What is a full day and night of boxing on Saturday begins for American fans in the early morning when Gennadiy Golovkin faces Ryoto Murata at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. While Murata is a relatively unknown boxer to many fans outside of his home country, Golovkin in years past had been cultivated into a world-wide brand.
But as he comes into this unification bout, the reality is that he is the mystery man.
Just what version of 'GGG' exists in 2022? Who, and what is he as a fighter nowadays?
The fact of the matter is that he hasn't been seen since December of 2020, where he pummeled his IBF mandatory, Kamil Szermeta, in seven rounds inside a Matchroom Sports bubble in Hollywood, Florida. Prior to that, he faced Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October of 2019, where he struggled mightily in getting a disputed split decision.
While there is a lot on the line this weekend, as this contest is a unification tilt(with Murata coming in as the WBA champion), for Golovkin this is his final hurdle he has to get past before getting his long-awaited third bout with arch-rival, Canelo Alvarez (who still has to get through a formidable challenge in WBA light heavyweight titlist, Dmitry Bivol, next month)
A few years ago, Golovkin would've been favored to not just defeat Murata, but defeat him in conclusive fashion. Now, there are more than a few pundits who believe that the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Japan will pose more than a few problems for him with his size and activity.
While still being ranked as the top middleweight in the world by Ring Magazine, there is still an uncertainty to what Golovkin brings to the table at this juncture. Back during his run as one of the most feared fighters in the sport, he was kept busy and seemed to be unbothered by the business aspect of the sport. He filled arenas on both coasts, and was the rare boxer with corporate sponsorships that ranged from the Jordan Brand to Samsung.
But since signing a highly lucrative contract with DAZN, he has certainly put on his business hat like many other boxers of the past who have earned such leverage. Since losing a split decision to Alvarez in 2018, he has performed just three times, and he was idle for all of '21.
The bottom line is that Golovkin-Murata was going to take place before anything else short of another crack at Canelo, given that this represents an eight-figure payday. So regardless of the Covid regulations in Japan, or how many postponements this event had to get through, this fight was always going to happen.
You wonder -- or at least I have -- is Golovkin simply boxing to play out the rest of his pact with DAZN?
In talking to his trainer, Johnathan Banks, last month, he swears that he has a boxer that is still incredibly passionate about the sport, and one that he actually has to pull back from over-training in the gym. Golovkin isn't just doing this for the money. As you see footage of Golovkin, he certainly looks the part.
On the flip side, is Golovkin like that classic old car that looks pristine in the showroom but not necessarily meant to be taken out on road trips? How will his engine rev this upcoming weekend? While he is still the top rated fighter at 160 by Ring, you wonder if that's more about the inaction of the rest of the division, or an emeritus status given to him.
The day before (April 8) his assignment versus Murata, Golovkin turns 40 years old. Logic dictates that fighters who are at this age are generally at the twilight of their careers. Many questions will be answered this Saturday. The expectation isn't that we will see the Golovkin of old that rampaged through the middleweight division, the hope is that it isn't an old Golovkin.
It's not just if he wins this fight, but how he does so versus Murata that will really matter, here. A vintage stoppage will whet the appetite for his upcoming bout against Canelo. If he struggles and squeaks by him, well, that fight in September will be looked upon as a brutal, ritual sacrifice that has been seen all-too-often in this game.
But if Father Time doesn't catch up to Golovkin, he'll finally get the bout he's been yearning for.
This past week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule on Triller, Mario Lopez and I discussed everything going on in boxing:
On that card in Japan is the talented WBO flyweight champion, Junto Nakatani, who faces countrymen, Ryoto Yamauchi....While there is a lot of discussion over Golovkin's recent inactivity, Murata hasn't boxed since stopping Stephen Butler in five back in December of 2019....In addition to the (very) early morning show on Saturday, DAZN, later that night has coverage of Ryan Garcia's return versus Emmanuel (for here or) Tagoe from San Antonio. While ESPN has a card featuring Mikaela Mayer from Costa Mesa, California, and Showtime has a card that his headlined by a very interesting junior middleweight contest between Erickson Lubin and Sebastian Fundora....I'll have more on this cards later this week....Finally, no i am not leaving the boxing beat for the WNBA, as I tweeted out on Friday. April Fools!!!.... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....