Middleweight powerhouse and IBF titleholder Gennadiy Golovkin of Kazakhstan returns to the ring this week after the longest layoff of his professional career, 472 days after he defeated Kamil Szeremeta in seven rounds including four knockdowns before the Polish fighter’s corner called it.
How much of that power will be on display Saturday when Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) faces 2012 Olympic gold medalist and WBA World Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13 KOs) at what will be a packed Super Arena for the “Drama in Saitama” is currently a mystery. The bout airs on DAZN at 5:10 am ET/2:10 am PT live from Japan.
“The long-awaited week of struggle has begun,” Golovkin posted to his social media accounts.
Golovkin’s last bout came after the second-longest layoff of his career, 440 days after a battle with Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Do the math: Golovkin has had one fight in 911 days since the Derevyanchenko fight. For a fighter who used to like staying busy, someone should have called 911 long ago to file a missing persons report.
In Japan, Golovkin will attempt to extend his division record with his 22nd title defense of the IBF belt and unify titles with a win over Murata. The real stakes though are in sealing the deal for a third fight with his nemesis Canelo Alvarez with a win.
Golovkin: ‘I come back, I told you’
After his last fight, Golovkin said, “I come back. I told you. I come back after Canelo’s fight. I’m still smart. I feel very comfortable because I did smart work. Come on guys, I’m not surprised. I feel very comfortable because I work hard. I had a lot of time. I had a lot of good people with me who support me.”
Based on photos of Golovkin’s arrival in Japan last week, he passes the eye test. He appeared as fit and energetic as a man 10 years younger. But time is no one’s friend in the ring.
What kind of performance will Golovkin deliver on Saturday? The win matters, but the nature of the win will be critical to generating renewed enthusiasm. Golovkin needs to calm fears about his skills and conditioning at this stage of his career.
The NYFights.com jurors put our thoughts together in the pugilistic jury room.
Michael Woods, founder: will pretend even less than usual that I have a strong handle on what happens in GGG v Murata. That’s because unless you’ve been in GGG camp you don’t know if he’s fighting like a 32-year-old at times or is looking his age (40 on April 8) and Murata will be able to exploit a dimming of reflexes combined with effects of infrequent bookings. My instinct is that nah, Golovkin won’t look ancient overnight and get upset by Murata. But he likely puts up with some harder rounds than he’s had to deal with in Rolls and Szeremeta fights. And yet he still stops Murata, becoming the first to do so. Bring on that third Canelo bout, then, time to stir up that blood again.
Matt Andrzejewski: We need to see a win from Triple G on Saturday. However, it occurs does not matter. As a fan, I do not want to see anything derail a potential long-awaited third fight between Golovkin and Canelo. I want to see a conclusion to the trilogy especially since the first two fights were razor-thin close. Thus Triple G just needs to win to do his part to set up what would be one of the most anticipated trilogies in the sport's history.
Abraham Gonzalez, NYFights.com editor: I know we aren't going to see the GGG from five years ago as he is much older. What I do want to see is a little bit of a busier GGG and some of that killer instinct that has disappeared as of late. A mid-fight stoppage or a savage KO will send the anticipation for the third Canelo fight into overdrive. That scenario gives GGG a 777 at the slots which means big dollar signs for the Big Drama Show.
Marquis Johns: I want to see if GGG can turn back the clock in the ring. The past few outings we've seen looked like a fighter who's lost a step or four. I'm looking for a statement to be made against Murata to silence all naysayers that this is the end of the road.
David E. Phillips: We have to recognize that GGG is going to be forty years old on April 8. He hasn’t had what I would describe as a truly impressive showing since blowing out Vanes Martirosyan in the 2nd round nearly four years ago. Murata is a solid fighter, but no one is going to confuse him with the second coming of anyone they can remember. This is a mini-trap fight for GGG — not that he could get caught and lose, but that anything short of a truly dominant performance will feel like a loss of greatness.
Jacob Rodriguez: I’m not yelling for a dominating performance from a middle-aged boxer. However, what I need to see from GGG is a convincing win. A win that says he can give Canelo another great fight. A win that says Canelo made a mistake fighting him a third time. I know that he’s not the GGG that we have grown accustomed to. True punchers never lose their power. Now how they deliver that power when their older, well, that’s a whole different ball game. What I need to see from GGG is if he can make the necessary adjustments to compensate for ring wear and his age. Adapting a fighting style that puts him in position to unleash his power and a convincing win is what I need to see from GGG in his next fight.
Glen Sharp: If I had to bet, however, my money would be on GGG. Even with age and inactivity, he will still be powerful and durable, and Murata has not had the difficult rounds GGG had.
The verdict: It’s unanimous. We need to see more than a mere win. Golovkin needs to turn back time and get the sort of blowout victory fans remember. It might not be a Matthew Macklin body shot or Marco Antonio Rubio skullcrusher, but it better be convincing enough to show fans 40 really is the new 30 as far as Golovkin’s concerned.
Murata isn’t a pushover but he’s not a powerhouse. The biggest names on his resume are Hassan N’Dam and Rob Brant, both of whom he fought twice and split victories. Brant destroyed Murata in their first bout, but that version of Rob Brant failed to show up for the second fight. Murata hasn’t had a counted-out knockout in six years, and he’s been out of the ring even longer than Triple G, since before the pandemic in December 2019.
Golovkin may be a step slower, but he’s always had heavy feet in the ring, which aids his power. His ring IQ gives him the ability to cut off the ring and compensate for it. He is also a notoriously slow starter. He would do well by throwing his snapping power jab from the opening bell, something he did well against Szeremeta to set up power shots. Golovkin’s jabs aren’t rangefinders; they’re his best weapon. He sealed the deal with hooks to head and body, and a pretty uppercut. We need to see all of this against Murata.
I'm confident we will. Golovkin will be highly motivated and his amateur background makes him a solid road warrior. We should see Murata end the night within six rounds.
At the time of Golovkin’s last fight, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said “He’s the most exciting fighter in world boxing still. Gennadiy’s earned the right to decide who he wants to fight. You saw an incredible two fights with Canelo Alvarez. If it makes sense for Gennadiy, if it makes sense for Canelo … We’ll be there for the ride. Him against Canelo Alvarez, Callum Smith, Demetrius Andrade, Billy Joe Saunders. You’re never going to see a boring fight with Gennadiy Golovkin.” Hearn isn’t wrong. Despite what BoxRec says, Golovkin’s draw and a narrow decision loss to Alvarez remain the best performances against the world’s top pound for pound fighter. Golovkin is the only fighter willing to stand and trade with the Mexican, and that’s why fans hope he wins the right Saturday to stand in front of him one more time before he calls it a career.
Worth setting your alarm for Saturday? We think so.