Gennady Golovkin vs. Vanes Martirosyan set for May 5 in Los Angeles

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Vanes Martirosyan vs. Gennady Golovkin has been announced for May 5 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. (Getty/AP)
Vanes Martirosyan vs. Gennady Golovkin has been announced for May 5 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. (Getty/AP)

Gennady Golovkin will defend his middleweight championship against former U.S. Olympian Vanes Martirosyan on May 5 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in a bout televised by HBO.

The announcement ends nearly a month of turmoil created when Canelo Alvarez, Golovkin’s original opponent, failed two drug tests and was forced to pull out of the highly anticipated rematch.

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That set Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler in search of an opponent, and created an almost impossible task for him. In order to switch the bout from HBO Pay-Per-View, where it was going to be when it was set to be Golovkin-Alvarez II, to HBO, Loeffler needed to thread a needle.

HBO could only offer a significantly reduced license fee, which meant that because of Alvarez’s failure, Golovkin would have to accept a greatly reduced purse. In addition, there was limited money available to land a significant opponent.

Loeffler finally settled on Martirosyan, who has primarily fought as a super welterweight and who hasn’t fought at all since losing a decision to Erislandy Lara on May 21, 2016.

“Vanes hasn’t been active, but he had been looking for a fight,” Loeffler told Yahoo Sports. “He’s been training and he’s interested in fighting Triple-G. We all would rather be getting ready for the fight with Canelo, but there is nothing we could do about that. Vanes dropped [Demetrius] Andrade; he lost a close decision to [Jermell] Charlo that a lot of people thought he won and he lost a competitive fight with Lara.”

Promoter Lou DiBella had been pushing Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who is ranked No. 1 in the IBF. The IBF has threatened to strip Golovkin of the belt if he doesn’t fight Derevyanchenko, though they’d given Golovkin an exception when he was going to fight Alvarez.

Golovkin does not want to lose the belt, but a Martirosyan bout on short notice is more marketable, Loeffler believes, than one with Derevyanchenko, who is 12-0 with 10 knockouts.

“Derevyanchenko hasn’t fought nearly the competition that a guy like Vanes has fought,” Loeffler said. “Now, I’m not saying Vanes would be the best opponent if we had a lot of guys to choose from. He wouldn’t be our top choice. But under the circumstances, he’s local in L.A., from Glendale, has a strong fan base in the area and was a very outstanding amateur. He was in the same Olympics, in 2004, where Triple-G won a silver medal.

“He’s not the ideal opponent, but he’s not the worst, which is what I’ve heard some people say.”

When Alvarez pulled out, Loeffler wanted to keep the fight in Las Vegas, and obtained a date at the MGM Grand Garden, across the street from T-Mobile Arena where the Alvarez fight was to be held.

But when Loeffler was unable to quickly land an opponent, the MGM Grand felt there wasn’t enough time to properly market the bout and withdrew. That led Loeffler to StubHub, where Golovkin set the attendance record for a boxing event at 9,323, in an Oct. 18, 2014, second-round knockout victory over Marco Antonio Rubio.

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