After 16 months out of the ring and at age 40, there were a lot of questions surrounding Gennadiy Golovkin ahead of his middleweight title unification bout with Ryota Murata in Saitama, Japan on Saturday.
Since suffering a majority decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in September 2018, Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) hasn’t looked like the same fighter who rose to the top of the pound list for book and established itself as one. of the most dangerous punchers in boxing.
And early on, before scoring a ninth-round TKO to win a second 160-pound title, Golovkin was lending a lot of credit to those doubters who claim a third fight with Alvarez, scheduled for Sept. 17, is far past its sell-by date. .
Murata was landing at will through the first four rounds and controlling the action as an aggressor. Golovkin’s legs seemed stiffer as he moved around the ring, but he was long considered a slow starter.
Suddenly, on round 5, Golovkin sent Murata’s mouthpiece flying with his signature right hand, and all those memories of GGG’s greatest hits came to mind. The impressive offensive attack started to flow, looping right hands mixed with feints and patient uppercuts.
Clearly, it wasn’t the old GGG but an older, more stationary version of the man who became one of boxing’s top stars during his torrid middleweight title run.
After this performance, it’s hard to believe Golovkin has a realistic chance of defeating Alvarez, who is peaking and is currently ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter by ESPN. But Golovkin ensured the fight had a conclusive ending and in doing so showed just enough to maintain a glimmer of hope that he can fight Alvarez on even terms a third time and be competitive with boxing’s top star.
Power is still very real and, as the saying in boxing goes, that attribute is the last to erode. Golovkin’s chin is also able to withstand heavy punches. Murata is a terrific puncher who has connected a lot, but GGG has never faltered.
There’s also another factor that could help even out what Father Time took home: competitive vitriol.
Golovkin told ESPN it was “not personal” between him and Alvarez, but their rivalry and distaste for each other is well documented. GGG was bitter after his first meeting with Alvarez – a fight against Golovkin and the majority of the public seemed to believe he had won – was declared a draw. A highly controversial 118-110 scorecard from Judge Adalaide Byrd in favor of Alvarez only added fuel to the fire.
When Alvarez tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol ahead of the second fight, which was postponed as a result, the feud reached a new level. Alvarez blamed the spoiled meat, but Golovkin didn’t believe him.
Time and time again in sports, the cliché is repeated that when there is a rivalry, you can throw the record books out the window. And that’s certainly true in boxing.
Look no further than Juan Manuel Marquez’s four fights with Manny Pacquiao or Tyson Fury’s trilogy with Deontay Wilder.
Marquez was 38 and had recently been dropped by Michael Katsidis in a win when he met Pacquiao for a third time, but it was his best performance against the legend, a controversial decision loss for Marquez. Of course, Marquez knocked him out in the fourth encounter.
Wilder was counted out ahead of his third fight with Fury after being roughed up in the second encounter. The American was knocked out in the battle of the trilogy, but not before knocking out Fury twice in one of the biggest fights in heavyweight championship history.
Golovkin will now be looking to add to that long list of aging underdogs looking for a last hurrah, and maybe the extra 8 pounds for the super middleweight bout will help him.
After all, Golovkin has been fighting at 160 pounds for most of his career, and it sure must be tougher than ever at 40.
Towards the end of his career, if Golovkin still has a big fight in him, he will have to materialize later this year to ward off Alvarez, who is better – and more active – than ever.