Unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin's plans to fight on May 5 took yet another hit on Wednesday when Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan, long the leading candidate for the assignment once Canelo Alvarez withdrew, declined the fight, Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez told ESPN.
"Spike's not going to take the fight. He really wanted to do the fight, but the short amount of time, the short amount of money, it just doesn't work at this time," Gomez said. "He wants a big fight, but he doesn't want to take a fight at the last minute. He wants to win and he took his time to really think about it, and we talked about it with him and with our [promotional] partner Ken Casey from Murphy's Boxing.
"We have a responsibility to our fighter. We respect him. If he goes into a big fight like this, the biggest fight of his career, he doesn't want to go into the fight as the opponent on three weeks' notice. Getting ready for an ESPN card is very different than going in with one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world on three weeks' notice."
Instead, Gomez said O'Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs), 33, of Ireland, will open a May 4 Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN card at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Junior lightweight Ryan Garcia (14-0, 13 KOs), the 2017 ESPN.com prospect of the year, is being lined up to fight in the main event on that card. Once Alvarez dropped out of the May 5 with Golovkin, Golden Boy secured the StubHub Center and moved its ESPN card out of Las Vegas.
O'Sullivan has said many times in recent weeks, including on social media, that he was excited to fight Golovkin if he got the opportunity. Initially the plan was for Golovkin to go forward with May 5 and remain on HBO PPV with the card simply being moved from T-Mobile Arena to the smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena down the street, a change the Nevada commission approved at a meeting last week.
But then GGG Promotions' Tom Loeffler and HBO decided to take the fight off pay-per-view and put on regular HBO, which has a tight budget. That forced Loeffler to go back to Golden Boy with a much lower offer for O'Sullivan than the original pay-per-view number.
Loeffler also laid the groundwork to move Golovkin's fight from the MGM Grand to StubHub Center, where, if GGG still fights, there would be boxing events on an unprecedented two consecutive nights.
"I don't know what Tom's going to do," said Gomez, adding that he informed Loeffler of the decision earlier Wednesday. "We went over all the deal points, and it was hard to turn down a fight like this. It's very hard. Spike has a lot of pride, but it was the right decision."
Loeffler was unavailable for comment.
There are still other issues confronting Loeffler as he attempts to keep a GGG fight on May 5 alive, not the least of which is signing an opponent. Because Alvarez, who is Golovkin's WBC mandatory challenger, is out of the fight, the team for Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), Golovkin's IBF mandatory challenger, has been pushing hard for the fight. Derevyanchenko, a 2008 Olympian from Ukraine, is next up in the sanctioning body rotation system used when there is a unified titleholder.
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) does not want to be stripped of his IBF title, which could happen if he doesn't fight Derevyanchenko, who is ready to go on May 5, next now that Alvarez is on the sidelines.
There have been other names bandied about, but Golovkin has shown no interest in a fight with contender and former two-time junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs). Middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), an attractive option who would put undisputed world title on the line, is sidelined with a hand injury and not due back until late June.
There was a push in recent days from the WBC for Golovkin to fight the Don King-promoted Vanes Martirosyan, but that was quickly dismissed because Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs) has not fought for two years, is coming off a loss and is a junior middleweight.
Golden Boy has also suggested to Loeffler that one of its fighters, Yamaguchi Falcao (15-0, 7 KOs), 30, would be willing to take the fight, but Falcao is unknown and untested despite winning an Olympic bronze medal for Brazil in 2012.
Golovkin and Alvarez were supposed to square off in a highly anticipated rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the same venue where they fought to a heavily disputed draw in a September fight most thought GGG won. However, in February, Alvarez twice tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol in random urine tests by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. Alvarez blamed contaminated beef in Mexico, but the Nevada commission could still extend his suspension at a hearing on April 18. The suspension led to his April 3 withdrawal from the fight and left Loeffler scrambling to find a replacement opponent.