NEW YORK (AP) -- The giant banner behind him revealed not only a new nickname, but a new reality in boxing for Gennady Golovkin.
''The return of the people's champion,'' it read, touting Golovkin's June 8 match at Madison Square Garden that will be his first fight since dropping his rematch against Canelo Alvarez.
Golovkin came away from those fights with a loss and a draw, and the former holder of three belts has no more after a record 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses.
''Everyone in the Triple G team thinks he won both of those fights, as does the majority of the fan base and the media, and that's why we crowned him the 'People's Champion,''' promoter Tom Loeffler said Monday.
The people may still consider Golovkin a champion, but the boxing rankings have said otherwise since the longtime 160-pound ruler's loss to Alvarez last September in their second fight.
Plenty has changed since that narrow defeat in Las Vegas, though not when it comes to Golovkin's mindset. Some may wonder if he's diminished at 37 after two hard fights with Alvarez, but not Golovkin. He won't be carrying any belts into the ring but he still has a champion's confidence.
''I don't feel like I lost those fights and those decisions do not necessarily affect me because inside I do feel like I won those two fights,'' Golovkin said through an interpreter. ''So I don't necessarily see myself as a contender, as a beginner again.''
Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs) may get his shot at being a real champion again soon, perhaps even against Alvarez.
First, Golovkin will return to the ring against Steve Rolls, a little known Canadian who is unbeaten in 19 fights while fighting at both 160 and 168 pounds.
They will split the difference for the June bout, which will be held at a maximum of 164 pounds. Rolls (19-0, 10 KOs) was selected in hopes he could put up a good enough performance to make Golovkin work, but not good enough to mess up any plans for a third fight with Alvarez.
''Make no mistake. This isn't a tuneup,'' Rolls said. ''I'm coming to fight.''
The path back to Alvarez goes through DAZN, the sports streaming service that had signed the Mexican star to a contract worth what his promoters said was a minimum $365 million last year. So Golovkin eventually followed with a six-fight deal with DAZN, and already had begun talking about terms of a possible trilogy before signing.
DAZN will have as much to do with the negotiations as the fight promoters, and the Golovkin side will be interested in taking it elsewhere after it was dissatisfied with the scoring in Las Vegas. That could open the door for Madison Square Garden or AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, to make a big bid on the bout.
''The first two fights with Canelo, there was no option for Gennady. They put it to us that Canelo would fight Triple G only in Las Vegas,'' Loeffler said. ''We love Las Vegas, we love the MGM, the T-Mobile Arena and the way he was treated, but when you arguably win two fights in a row and only one judge out of six judges scores it for him, there's something wrong.''
Alvarez is facing Daniel Jacobs in a May 4 middleweight unification fight in Las Vegas.
If Alvarez wins, Golovkin could hope to win his belts back if they then move on to making the third fight. If it's Jacobs, Golovkin may want to go ahead with a fight that would mean more to him even with no titles at stake.
He's already been a champion. He hasn't beaten Alvarez.
''I'm hoping to fight him,'' Golovkin said, ''title or not.''
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports