Gennady Golovkin's ring return is set. The former unified middleweight world champion will take on unbeaten -- but largely unknown -- Steve Rolls on June 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The fight, a 12-rounder at a contract weight of 164 pounds, was officially announced on Tuesday and will be the first bout of the three-year, six-fight, nine-figure deal Golovkin signed with sports streaming service DAZN on March 8.
The fighters will see each other face-to-face during their two-city media tour beginning Monday at Madison Square Garden, followed by another event on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
"I am very excited to be returning to the ring and bringing the 'Big Drama Show' back to Madison Square Garden," Golovkin said. "The Garden's fans are fantastic. I love boxing, and I promise to bring the best of me to everyone who will be watching me in an all-action fight with Steve Rolls."
Golovkin has headlined at Madison Square Garden's main arena three times, drawing raucous crowds for bouts with Daniel Jacobs, Daniel Geale and David Lemieux, but he has not boxed there since the fight with Jacobs in 2017.
Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs), 37, a Kazakhstan native living in Santa Monica, California, will be fighting for the first time since losing a very close majority decision to Canelo Alvarez in their contentious September rematch that cost him his 160-pound belts and kept him from a division-record-breaking 21st consecutive title defense.
If Golovkin defeats Rolls, and if Alvarez (who also has a long-term deal with DAZN) defeats Jacobs in their world title unification bout on May 4 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Alvarez-Golovkin III is likely to take place in September.
Rolls (19-0, 10 KOs), 34, of Toronto, is unbeaten but has faced extremely limited opposition. He is coming off a 10-round unanimous decision against journeyman KeAndrae Leatherwood in December in Toronto. He said he was thrilled to get a chance to fight one of the biggest stars in boxing.
"I want to sincerely thank DAZN and GGG himself for giving me the opportunity to challenge one of the best fighters in the world," Rolls said. "But let me be clear: I've won national championships and represented my country, and Golovkin is just a man. I'm coming to win this fight and put my name among the best middleweights in the world."
Golovkin-Rolls will mark the first time in decades that the Madison Square Garden main arena will host boxing cards in back-to-back weeks. England's Anthony Joshua is scheduled to make his United States debut in a defense of his unified heavyweight title against New Yorker Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller on DAZN's June 1 card.
Rolls got the fight over others who were in the running, including Brandon Adams (21-2, 13 KOs), 29, of Los Angeles, who won the Epix reboot of "The Contender" reality series in November, and Cameroon's Hassan N'Dam (37-3, 21 KOs), 35, a former middleweight world titlist who fights out of France.
Adams elected to accept an offer to challenge interim middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo in a Premier Boxing Champions bout being planned for June or July, and GGG's team decided it preferred Rolls over N'Dam.
"We went through a number of names, and for Gennady's first fight on DAZN they liked that Steve Rolls is from Canada because they want to boost their subscriptions in the Canadian market. So that was one factor in Rolls getting the fight," said Tom Loeffler, the managing director of GGG Promotions. "But they also liked that he is undefeated and that he is a hungry fighter."