SOME day and some day soon, Gennadiy Golovkin is going to lose. The Kazakh is a truly élite fighter. But he’s nearing the end of his glittering career. At his peak, in 2017, he gave Canelo Álvarez almost more than he could handle. It was a hugely contentious draw and Golovkin didn’t manage to right that wrong in their rematch. Now his age is creeping up on him.
Beating Sergey Derevyanchenko in 2019 was an exciting victory over a high-calibre opponent. But it was a hard fight for Golovkin. It suggested cracks are starting show. Golovkin at his best had looked a near irresistible force but even for him time was ticking on.
However, that doesn’t mean his time is up, and it doesn’t mean that Ryōta Murata is, necessarily, the man to beat him when the Kazakh star comes to the Super Arena in Saitama for their fight this Saturday (April 9).
A decade ago Murata won the middleweight gold medal at the Olympic Games. Helped by Anthony Ogogo beating then tournament favourite Ievgen Khytrov, Murata battered his way to a dramatic victory in the London 2012 boxing competition. Those performances suggested he would go far as a pro. He has done well, winning 16 fights against two losses but appears to have levelled out.
His key victories have been in rematches with the two men who beat him. He has avenged his defeats to Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and Rob Brant. He lost to both on points and then stopped both when he fought them again in immediate rematches. But they were still bad losses to take in the first place. N’Jikam had not beaten a really top level middleweight before. Brant had been a fairly unimpressive entrant in the World Boxing Super Series and beating Murata has been his stand-out victory. But at least in that rematch Murata rediscovered the venom in his work. Brant sought to throw clusters of punches and step off. But the Japanese fighter was unrelenting. He marched the American down and simply hammered him over and again with hard shots, his right doing particular damage as he used it to drive Brant into the ropes and corners of the ring. He blasted Brant off his feet and only needed two rounds to complete that revenge mission.
That was back in 2019, a year that Murata finished with a five-round stoppage win over Steven Butler, a Canadian with a respectable record. But that was the last time he fought. At 36 years old that inactivity will hamper him.
But, relatively speaking, the home fighter has youth on his side. Golovkin will turn 40 the night before this fight. In boxing terms that is normally retirement age. He’s been inactive too. Golovkin didn’t box at all last year and only once in 2020, a straight forward seven-round victory over Kamil Szeremeta. That lack of competitive rounds in recent years will do him no favours and he did not look to be at his exceptional best either last time out. He subjected Szeremeta to a sustained beating, putting the Pole down in the first, second, fourth and seventh rounds. But it took him a while to shift Szeremeta. His challenger was badly hurt but stubbornly lasted into the second half of the fight before he was stopped on his stool. That can be taken as a sign of Golovkin slipping.
Regardless, “GGG” is no ordinary fighter. Even if he is no longer at his brutal best, any decline is from a very high level indeed. He is undeniably dangerous, especially for Murata. It’s not in the Japanese middleweight’s nature to backpedal or rely on movement to be elusive. Expect them to meet head on. Murata will advance, plant his feet and try to engage at mid or close range. He will be looking to take a page out of Golovkin’s own playbook. The problem is Golovkin does it better.
Murata is heavy-handed and carries a blunt power. But he throws his shots with slightly wide arms. Golovkin is the more efficient striker, he hits cleanly and, timing shots well, is likely to beat Murata to the punch. It will be a war of attrition, and an exciting one that Golovkin will likely take over down the stretch. He could even force a stoppage.
The stakes are high. Golovkin has to win. The completion of his trilogy with Canelo beckons if he can.
On the undercard Masayuki Ito takes on Shuichiro Yoshino and unbeaten flyweight Junto Nakatani boxes an over-matched Ryota Yamauchi.
DAZN televise, with live coverage beginning at 10.10am (GMT) on April 9.
The Verdict This could be Golovkin’s last great fight.