Gennady Golovkin ended a 477 day ring sabbatical with a crafty beating of Ryota Murata to unify the WBA and IBF middleweight titles earlier today at Japan’s Super Arena.
There were lingering questions about what the 40 year old Golovkin had left after years of inactivity and ring wars. And while some were answered, it’s doubtful the future Hall of Famer has converted many into believing he can finally conclude the proposed Canelo Alvarez trilogy with an official win.
- THE PRICE OF TAKING THE FIGHT TO GGG
Following Canelo’s narrow win over GGG in their rematch, a narrative began that the best way to defeat Golovkin is to put him on the backfoot. That train of thought became louder after GGG had to dig deep to barely scrape by a swarming, heavy-pressure effort from Sergiy Derevyenchenko.
What tends to be overlooked is that no fighter outside of Canelo has withstood the pound of flesh Golovkin’s heavy hands extract for such a brave strategy. Kell Brook’s decline can be traced back to fighting GGG toe to toe and having an orbital bone broken. Derevyenchenko looked disfigured afterward with cut, swollen eyes and hasn’t won a fight since.
Murata can now be added to the list. He found early success using his height to work behind digging right hands to the body, quick 2-3 punch combinations and bullying inside which kept Golovkin on the backfoot. The fight was give and take until the fifth when it became noticeable that Murata’s lack of head movement and the repeated left hooks and right hands around and through his guard were taking a tool.
The last few rounds turned into a full out assault with GGG’s hard jabs and power shots making Murata stumble into the ropes and return fire with less fequency.
2. AN OPPORTUNISTIC PREDATOR
In his younger years, Golovkin’s chin gave him full confidence to pressure opponents and take their best shots. He could even trade with them knowing his blows would do immensely more damage, as evident from his memorable KO of Daniel Geale while eating a punch.
Now, Golovkin relies more on parrying and creative counter shots to slow opponents down. It’s a risky strategy, relying on 40 year old reflexes against younger foes, but this is where GGG’s amateur background serves him well. The knockout sequence came from an unorthodox right hook counter over a left hook, completely catching Murata off guard and depositing him in a spin cycle. Outside of moments where Murata was hurt on the ropes, Golovkin confined his work into 15-20 second spurts of effective punching.
While Murata isn’t exactly an athletic spring chicken at 36, the early rounds when both were fresh displayed a sharp contrast — Murata kept a more consistent punchrate over three minutes, but GGG was fighting smarter with less sustained activity.
3. CHANCES OF BEATING CANELO ARE SLIM… BUT THERE’S STILL A CHANCE
Canelo and Golovkin went on divirgent paths after their 2018 rematch. The former has reached his professional apex and physical prime by winning a light-heavyweight title and becoming the first Mexican fighter to be the undisputed super middleweight champion. Golovkin has fought four times in the last four years with long stretches of inactivity between several of them.
The saying goes that aging fighters have one last great performance in them. Golovkin has been itching for a Canelo rematch since 2018 and even had a contractual arrangement until Canelo’s legal severance with Golden Boy. But it’s difficult to imagine today’s Golovkin being able to survive the pace and body shots Canelo set in their 2018 fight.
So what’s GGG’s slim chance? If the Dmitry Bivol fight is rougher than expected and Canelo’s suffers some adverse effects from coming down in weight in September, maybe Golovkin’s pulls off a miracle. And yes, it would be a miracle win because even a 75-80% Canelo should handily defeat this version of GGG.
Nonetheless, stranger things have happened in boxing. All eyes now turn to Canelo vs. Bivol on May 7.