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Golovkin – Murata: GGG’s Last Stand

Image: Golovkin - Murata: GGG’s Last Stand

By Michael Malaszczyk: Do you remember when Gennady Golovkin was taking the sport of boxing by storm?

The year was 2015. The Mayweather-Pacquiao “Fight of the Century” came and went, and disappointed many. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao were looking to retire, and with their retirement came the vacancy of the throne of “Pound for Pound king,” a throne Pacquiao and Mayweather had sort of shared for many years prior to their showdown.

Two fighters emerged as potential successors to this throne: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin.

Canelo made his mark at 154; he was a champion at that weight and despite a sound defeat by Floyd Mayweather, moved up to middleweight and beat Miguel Cotto by decision to claim the WBC and Ring Magazine middleweight titles.

But it was Golovkin who looked primed to take the number one spot.

Gennady Golovkin was an exciting and explosive knockout artist at middleweight, and in the early 2010s, was avoided by the big names in the division such as Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez. Nevertheless, Golovkin won the WBA “Regular” belt as well as the minor IBO belt in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and fought his way through the ranks at middleweight. He picked up some notable wins against respected contenders in Gabriel Rosado, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, and Marco Antonio Rubio. Somewhere in this time, he was elevated to WBA Super champion as opposed to Regular.

2015 was his best year in the sport to this date. He decimated worthy contenders Martin Murray (who, arguably, should’ve been a world champion more than once in his career) and Willie Monroe Jr., before being placed in a title unification with the hard-hitting David Lemieux.

While Golovkin was the favorite, many felt Lemieux would be a hard test for him. It was anything but. Golovkin vs. Lemieux was a one-sided beatdown that saw Golovkin claim the IBF middleweight title.

Image: Golovkin - Murata: GGG’s Last Stand

A Canelo-Golovkin showdown was imminent. But then Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya poured cold water on this fight, saying it needed to “marinate”.

In the meantime, Golovkin fought a brave-but-overmatched Kell Brook and the crafty Daniel Jacobs. He won both, finally forcing the fight with Canelo to materialize for September 2017.

Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin was a competitive affair which saw Golovkin walking Canelo down for the majority of the fight. Canelo did some crisp work from the outside and landed some nice power shots, but was ultimately out-landed by Golovkin in 10 out of 12 rounds. Most scored the bout for Golovkin. The judges saw it differently, and it was scored a draw.

This draw included one of the most outrageous scorecards in boxing history; judge Adelaide Byrd scored the bout 118-110 (10 rounds to 2) for Canelo. Golovkin and many boxing fans felt cheated by this, and a rematch was set for the following spring, later pushed back to the fall when Canelo failed a drug test.

The rematch was a much closer affair. While Golovkin still outlanded Canelo, landing a trademark power jab for every round of the fight, Canelo fought much of the rematch on the front foot while Golovkin circled. Canelo landed many eye-catching body shots and forced Golovkin to fight his fight for the first half. A late-rounds surge by Golovkin leveled the playing field.

Many also scored this fight for Golovkin, though agreed that it was close. When Canelo was announced the winner via majority decision, there was disappointment but not much outrage on Golovkin’s behalf.

And then Golovkin’s career took a turn. While he had every right to feel slighted by the Canelo fights, he did not make the best decisions following the second Canelo fight.

He sacked longtime trainer Abel Sanchez and fought Steve Rolls in 2019, while Canelo fought a unification bout against the aforementioned Daniel Jacobs. He then took a bigger step in fighting for the IBF title (vacated by Canelo) against Sergiy Derevyanchenko, and won a very close decision; many felt he looked as though he looked aged in the fight with Derevyanchenko.

Rather than seeking unification against Jermall Charlo or Demetrius Andrade, which would enhance his legacy, he seemed content to sit on a belt and wait for Canelo, while Canelo had other plans.

In defense of Golovkin, Canelo did say to “get a belt” for the trilogy, which he did. And while Canelo himself seemed to have other plans, Oscar De La Hoya always seemed to hang the trilogy fight over Golovkin. At least until Canelo sacked De La Hoya in 2020.

Golovkin fought an extremely overmatched Kamil Szeremata in 2020, and continued to insist that he was “ready for Canelo”. Canelo once again had other plans, fighting (and beating) Callum Smith in 2020, then Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant in 2021 to become undisputed champion at super middleweight.

At no point during this time did Canelo seem interested in a fight with Golovkin. Meanwhile, another fight for Golovkin materialized; Ryota Murata.

Murata holds the WBA middleweight belt, also by way of Canelo vacating. This fight is GGG’s last stand.

For the first time in three years, Canelo seems interested in a trilogy match with Golovkin. It was somewhat out of the blue, but appears to have been agreed upon that Golovkin and Canelo will fight for a third time this fall, provided they get past Dmitry Bivol and Ryota Murata.

Murata may not be the most decorated champion in the sport, but he is no easy match. He is taller than Golovkin, and possesses some power. This fight is an absolute must-win for Golovkin for a few reasons.

First, he needs to secure that Canelo trilogy. Secondly, he needs to stake his claim as an all-time great middleweight by becoming a two-time unified middleweight champion. No doubt Golovkin was stiffed by boxing from years 2010-2015, and then unlucky from years 2016-2018. His activity from 2019-2021 was disappointing, though, and a potential stain on his career.

Against Murata, he has a chance to wash away that stain of inactivity, and any doubts about his legacy. While Murata wouldn’t be the greatest win of all time, any middleweight who is able to become a unified champion at the age of 40 certainly has a claim to greatness in the rich history of the 160-lb division.

While many are shrugging this fight off, Murata is a good fighter, and Golovkin has aged. This is truly his last stand. If he loses this fight, surely his career has come to an end. Will he make it? We will know soon.

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