LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Gennady Golovkin will have one eye on history here Saturday as he chases a record-equalling defence of his world middleweight crown in a hastily-arranged showdown with Vanes Martirosyan.
Golovkin can equal Bernard Hopkins' record of 20 middleweight title defences if he defeats Martirosyan at Los Angeles's StubHub Center in a bout put together at short notice following the cancellation of the Kazakh's rematch with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
The 36-year-old Golovkin had been due to battle Alvarez in Las Vegas this weekend, in what was likely to be one of the highlights of the 2018 boxing calendar.
Alvarez's failed drug test and subsequent suspension by Nevada authorities scuppered that showdown, however, leaving Golovkin with a blank date in his diary that Martirosyan was only too happy to fill.
Martirosyan, who normally fights at light middleweight, will be stepping up a division to face the hard-hitting Golovkin, who is unbeaten through 38 fights, including 33 by knockout.
Unsurprisingly, bookmakers have installed Golovkin as a heavy favourite against the 32-year-old Martirosyan, who has 36 wins in 40 fights including 21 by knockout.
If the encounter unfolds as expected, Golovkin will join Hopkins as the only man to successfully defend a middleweight title 20 times.
"It will mean a lot, but compared to Bernard Hopkins my record is much bigger," Golovkin said. "Stronger and bigger. This is a good situation for me and for my fans and that's it."
The smart money is on a comfortable victory inside the distance for Golovkin, setting up the prospect of a rescheduled rematch with Alvarez in September. Alvarez will be free to fight later this year once his suspension ends in August.
"That would be a new story. Why not?" added Golovkin, who will be putting his WBA and WBC middleweight belts on the line against Martirosyan.
Golovkin's trainer, the respected veteran Abel Sanchez, believes that if his fighter matches Hopkins' record, it will be the greater achievement.
"If you look at his record he hasn't had any rematches in there," Sanchez said. "Everybody he fought has been a new opponent. The great Bernard Hopkins fought twice against (Antwun) Echols and three times against Robert Allen. We are fighting new guys every time.
"By tying it and if he decides to stay at middleweight and break the record in the future is great for
boxing history and good for historians to look back upon."
Martirosyan, who like Golovkin fought at the 2004 Olympic Games, is adamant that he plans to be something more than a historical footnote on Saturday. Given the step up in weight, few are expecting Martirosyan to match Golovkin's power.
However the Armenia-born boxer insists he will be ready to mix it with one of the heaviest-handed fighters currently operating.
"Most of GGG's opponents - when they got into the ring they already lost," Martirosyan said. "They already thought about the power before they got in the ring and they fought defensive. Gennady is a monster and the he hits really hard. So they got in the ring scared.
"I don't get in the ring scared. I am going to do my thing, just go in there and have fun to see where I belong."
The theory may well turn out to be easier than the practice. The last fighter to face Golovkin after stepping up in weight class, Britain's Kell Brook, was left with a fractured eye-socket after a defeat in five rounds in September 2016.
On the flip-side, Martirosyan has never been stopped, with his three defeats coming via decision. Golovkin, though, has more than enough artillery in his arsenal to end it quickly on Saturday.
"If he gives me a chance to stop him, I will stop him," the Kazakh declared matter-of-factly. "If not, then I don't. This is boxing. If we exchange punches and I hurt him, then it can happen."