-risk fight with Martirosyan, who has not fought in two years and who lost his last outing, Golovkin risks being stripped his IBF title by failing to take a bout with the organization’s mandatory challenger: Russia’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs).
Golovkin has said he hopes to fight Álvarez on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September. The likelihood of that outcome increased on Wednesday when the Nevada Athletic Commission voted unanimously to extend the Mexican’s supension to six months retroactive to his first positive test on 17 Februrary, clearing the way for a 15 September fight in Las Vegas.
Their first fight sold 1.3m pay-per-views in the United States and generated a live gate of more than $27m, the third-highest in boxing history.