A bonanza of sporting action on Saturday started with a bang as Gennadiy Golovkin and Ryota Murata fought a potential Fight of the Year candidate at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
Sports fans around the country will be settling in for a bumper day of football and the Grand National, but the middleweight unification between ‘GGG’ and Murata will have served as a more than adequate appetiser.
It took a while for Golovkin to get going but he delivered in his first boxing match in 16 months, stopping a brave Murata inside nine rounds to pave the way for a third showdown with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez later this year.
In the build-up to the fight, many had suggested that there were age concerns around ‘GGG’, who turned 40 yesterday, but the IBF middleweight world champion proved he’s still a top quality operator at world level as he added Murata’s WBA strap to his collection.
Golovkin opened well, proving he’s lost none of his snap in his advancing age and dominated with that same lethal jab we’ve seen devastate opponents over the years, opening up a cut on the bridge of Murata’s nose. The home fighter wouldn’t be intimidated though and landed a few eye-opening shots of his own.
An already fascinating spectacle, the fight opened up in the third round when Golovkin seemed to wobble Murata. But ‘GGG’ began to struggle to get a footing, with a more energetic Murata finding great success with some stinging body shots and began taking the wind out of the two-time middleweight champion.
The sluggish Golovkin didn’t look comfortable at all and looked to be struggling to find any fluidity, but the ring rust began to shed in the fifth and sixth. He unleashed his best punch of the fight so far with a massive right hand that sent Murata's gumshield flying onto the canvas. It gave Golovkin some much-needed confidence and he started to move much better and find more success with the jab again, picking off Murata with some terrific counters.
The cascade of momentum for Golovkin continued and the end came in the ninth stanza. Murata was rocked by a big right immediately at the start, but recovered and bravely fired back. However, another huge right from the travelling fighter dropped Murata to the canvas and the referee waved off the fight.
"Murata is a true warrior who fought to the very end," Golovkin said.
"He is an Olympic champion, a middleweight champion, and despite what took place in front of his fans, we are extremely happy to have organised this event in Japan."
The curtain hasn't closed on the ‘Big Drama Show’ for Golovkin just yet and he becomes only the second boxer to unify world titles over the age of 40, after Bernard Hopkins. Roll on Canelo!