After an absence of well over a year, this Saturday sees the long-awaited return of Gennady Golovkin. The Kazakh tries to make one more climb towards a trilogy match with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, or other defining fights, as he travels to the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, to take on Ryota Murata in a middleweight unification clash.
Golovkin vs Murata was due to take place last December, but COVID-19 complications caused a postponement. DAZN televise live.
Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) is a middleweight monster, and after becoming world champion in 2010, he was introduced to a wider audience in 2012 for a USA debut, and he went on a run of devastating knockout wins.
The likes of respected operators in Matthew Macklin (KO3), Daniel Geale (TKO3) and Martin Murray (TKO11) were all vanquished, and he would ascend to hold WBC, WBA ‘super’ and IBF belts.
A competitive points win over Daniel Jacobs signalled his first distance contest in some 23 outings, and that victory lead to a super fight with Canelo.
In a match that many observers had ‘GGG’ as a winner, the bout was called a draw, so a rematch was a natural.
The rematch took place in September 2018, and Canelo, who steps up to light heavyweight to face WBA champion, Dmitry Bivol on May 7, got the nod in another tight fight to hand Golovkin a first defeat.
Since then, he has been on the Mexican’s tail without getting him into the ring, and after knocking out Steve Rolls in four, he then regained a world title with a close points win over Sergey Derevyanchenko to take the IBF crown.
The man from Karaganda was last seen in December 2020, forcing Kamil Szeremeta to retire after seven one-sided rounds.
The 39-year-old, who will be 40-years-old by the time he steps into the ring, now travels to the Far East in search of more gold, and WBA (Super) champion Murata (16-2, 13 KOs) stands in the way of a trilogy with Canelo slated for September if both win their respective, upcoming fights.
The Tokyo resident failed in his first world title tilt, back in May 2017, when Hasan N’Dam N’Jikam caused an upset, outscoring the 36-year-old in his backyard via split decision to win the vacant WBA strap.
Murata would become world champion in a rematch five months later, forcing the Cameroonian to retire after seven.
After a maiden defence, he lost his title via wide decision to Rob Brant, this time in Las Vegas, but again found redemption in a rematch, stopping the American in two rounds in Osaka.
Murata was last out in December 2019, and stopped Steven Butler in five.
Prediction: Both are coming off lay-offs, but Golovkin still retains an aura about him, and is a top level competitor, with plenty of ambition left. Murata will definitely feel his over two-year absence, and I expect ‘GGG’ to strike early with spiteful shots, eventually forcing a stoppage or retirement around halfway.
Nakatani defends world title
Another world title bout heads the undercard. Junto Nakatani defends his WBO flyweight title for a second time, with the inexperienced Ryota Yamauchi the man in the opposite corner.
Nakatani (22-0, 17 KOs) won the vacant belt in November 2020, knocking out Giemel Magramo in eight in Japan, and then travelled to the USA for his first defence, stopping Angel Acosta in four.
Yamauchi (8-1, 7 KOs) gets this opportunity as a WBO Asia Pacific champion, with his last defence in June last year, a seventh round stoppage of Yuta Nakayama.
Prediction: However, he is in deep water here, and I expect Nakatani to retain via stoppage.
There’s a big test at lightweight for Shuichiro Yoshino (14-0, 11 KOs), as the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF belts are on the line against Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15 KOs), a former WBO world champion at super featherweight.
Ito has lost two of his last four, but is still a high level operator, but is coming off a win.
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Prediction: Yoshino is the fresher man though, and can take a points win over twelve.
At super bantamweight, Kazuki Anaguchi (1-0, 1 KO) can score a points win over six against Ryuji Yamamoto (6-1, 6 KOs), and at welterweight, in a battle of debutants, Hiroka Amaki can defeat Taiga Kato.