Still a champion, but not the same GGG

NEW YORK — Father Time is, and always will be, undefeated.

Yes, many thought that Sergiy Derevyanchenko, despite getting knocked down in the opening round and getting badly cut over his right eye in the second round, deserved the victory in his second shot at a middleweight world title, but it was Gennadiy Golovkin, the once-dominant destroyer now seemingly on the backside of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, who got the decision by scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113. Golovkin claimed a vacant belt in the instant classic on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Golovkin is still very good, but at age 37, the cracks are showing. Perhaps it was because Golovkin’s team said he was a bit under the weather heading into the fight and was not at his best. Age and wear and tear are very obviously catching up to him and now it is Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs), now a two-time middleweight world titlist, that needs to answer the questions surrounding his future after the most physically damaging fight of his career.

Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs), 33, despite the disappointing defeat, certainly elevated his career with a gritty, determined effort, one I thought he deserved to win 114-113. He hit Golovkin more times than he has ever been hit — 230 times — in the 25 fights tracked by CompuBox. He actually forced Golovkin back. He rocked him several times. He marked up his face. He did so many things nobody else has ever come close to doing to Golovkin.

So now what for two fighters with careers seemingly headed in opposite directions?

Middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez is the obvious answer for Golovkin, but I only give it about a 50 percent chance for it to be next. Golovkin still wants a third fight with Alvarez, who rebuffed the opportunity to face him this fall, got stripped of a belt for not finalizing a deal with mandatory challenger Derevyanchenko and instead will make an audacious move up two weight classes to challenge Sergey Kovalev for a light heavyweight title on Nov. 2.

As much disdain as Canelo has for Golovkin, however, should he defeat Kovalev (and maybe even if he doesn’t) it seems as though his attitude toward facing him for a third time will change.

Golovkin looked beatable on Saturday night and Alvarez should rush to fight Golovkin for a third time. I’d give Golovkin about a 30 percent chance of pulling out a win if the trilogy fight were to happen. At this point, Alvarez, with youth on his side, would be facing Golovkin again at a point where his age would be the biggest detriment to his winning.

What about a rematch with Derevyanchenko? Who wouldn’t want to see that fight again? It certainly is a much bigger fight now than the first one was and I’d give about a 30 percent chance that these two cross paths again in the future.

Derevyanchenko wants and deserves it and Golovkin said he is open to it. Perhaps it was just bravado, and Golovkin won’t put himself through that again, but the boxing world — and Derevyanchenko — would be pleased if they met a second time.

Who else could step up?

  • Middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade, the man who no top fighters mention fighting — for good reason — was ringside and said he wanted to fight the winner. He is also aligned with DAZN, so there is no real obstacle to making a fight with Golovkin, except if Golovkin doesn’t want the headache of having to face a southpaw with a difficult technical style who moves well and could clown him. Odds that a GGG-Andrade fight happens in the future: 40 percent.

  • Undefeated Jermall Charlo also holds a middleweight title and would be an exciting matchup for Golovkin but don’t count on that at all. He is with Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions and it is extremely unlikely Haymon would put one of his undefeated primary fighters in that kind of match. However, perhaps Charlo would give a shot to Derevyanchenko, who is advised by Haymon and could easily move over to a PBC network. Odds that a GGG-Charlo fight happens in the future: Less than 1 percent. Odds that a Derevyanchenko-Charlo fight happens: 20 percent.

  • Some have called for Golovkin to take a stab at the super middleweight division, where Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders, who are affiliated with DAZN, both hold titles. But that seems unlikely for the time being with Golovkin seemingly still comfortable at middleweight and where fights with Canelo or a Derevyanchenko are still bigger than either of those fights at 168 pounds. Odds for GGG-Smith in the future: 5 percent. Odds for GGG-Saunders in the future: 10 percent.

  • And not that this fight will necessarily be next, but a mandatory bout also looms if Golovkin wants to keep his IBF belt. There is a reason why Poland’s obscure Kamil Szeremeta was on Saturday’s undercard, where he scored an easy second-round knockout of Oscar Cortes. Szeremeta soon will be Golovkin’s mandatory challenger and could present Golovkin with an opponent against whom he might look good again. Odds for GGG-Szeremeta: Assuming the IBF eventually orders the mandatory fight and Golovkin holds no other major title, 95 percent.

Prospect watch: Jaron Ennis

Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22 KOs), a 22-year-old welterweight from Philadelphia, showed everyone on Saturday night why he is one of the most promising and exciting young fighters in boxing. Ennis dominated Demian Fernandez (12-2, 5 KOs) in Flint, Michigan, and earned a third-round knockout. The bout was elevated to main event status on Showtime when the vacant junior middleweight women’s title bout between Claressa Shields and Ivana Habazin was called off when Habazin’s trainer, James Ali Bashir, was attacked prior to Friday’s weigh-in and hospitalized with serious injuries.

Ennis, a pro since 2016 following a strong amateur career, continued to show his all-around ability. He is explosive, fast, easily switches between right- and left-handed stances and is a brutal body puncher.

Ennis was warned by referee Frank Garza twice for low blows in the first round, but never abandoned his body attack on Fernandez. In the third round, Ennis cornered Fernandez and blasted away at will until Fernandez took a knee. He beat the count, but told Garza he did not want to continue, apparently because of a possible orbital injury.

The next step: As much potential as Ennis shows, his résumé is devoid of quality opposition. Given his amateur credentials and two dozen pro fights, his team really needs to put him with a better caliber of opponent. They say they can’t get anyone of note to fight Ennis, which may be true, but what that really means is they have to pay more money to get a better opponent. It’s not complicated.

Fights you might have missed

Saturday at Flint, Michigan: Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (20-0, 13 KOs) W10 Pavel Sour (11-2, 6 KOs), scores: 98-91, 98-90, 97-91.

In the opening bout on Showtime, Franklin, 25, of Saginaw, Michigan, got his third opportunity to fight on the network following two incredibly lackluster performances. This time he looked a bit better, was in better shape and scored a pair of knockdowns against Sour, 37, of the Czech Republic. He dropped Sour to all fours with a right hand to the side of the head in the sixth round and closed the fight with a big right hand in the 10th round for a second knockdown that nearly sent Sour through the ropes and out of the ring.