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Gennadiy Golovkin has a fight coming up. And, for the 39-year-old IBF middleweight champion, it’s a big one. He’ll face WBA titlist Ryota Murata in a unification battle Dec. 29 on Murata’s home turf of Saitama, Japan.
It’ll be “GGG’s” first fight in more than a year. A fight that will determine whether one of the most dominant middleweights in boxing history stays relevant in a division he once ruled with iron fists — or not.
Still — as vital as the battle is, as near as it is — it’s impossible to talk Golovkin without talking about his fierce rival, undisputed super middleweight king Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Despite two close, controversial and entertaining battles, their careers have gone on divergent paths. Canelo is recognized as the best fighter in boxing, and GGG has become something of the forgotten man.
Yet, many believe GGG beat Canelo both times, and that the Mexican champion’s climbing weight divisions is simply a tactic to avoid his toughest opponent.
“I’m not going to claim that this is the primary reason of him changing weight divisions,” Golovkin said from his training camp in Florida. “But, at the same time, this argument probably holds some water. It’s no secret that he was not willing to give me a third fight, even though he had certain obligations with DAZN and went the other way. It all probably supports the point of view that (he is avoiding me). But I wouldn’t sign my name to this argument that I am the reason for him jumping (weight divisions).”
As much as he can, GGG, 41-1-1 (36 KO’s), of Kazakhstan, is trying to move on from Canelo, after the 2017 draw and the 2018 split decision in favor of Alvarez. He’s fought three times since, stopping the outmatched Steve Rolls (KO 4) and Kamil Szeremeta (TKO 7) and taking a hard-earned decision over Sergiy Derevyenchenko for the vacant IBF crown in 2019 in a fight where he looked like an aging fighter.
The Murata fight
The Murata fight has been in the planning stages for some time. But, due to COVID-19, was delayed for months. It was officially announced in early November.
“Gennadiy Golovkin has long been the standard bearer of the middleweight division,” Murata said. “To me, he is still undefeated. I have the highest respect for him.”
Murata, 16-2 (13 KO’s), is a two-time WBA middleweight champion who has made four defenses over those reigns. When he steps in the ring on Dec. 29, it will have been more than two years since he fought, a fifth-round TKO of Steven Butler on Dec. 23, 2019.
“I feel that my entire amateur and professional boxing career has been in preparation for this fight,” Murata said. “This fight will determine my place in the middleweight division and boxing history.”
GGG is taking the Japanese champion seriously.
“He should never be underestimated,” Golovkin said of Murata. “He is a national hero, a true legend in his country. This is going to be a clash of two heroes of their countries. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Golovkin, who has fought in eight countries professionally, is excited about fighting in his ninth as a professional (although he did fight in Japan as an amateur). He said he had a lot of respect for Japan and its people, and that this would be a high-level event between two opponents that respect one another.
“There is a level of attention to the sport of boxing in Japan and a high level of organization,” he said. “Many countries can learn from Japan from an organizational point of view, and for its ability to bring attention to the action. If we were to organize this event in the United States, I don’t believe we would get as much hype about this event.”
Options for GGG
With a host of talent in the middleweight division, including WBC champ Jermall Charlo, WBO titlist Demetrius Andrade, Mexican puncher Jaime Munguia and former opponent Derevyenchenko, there will be plenty of options for GGG should he defeat Murata.
But, for now, he’s focused on the task at hand.
“I don’t think we should jump ahead and try to predict what is going to happen. I’m fully concentrated on the fight in front of me,” he said. “We will cross the bridge when we come to it. I am very comfortable with my current position and very confident that any decision I make is going to be the right decision.”
As for ever moving up to super middleweight, GGG said he doubts it.
“I don’t want to say, yes, I’m willing to move up weight divisions because some boxers will immediately start challenging me and use my name to promote themselves through me, and I don’t want to give them that opportunity,” he said. “At some point, if the market is right, and the opportunity comes up, we will give it some thought.”
Meanwhile, he said he didn’t even watch Canelo in his Nov. 6 knockout of Caleb Plant to become the undisputed 168-pound champ. He said he was with family at a function in Chicago. He also said he hasn’t given much thought to Canelo’s expected May challenge of WBC cruiserweight titlist Ilunga Makabu.
“I have more important things to worry about and I have more interesting sports to follow, to be honest,” he said. “I’m very comfortable not thinking about him. He can do whatever, to be honest. I couldn’t care less.”
After a boxing career that saw the man from Kazakhstan make a record 21 title defenses at 160 pounds between 2010-2018, and become the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing for almost two years, GGG said he wants people to remember him for the way he played the game: his desire to unify the titles, to prove that he was the best in his weight class.
“There was not a single scandal throughout my career, not a single doping scandal,” he said. “I never tried to hide anything. I am open honest and sincere. I am who you see, and this is the legacy that I want to be remembered by.”
Matthew Aguilar may be reached at email@example.com
@MatthewAguilar5 on Twitter
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Gennadiy Golovkin moving forward, focused on Ryota Murata