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GGG shows age in close win, but could it get him closer to Canelo?

NEW YORK — Although Gennadiy Golovkin can once again call himself a middleweight world titleholder after he defeated the rugged Sergiy Derevyanchenko over 12 memorable rounds at Madison Square Garden, the fight raised some questions about the long-term viability of Golovkin as an elite fighter.

The scores for this bout were 114-113, 115-112 and 115-112, and those close tallies don’t reflect just how tough a night it was for GGG. There was a time, just a few years ago, when he would’ve handled a fighter of Derevyanchenko’s level with ease.

Those days are over.

Now, just about every fight against a top-level opponent is a hard slog, with Golovkin toughing his way through and grinding his way to victory.

At the end of the day, though, it was a victory, and GGG walked out with a world title over his shoulder. A Canelo Alvarez trilogy is still on everyone’s mind, but did Saturday night’s bout help or hurt that possibility?

Let’s break down the biggest questions of the night.

How did GGG win the fight?

Golovkin won — barely. To be honest, just like last week, with Shawn Porter’s effort against Errol Spence Jr., you came away more impressed by the effort of the guy who didn’t get the nod. Although Golovkin is still a top-tier middleweight, he showed his age (37) in this fight. The hard years are beginning to show.

Although he still has heavy hands and solid technical skills, his reflexes and reaction time are noticeably slower. For long stretches in this bout, Derevyanchenko was able to beat Golovkin to the punch, and he landed a multitude of combinations to both the body and head, backing Golovkin up in the middle and late rounds.

Then again, every time the momentum began to swing in Derevyanchenko’s favor, Golovkin did just enough in certain rounds to take it back or at least win those stanzas on the cards. His conditioning, toughness and strength carried him through.

Is GGG getting a third fight with Canelo?

Golovkin thinks he is entitled to a third fight, given the fact that his multifight deal with DAZN called for a trilogy bout. It was initially supposed to take place in September, but Canelo wasn’t interested. Instead, Canelo will fight WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas.

Putting all of that aside, as vulnerable as Golovkin looked tonight, Alvarez and Golden Boy might not walk but run to make a third fight with Golovkin. What is there to fear if you’re Canelo? Golovkin was a slower, aged fighter who got hit an alarming amount of times against a fighter in Derevyanchenko who has never been known to have particularly fast hands. At this point, you’d have to think Canelo would be a prohibitive favorite over his archrival.

The plan before Saturday’s fight was for Golovkin to make a quick return to the ring in January or February 2020 to take care of the IBF mandatory nice and early so that he doesn’t get hampered by that obligation later in the year. But we’ll have to see how much damage Derevyanchenko did Saturday, as both fighters headed to the hospital after the fight.

If Golovkin is able to take such a fight and win, a Cinco De Mayo weekend date with Canelo could be in his sights.

Then again, Canelo said Sept. 18 that he has closed the GGG chapter of his career. We’ll see.

Golden Boy signed a record-setting deal for Canelo with DAZN, with a clear commitment to put him up against Golovkin again. What isn’t clear is if that came without the consent of Alvarez, who is as headstrong as he is talented.

Can this GGG beat Canelo?

In a word, no. Every fighter has a point of diminishing returns, physically, and Golovkin is at that stage. Nobody is saying that it would be a blowout — Golovkin is still far too savvy and tough for that to happen — but the fact of the matter is that Alvarez is among the very elite prizefighters in the sport and is in his prime. He seems to be at the peak of his powers, and Golovkin is clearly on the descent.

Golovkin doesn’t seem to have the power he once had — perhaps his legs are no longer as stout. Alvarez is spectacular.

Is there a satisfying fight left for GGG that isn’t Canelo? If so, what is it?

I might be in the minority, but I think a bout against WBO belt-holder Demetrius Andrade is intriguing. It’s the classic pairing of the offensive juggernaut in GGG and the slick, tricky southpaw in Andrade.

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