On Tuesday night, former unified middleweight world titleholder Gennady Golovkin and contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko agreed to terms to fight for the vacant IBF title on Oct. 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York. It's a solid matchup that pairs two legitimate top-10 middleweights.
This is a chance for Golovkin to re-establish his status as one of the elite middleweights in the world. For Derevyanchenko, who failed in his only opportunity to become a major belt-holder when he lost to Daniel Jacobs by split decision in 2018, this is another chance to show that he is among the best fighters in the division.
While the belt is on the line, a much bigger prize could be at stake: a shot against middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, who was just stripped of this title. The winner of this bout will have a valuable piece of the puzzle moving forward.
Dan Rafael and Steve Kim weigh in on what's at stake in October.
What the fight means for GGG
Kim: Simple: a chance for a third fight with Alvarez. While Golovkin may have some hard feelings toward this particular sanctioning body for stripping him of the title last year, belts represent currency for him. Canelo has made two points clear: that he wants to fully unify the middleweight division, and that he only wants to be in championship fights from this point forward. Well, without a major belt, Golovkin wouldn't qualify under those conditions.
After defeating the lightly regarded Steve Rolls back in June at a catchweight of 164 pounds, it's time for Golovkin to start swimming in the deep end of the middleweight pool again. At age 37, now under the direction of Johnathon Banks, it's easy to wonder how much GGG has left in the tank. This matchup will be a good gauge of where he stands.
What the fight means for Derevyanchenko
Kim: For Derevyanchenko, this could represent a career-high payday of more than $5 million, so that in itself is a victory. But beyond that, the Golovkin fight at the Garden is by far the biggest fight of his career, on the biggest stage he has ever been on, and a victory could absolutely catapult him into an even bigger bout versus Alvarez as one of the three best fighters in the division.
And he has a real chance to upset the apple cart by ruining a lot of plans and derailing the Canelo-GGG trilogy.
Is Derevyanchenko a legit opponent for GGG?
Rafael: Absolutely. Derevyanchenko, 33, of Ukraine, may only be 13-1 as a pro, but he is absolutely a legitimate contender. He had a massive amateur career at the highest level and was a 2012 Olympian for Ukraine. As a pro, his only loss was to Jacobs. He owns solid knockout wins over Tureano Johnson and former titlist Sam Soliman and a clear decision over Jack Culcay in the eliminator that earned him this title opportunity.
If GGG wins in October and Canelo wins in November, is the third fight next?
Kim: Not necessarily. According to sources close to Golovkin, should he come out victorious against Derevyanchenko, they may come right back in January or February of 2020 for a title defense. Canelo is slated to fight on Nov. 2 and it's highly doubtful that he will return any sooner than his customary Cinco de Mayo weekend slot in 2020.
Golovkin's camp understands the reticence that Alvarez has over a third matchup, and for the time being GGG and his team will focus on his career rather than chasing a fight that is not guaranteed to happen.
Does GGG have to defend the IBF title -- if he wins it -- against a mandatory opponent or can he get an exception to fight Canelo?
Rafael: If Golovkin defeats Derevyanchenko, he is free and clear to fight an optional defense against another IBF-ranked contender or titleholder. The sanctioning body will not be an issue whatsoever in terms of GGG's next fight if he wins. Also, at any point in his reign he can get an exception to a mandatory defense, per IBF rules, as long as he applies for it before the next mandatory fight is ordered.
What does this GGG-Derevyanchenko fight mean for Canelo if he still wants to unify all the 160-pound titles?
Rafael: The winner will have the IBF belt. If Canelo wants to unify titles, he will have to fight the winner, as well as Demetrius Andrade for the WBO belt and Jermall Charlo for the WBC belt, the latter of which was also stripped from Alvarez. The notion of Canelo becoming undisputed middleweight world champion is probably a pipe dream, given that the politics and agendas at work will likely prevent it. Also, as much as Alvarez wants titles, he will not be pushed around by a sanctioning body. He is the biggest star in boxing and he will fight for belts when it fits his own plans and agenda.