The aim of any smart — and well-managed — professional boxer is fairly simple: To make the most amount of money while taking the least amount of risk.
That is why it is impossible to knock Canelo Alvarez for not being the party of the second part when Gennadiy Golovkin steps into the Madison Square Garden ring Saturday night.
The part of Alvarez will be played by Sergiy Derevyanchenko, and at stake ostensibly is an alphabet soup middleweight title belt.
It is not the fight most fans want to see, and it is certainly not what Golovkin signed on for when he agreed to a three-year, six-fight deal with DAZN in March.
In fact, what clinched the deal for Golovkin was a stipulation in his contract that he would get a third fight against Alvarez, with whom he has fought two controversial bouts against, in September.
If you check your calendar you will be reminded that September ended a couple of days ago, and Canelo-GGG III did not occur.
The reason is that while DAZN promised Golovkin a fight against Alvarez, it neglected to require Alvarez to go along with it when they signed him to an 11-fight, $365 million contract last November.
DAZN executives were quite happy to crow about the deal at the time, which they said made Alvarez the highest-paid athlete in professional sports. What they forgot to mention is that nowhere in that contract is there any language obligating Alvarez to fight anyone in particular.
“They messed up, no doubt,’’ said a member of Golovkin’s management team, who asked not to be identified.
“DAZN didn’t protect themselves,’’ said a member of Alvarez’s team. “They made a mistake.’’
As a result, GGG is forced to fight Derevyanchenko, a relatively inexperienced (14 pro fights but hundreds of amateur bouts in his native Ukraine), hardly young (he turns 34 on Halloween) but certainly still a dangerous foe for Golovkin, who is six months shy of his 38th birthday.
Boxing fans hardly care for Canelo vs. Kovalev
Meanwhile, Alvarez is jumping up two weight classes to fight Sergey Kovalev, the 36-year-old WBO light heavyweight champion who has lost three of his last seven fights and was stopped in two of them.
That also has the makings of an interesting match, mainly because of the size difference, but again, it is hardly the fight that fans want to see.
There are several peripheral reasons for this, most of which have to do with the mutual anger between the two over Alvarez’s failed PED test that postponed their second fight for six months in 2018, and his irritation with Golovkin’s refusal to concede defeat in that fight, won by Alvarez via razor-thin majority decision.
But the real reason why Alvarez is not fighting GGG this weekend, or this year for that matter, is simply this: He doesn’t have to.
His contract with DAZN calls for 10 fights at an average of $35 million per fight, a sum DAZN hopes to make back by selling, and sustaining, enough monthly subscriptions, at either $20 a month or $100 a year. DAZN does not publish subscription numbers so there is no way of knowing if this is a winning formula.
But one thing we do know: DAZN offered Alvarez a $350 million carrot but forgot to bring along a stick. According to a source familiar with the contract, the only stipulation is that Alvarez must face “top-level opponents,’’ a designation open to wide interpretation.
As a result, Alvarez’s DAZN debut was against an English journeyman named Rocky Fielding — a bargain-basement outing for which he was paid a mere $15 million — who he disposed of in three brutally one-sided rounds.
Alvarez followed that with a convincing decision win over Daniel Jacobs, another former middleweight champion who was beaten by GGG in 2017.
Now comes the faded Kovalev, who Alvarez will face on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas.
Golovkin lawyer: DAZN could be in breach of contract
“We wanted Canelo in September, but you can’t force guys to get in the ring,” Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, said at a public workout Tuesday on the sidewalk outside the Garden. “DAZN wanted it, Golden Boy wanted it, the fans wanted it. A lot of people are unhappy about this. But if it never happens, we’ll still be able to say GGG has never lost a fight in his career.’’
That kind of talk is unlikely to get the Golovkin camp anywhere with Alvarez, who has also been on the outs with Golden Boy and its figurehead CEO, Oscar De La Hoya. Golden Boy president Eric Gomez says “everything’s cool’’ between Alvarez and De La Hoya now, but acknowledges the two have yet to sit down and hash out their differences.
“I think the fight probably will happen,’’ Gomez said. “Probably next year.’’
But an attorney connected with Golovkin said that the failure of the fight to take place in September could constitute a breach of contract on the part of DAZN, a bullet the GGG camp might choose to fire if Alvarez can’t be coaxed into the ring.
“We reserve the right to use that option,’’ the attorney said.
Golovkin on Derevyanchenko: ‘I think he’s going all in’
Meanwhile, Golovkin continues to ply his trade against the likes of Derevyanchenko, who bills himself as “The Technician’’ but fights more like a demolition expert. His customary style is to wade in trading punches, which has usually been a recipe for unconsciousness against Golovkin. But in recent outings — he lost a split to Jacobs last October and outpointed Jack Culcay in April — Derevyanchenko has shown that his face-first style is hardly impregnable; he was badly shaken up in both fights.
“I think he’s going all in,’’ Golovkin said. “It’s good, better for the people.’’
And for GGG?
“Yeah, maybe,’’ he said.
Better yet would be a third fight between Alvarez and Golovkin, which could be a boxing trilogy in the grand tradition of Ali-Frazier, Gatti-Ward, Pacquiao-Marquez and Robinson-LaMotta, who fought six times and, at one point, twice within three weeks.
But if you can make the kind of money Canelo Alvarez is making to fight lesser opponents than Golovkin, a fighter would have to be stupid or crazy to pass that up.
“Every fight fan wants to see that fight,’’ said Eddie Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, which is promoting GGG-Derevyanchenko. “But you can never make a fighter take a fight, can you?’’
Right now, no one can force Canelo Alvarez to fight Gennadiy Golovkin a third time.
And for that, don’t blame Alvarez. It’s his career, his life, his health. And DAZN’s money.
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