Canelo Alvarez will learn his fate at an April 10 meeting of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which has called him to a hearing related to its investigation of his two positive tests for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol.
Alvarez tested positive in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20 and was temporarily suspended by the commission pending the hearing next month. That comes less than one month before he is scheduled to face unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin on May 5 in a major HBO PPV event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a heavily anticipated rematch of their controversial draw at the same venue in September.
Alvarez claims the positive tests were the result of eating contaminated beef, which has been a problem for athletes in Mexico. But that excuse -- true or not - probably won't carry much weight with the commission.
My view, based on years of experience covering the Nevada commission, reading the commission's rules and regulations and having conversations with those involved, is that this rematch will not happen on May 5. I repeat: I strongly believe this rematch will not happen on May 5. In fact, based on my reading of the rules and the conversations I have had, I do not think there is any way the commission can allow him to fight on May 5 -- unless Alvarez can provide proof that his food or drink was purposely spiked with the banned substance.
Since Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) and his team have not even hinted at such a claim, I believe he will be suspended for at least six months. If he gets a six-month ban (and certainly the commission could put him on ice for a longer period of time), Alvarez would be eligible to fight again on Aug. 17; suspensions are retroactive to the day of the positive test.
My prediction is that Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) will fight another opponent next, either on May 5, as GGG and promoter Tom Loeffler hope, or perhaps a slight delay will force his next fight into June, be it on HBO PPV or on regular HBO. If GGG were to win that May/June bout the rematch with Alvarez could be rescheduled for the Mexican Independence Day weekend in mid-September, when they had their first fight, assuming Alvarez gets only six months.
If a scenario unfolds in which Alvarez cannot fight on May 5 who should Golovkin fight next? Here is my view of the candidates:
1. Billy Joe Saunders
This makes the most sense and is a makable fight that would be significant for both fighters and attractive for fans as it would be for the undisputed world middleweight championship -- GGG's three major belts on the line against Saunders' one title.
They have talked about fighting each other for a while but it hasn't come to pass. But Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), looked great in his December rout of former titlist (and past GGG KO victim) David Lemieux on HBO. England's Saunders was scheduled to defend his title against countryman Martin Murray (another GGG KO victim) on April 14 in London but the fight was postponed until June 23 because Saunders suffered a hand injury.
Since Saunders is on the shelf with the injury he is not available for May 5 but he should have no trouble fighting in mid-to-late June and a shot at Golovkin dwarfs a Murray fight in terms of money and significance.
Of all the opponents out there not named Canelo Alvarez, this is the most interesting and meaningful fight for Golovkin and one that should be relatively easy to make if both sides really want it.
2. Daniel Jacobs
Last March, former secondary titlist Jacobs gave Golovkin the toughest fight of his career in an exciting mandatory fight that headlined an HBO PPV event. Golovkin dropped Jacobs in the fourth round and did enough to earn a close unanimous decision -- but one many thought Jacobs won. Jacobs, 31, of Brooklyn, New York, said he wanted a rematch and GGG said he would be open to one at some point.
Soon after, Jacobs (33-2, 29 KOs), signed with HBO with the express purpose of getting a chance to fight either Golovkin again or Alvarez. Meantime, while waiting for that opportunity, Jacobs would get two soft fights ahead of that. Jacobs routed Luis Arias in November and is scheduled to fight the solid but unspectacular Maciej Sulecki on April 28.
It's probably a long shot but my thought was they could cancel the Sulecki fight and just push Jacobs back by one week for the rematch with Golovkin. Jacobs should be in fine condition and on weight as he would have been ready to fight April 28.
3. Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Brooklyn-based Derevyanchenko, 32, is not a well-known fighter but he was a mega amateur who represented Ukraine in the 2008 Olympics. He's an outstanding boxer who I think could compete well with GGG. But forget that. The key is he stands as one of Golovkin's mandatory challengers, so by having Derevyanchenko fill in for Alvarez, Golovkin could also get rid of one of his mandatory defenses.
Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), stopped Dashon Johnson in the sixth round on March 3 and would have a little over a month to get ready for the fight, which, if a deal was made, would earn him by far and away his best payday. He has not made much money in his career and needs the cash. For Golovkin, this is a fight that has to happen eventually anyway if he wants to keep his belts, which are important to him. For Derevyanchenko, it would be a no-brainer to take the fight if offered because nobody else of note is in a hurry to face him and no other fight can get him a significant payday.
4. Demetrius Andrade
Andrade, a former two-time junior middleweight titlist and 2008 U.S. Olympian, who is now fighting at middleweight, threw his hat into the ring this week when he said he would have no problem coming out of the bullpen to replace Alvarez if Alvarez is suspended.
The 30-year-old southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island, is immensely talented and I'd like to see him have a meaningful fight. But I just don't see Golovkin calling his name as he doesn't have the name recognition, doesn't bring another title to the table or any particular economic muscle. Besides, HBO is down on Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), and probably wouldn't get behind such a match. After Andrade easily outpointed Alantez Fox in a snoozer in October in the first fight of a three-fight deal with HBO, the network declined to exercise the option it had on him for the second fight and he became a television free agent.
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