The New Year is already shaping up to be an exciting one for boxing fans, as a superfight pitting Gennady Golovkin against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez now appears set to take place in the fall, most likely in September. The fight, pitting Los Angeles-based knockout artist Golovkin against the Mexican megastar Alvarez, would unify all four major middleweight title belts for the first time since Bernard Hopkins unified the title in 2001.
Hopkins held the unified middleweight championship until his surprising split-decision defeat to Jermaine Taylor in July of 2007, but Taylor never defended the unified title, choosing to drop the International Boxing Federation belt.
But given the fan-friendly, "fight anyone" track records of both the 33-year-old Golovkin and the 25-year-old Alvarez, defending all four belts appears unlikely to pose an issue for whichever fighter comes out on top in what should be the biggest pay-per-view fight of 2016.
Under rules of World Boxing Council — often considered the most historically significant of the four major title-sanctioning organizations — the winner of November's fight between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Miguel Cotto became the WBC middleweight champ and was required to take on Golovkin in his next fight.
Golovkin is reportedly negotiating with newly crowned World Boxing Association champion Billy Joe Saunders of the United Kingdom, meaning that the expected victory for the Kazakhstan native in what would likely be their April bout allows Golvkin to unify three of the four major title belts.
How about #GGGvsSaunder in April and #GGGvsCanelo in Sept sound? Gives Canelo some time to gain those 5 poundsWatch highlights of Glolovkin's "greatest hits" in the video below, courtesy of HBO.
— Gennady Golovkin (@GGGBoxing) December 31, 2015
Alvarez has yet to zero in on a spring opponent, but Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Alvarez's fights, told the Los Angeles Times that he supports delaying the explosive showdown with Golovkin until the fall.
"We had time constraints to get a deal together," Gomez told Times boxing correspondent Lance Pugmire. "It takes time for a mega-fight. Absolutely, it's going to happen, but the terms have to be right and satisfied. And it helps us build up the fight."
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Building up the fight is crucial. A match between Golovkin — who has knocked out his last 21 opponents and successfully defended his middleweight title 15 times — and Alvarez, whose only loss in a career that started when he was just 15-years-old came to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2014, appears to have a pre-sold audience in hardcore boxing fans. But to make a megafight requires reaching beyond that core audience to the so-called "casual" boxing fan.
While Alvarez and Cotto drew a strong 900,000 pay-per-view buy number for their November title fight, Golovkin pulled in a mere 150,000 for his October unification bout against then-IBF champion David Lemieux.
The numbers make Alvarez the "A-side" for the anticipated September fight against Golovkin, but a spectacular knockout over Saunders in yet another unification fight could help raise the profile of the fighter known as "Triple G" outside of the core boxing fandom.
Of course, in boxing, no fight is certain to happen until the fighters actually step into the ring, so the planned September Golovkin vs. Alvarez bout could still get derailed.
For that matter, the Golovkin vs. Saunders fight is not yet a sure thing, with the British boxer's promoter Frank Warren saying that Saunders himself feels "not quite ready" to take on Golovkin.
"But money talks louder than anything in boxing," Warren told ESPN boxing columnist Dan Rafael. "Such are the sums involved it is one certainly worth considering."
[Photos by Al Bello, Josh Hedges/Getty Images]