Unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, trainer Abel Sanchez and promoter Tom Loeffler arrived at a downtown Los Angeles steakhouse on Thursday afternoon for a short-notice news conference scheduled only hours earlier.
The expectation was that they would announce Golovkin's opponent for May 5 on HBO at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in place of the suspended Canelo Alvarez, whom GGG was supposed fight in a much-anticipated rematch the same night on HBO PPV at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
So the big announcement was -- nothing.
"There is no announcement," Loeffler said. "There has been so much speculation in the press, what opponent, what venue. Because there is so much speculation, Gennady wanted to come down here and sit in front of you and give you an update and say he wants to fight on May 5. Gennady has been sparring and he wants to fight May 5. There have been a lot of challenges, we've gone through a lot of names, stuff with the sanctioning bodies.
"I have been in touch with them sorting out an amicable solution for everyone while not denying GGG the opportunity to fight May 5. ... Nothing is finalized."
Although no opponent was announced, Loeffler has not made it a secret that he's working to close a deal with promoter Don King for his fighter, Vanes Martirosyan, to be Golovkin's opponent in what would be a massive step down in competition for GGG and in fan anticipation.
Loeffler also said no venue has been set though he said three venues are interested in hosting the fight: StubHub Center, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden in New York.
Loeffler has not yet been able to finalize Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), 31, a 2004 U.S. Olympian from Glendale, California, in part because of the obstacles he faces with the IBF.
Golovkin also holds the WBC and WBA 160-pound belts and those organizations have signed off on the fight. However, if Golovkin fights Martirosyan he risks being stripped by the IBF because Sergey Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), 32, a 2008 Olympian from Ukraine, is his mandatory challenger in that organization and the bout due next in the rotation system the sanctioning bodies use to determine the order of mandatory fights for a unified titleholder.
Golovkin's focus for years has been to hold all the belts and he is not about to give up one or allow himself to be stripped. Alvarez is the WBC mandatory but when he became unavailable the Derevyanchenko camp argued he is next in line.
Loeffler is hoping to work out an agreement with Derevyanchenko promoter Lou DiBella that would allow Golovkin to keep the belt and face Martirosyan on May 5.
"When you have a unified champion everything has to come together," Loeffler said. "[Golovkin] has his [mandatory] responsibilities holding so many titles, but he has always lived up to them. We've never been in this unique situation before. Everything is on a very condensed schedule. We acknowledge the situation, but at the same time it would be a shame to have a fight, such as Derevyanchenko, promoted on a three-week basis. But we have to follow the rules of the IBF as well as the WBC and WBA, and that's what we intend to do."
Even without the mandatory issue, Martirosyan is a hard opponent to grasp. He has not fought in two years. He is coming off a loss. He has never beaten a top fighter. He has spent his entire 13-year career boxing as a junior middleweight and he would be going up in weight to face one of the most fearsome fighters in the world.
Most would view it as a massive mismatch. Loeffler has been trying to salvage Golovkin's date since Alvarez pulled out of the fight on April 3 while awaiting an April 18 hearing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which likely will extend his suspension until at least mid-August as punishment for two failed drug tests.
Golovkin and Alvarez were to fight in a rematch following a heavily disputed draw in a September fight most thought GGG won. However, in February, Alvarez twice tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug, clenbuterol, in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. Alvarez blamed contaminated beef in Mexico but regardless of the reason the substance was in his system, he faces punishment by the Nevada commission.
With Golovkin not wanting to waste his training camp and be out of the ring for at least a year, Loeffler and HBO worked out a deal for GGG's fight to move from HBO PPV to the main network, though for a low seven-figure fee, much lower than Golovkin has been making. Loeffler secured the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in place of T-Mobile Arena for May 5 but then elected to shift it to Southern California and the even smaller StubHub Center, which Golovkin has sold out previously. Wherever he fights and whomever he fights, Golovkin made it clear he wants to fight.
"My training camp is hard every day. I want to fight. I ask Tom every day, 'Please, I just want to fight. Give me fight,'" he said. "Unbelievable. Just crazy situation for boxing."
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), 35, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, has remained in training camp at Sanchez's gym in Big Bear Lake, California. He would be making his 20th title defense. If he's successful he would tie the division record set by Bernard Hopkins in 2005.
"We're as disappointed as you are," Sanchez said of not having a fight set yet. "I didn't know why we're here. We're training hard. We're on schedule for our May 5 fight. Hopefully, Gennady can fight somebody.
"[Golovkin] trains every day harder and harder for that date. He wants to fight on the 5th. We continue to train until somebody tells us differently. Our job is to be ready."
Fringe middleweight contender Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs), of Ireland, appeared as though he would be the opponent earlier this week until he declined an offer for the fight on Wednesday. He had agreed to terms, but when Loeffler had to dramatically reduce the money being offered after the fight was moved from HBO PPV to HBO, O'Sullivan rejected it. That left Martirosyan because Loeffler and Golovkin have no interest in making the fight with Derevyanchenko on short notice; he is a far more dangerous opponent than Martirosyan.
"We're trying to make the best of the situation," Loeffler said. "Hopefully, we'll have an announcement soon. We're under the gun now to save May 5."
Loeffler said he would have to make a decision by "mid-next week," which coincides with when Alvarez's hearing with the Nevada commission is scheduled. Loeffler said that, should the show go on, former pound-for-pound king and four-division world champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez (46-2, 38 KOs) would appear in the co-feature. Also, undisputed women's welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus (32-0, 9 KOs), widely regarded as the world's best female fighter pound-for-pound, would fight on the card.
Gonzalez, 30, of Nicaragua, is coming off back-to-back upset losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a controversial majority decision that cost him his junior bantamweight title 13 months ago and a crushing fourth-round knockout in the rematch in September.
Braekhus, 36, of Norway, has held a world title since 2009 and if her fight is made part of the telecast it would be the first women's boxing match to air on HBO in the network's 45 years of covering the sport.