Middleweight world titlist Gennadiy Golovkin, fresh from winning a vacant belt last week, could make his first defense against unbeaten but largely unknown mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta on Feb. 29 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said.
"Feb. 29 is the date we're looking at here. We have a hold on the arena," Hearn said late Saturday night at a news conference at the arena after the event he promoted there in which former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk made his heavyweight debut with a seventh-round knockout of Chazz Witherspoon in the main event.
Golovkin became a two-time middleweight titlist when he won a controversial decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a rock 'em, sock 'em candidate for fight of the year on Oct. 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Deep on the undercard, Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KOs), 29, of Poland, knocked out Mexico's Oscar Cortes in the second round. Szeremeta had been due to defend the European middleweight title against Matteo Signani on Friday night in Italy but instead vacated the belt to take the fight with Cortes for more money on a bigger stage and knowing he was in line to challenge the winner of the main event for a world title.
Hearn, who is part of Golovkin's promotional team, promoted his second event at Wintrust Arena on Saturday night and said it made sense as a venue for a potential Golovkin-Szeremeta fight.
"Gennadiy's had back-to-back fights at the Garden, and we've seen from the ticket sales for this event (on Saturday night) that we have a good reputation and relationship with fight fans in [Chicago], and if he fights his mandatory, which is Szeremeta, the Polish fighter, then it would make sense to come here with such a huge Polish community. It's not a definite, but it's definitely a venue we're looking at.
"It's difficult to go to a place twice in the year with the schedule, but if there was a place we'd go twice to in a year, it would be Chicago. We've probably had our two biggest gates in this arena outside of [Anthony] Joshua-[Andy] Ruiz in America and it's a great city."
Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs), 37, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, has made no secret that he wants a third fight with bitter rival and middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez after fighting to a draw and a majority decision loss in two highly disputed results. Their broadcaster, DAZN, which has both boxers under exclusive nine-figure deals, also has been pushing hard for a third fight, but Golovkin might take his mandatory defense first regardless of whether there is a third fight with Alvarez.
Alvarez, who is moving up two weight divisions to challenge light heavyweight world titlist Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas, has said repeatedly that he is not interested in facing GGG again because he "represents no challenge for me," but he left the door open when he acknowledged that another fight with GGG does represent "some good business, so if they offer me something really good, maybe the third fight can happen."
Hearn said that Szeremeta is pushing for his mandatory title fight with Golovkin and that GGG "wants to fight Canelo, but I don't think he's going to wait for a decision from Canelo. So it all depends on what happens in the next few weeks. Obviously, the Kovalev fight is only three weeks away. So it's not like [Golovkin] can't wait until then, but I don't think he's prepared to wait until December, etc., to have another fight [set up]. If the IBF say that the mandatory is due [since he won] a vacant title, which is generally what happens for a vacant belt, then he would jump in and take that fight."