By: Hector Franco
The return of one of boxing’s most prominent stars Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs), is finally set to take place this upcoming December 29 at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The former unified and current IBF middleweight champion will face WBA middleweight titleholder Ryota Murata (16-2, 13 KOs) in a unification match in his first fight of 2021.
In Golovkin’s previous bout, he stopped mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta after seven rounds in which he scored four knockdowns.
When Murata steps in the ring with Golovkin, it will have been two years since he last fought, scoring a fifth-round stoppage over Steven Butler.
While Golovkin-Murata is an intriguing match that will take place in a unique setting that could end up being action-packed, many fans are wondering what will be next for the Kazakhstani power puncher should he get past the Japanese titleholder.
Over the last half-decade, Golovkin’s name has been attached to rival Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs).
The two men faced off twice in highly successful fights at the box office, with each selling over one million in PPV buys. The two Canelo-GGG fights are only behind Floyd Mayweather’s fights with Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor as the top-grossing live gates in Nevada boxing history.
The scoring of both fights were controversial, especially their first encounter in September 2017, where judge Adalaide Byrd inexplicably produced a score of 118-110 for Alvarez, resulting in a split decision draw.
Most fans and observers felt that Golovkin had done enough to earn a decision over Alvarez in their first fight.
The second fight was less successful on PPV and at the live gate, but resulted in less controversy, with Alvarez pulling out a tightly contested majority decision victory.
There were several members of the media who scored the fight for Golovkin, but with the fight being so close and filled with two-way action, there was no feeling of any foul play at hand.
Out of their two fights, the second match justifiably had more of a reason to be declared a draw.
After their second meeting, Golovkin and Alvarez’s careers have taken different paths.
Alvarez has ascended as the top fighter in boxing, pound-for-pound, essentially carrying the sport on his back with his level of activity and box-office prowess.
Since fighting Golovkin, Alvarez has won titles at super middleweight and light heavyweight, becoming a four-division champion.
In 2019, he defended his middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs and moved up to light heavyweight, stopping Sergey Kovalev for the WBO 175-pound title.
Over the last year, Alvarez has fought four times, putting his stamp at super middleweight, holding wins over undefeated fighters Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant en route to becoming the undisputed champion in the weight class.
The Saunders fight in May 2021 set an in-door boxing attendance record with 73, 126 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Earlier this month, Alvarez’s match with Plant for the undisputed 168-pound crown sold an estimated 800,000 buys on PPV.
Conversely, Golovkin has fallen out of the boxing spotlight.
In the three fights since facing Alvarez, Golovkin hasn’t looked like the same fighter that ran through the middleweight division through most of the 2010s. The Kazakhstani fighter’s outings against Steve Rolls and Szeremeta were quick and dominant, but weren’t good barometers to tell how much he has left.
The fight that put fans and pundits on notice that Golovkin may be past his prime came in October 2019 against Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
The match with the Ukrainian that took place at Madison Square Garden was a war that saw Golovkin at times outworked and hurt from punches to the body. The Kazakhstani was fortunate to escape with a unanimous decision victory. A knockdown in the first round being one of the differences on the judge’s scorecards.
At that time, it was reported that Golovkin was sick heading into the fight with Derevyanchenko. But it could be that the Ukrainian was more motivated and better than expected. Or maybe, Golovkin isn’t the same fighter he used to be.
Regardless, Golovkin still represents the most significant payday for Alvarez and vice versa. A third fight between the two pugilists would still make for a massive event for the sport.
Alvarez, for his part, has stated that he is willing to face Golovkin in a third fight despite any past hatred and hostility he held towards the IBF middleweight champion.
“I would love the fight with GGG; why not?” Alvarez said to ESPN after the fight with Caleb Plant. “If he’s open to come up to 168, I’m ready. Always.”
Clearly, at this point, Alvarez doesn’t necessarily need to face Golovkin.
But does Golovkin need Alvarez to get his career back on track?
Obviously, from a monetary standpoint, Alvarez would be the biggest fight that Golovkin could take, along with settling a score against a fighter he may feel he bested twice.
However, in the middleweight division, there are plenty of fights available to Golovkin that would further establish him as the premier middleweight of this era.
While Murata holds a middleweight title, a victory over him won’t be a noteworthy accomplishment for Golovkin as the Japanese fighter is tailor-made for the Kazakhstani puncher.
Fights against fighters in the middleweight division that Alvarez did not face before moving up to super middleweight are available such as WBO titleholder Demetrius Andrade (30-0, 18 KOs), which would be an anticipated and challenging fight for Golovkin.
Andrade, who defends his WBO title on November 19 against Jason Quigley, has been asking for a notable fight for years. He would jump at the opportunity to fight Golovkin.
“If you have a belt at 160 or 168 lbs., let’s go,” said Andrade. “Put the politics aside, have your people call Eddie. Let’s get down to business. Charlo, stop running your mouth, making up excuse after excuse. You’re a fighter; let’s fight, bro.
“GGG, where you at? Unify against Murata, and then let’s put the three belts on the line next year.”
Andrade, who at times, fights to his level of competition, has had inconsistent performances. But if he were to face Golovkin, he would likely be at his best.
With Andrade being promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and fighting exclusively on DAZN, a fight between Golovkin and the Providence, Rhode Island fighter would seemingly be one of the easiest to make.
On the sidelines in the Premier Boxing Champions stable is former 154-pound champion and current WBC middleweight titleholder Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs).
The Texas native could be headed up to the super middleweight division to face David Benavidez or Alvarez, but should he continue his stay at middleweight, a fight with Golovkin would be significant for both men.
Similar to a fight with Andrade, Golovkin would be facing an undefeated fighter whom many feel deserves a major bout, and Charlo would get the opportunity to firmly prove himself as an elite fighter.
“I’ll take that Triple-G fight,” Charlo stated on an episode of “The Last Stand Podcast” earlier this year. I just, you know, if it presents itself. The management team makes the right calls and right decisions; I’ll fight Triple-G. I want to unify like my brother did at 160. At least let me unify. At least let me capture the division.
“It doesn’t matter who got the belt or nothing, no network. Like, we can make it happen. They are going to make it happen.”
This past weekend Tijuana, Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (38-0, 30 KOs), defeated contender Gabriel Rosado in one of the best performances of his career and one of the best fights of 2021. Munguia is currently the number one contender for both the WBC and WBO middleweight titles.
Ironically, before Golovkin’s second fight with Alvarez, the Nevada State Athletic Commission denied the upcoming Mexican star as a replacement to face the Kazakhstani technician. At that time, Munguia was 21 and had yet to be scheduled for a 12-round match.
Three years later, Munguia could potentially be next in line to face Golovkin in a fight that would surely provide fireworks however long it lasted.
“I would love that fight with Gennadiy Golovkin,” Munguia said to DAZN’s Chris Mannix. “It would be a great fight, one that the public would really enjoy. I’m very excited about possibly getting that fight next.”
A fight with former two-time junior middleweight champion Erislandy Lara (28-3-3, 16 KOs) would be something that Golovkin could pursue as well.
Lara moved up to middleweight earlier this year, scoring a first-round knockout over Thomas Lamanna to win a version of the WBA middleweight title.
Many may remember back when Golovkin was running through the middleweight division at his best, Lara asked for a fight with the Kazakhstani. Although how serious Lara was about fighting Golovkin without moving up to middleweight until 2021 is questionable.
At almost 40 years of age, with over 300 amateur fights and 40 plus professional fights, the end of Golovkin’s career is right around the corner.
Golovkin, who was a legitimate draw in both the east and west coasts of the United States fighting over three times per year in 2013, 2014, and 2015 has lost much of the mystique that surrounded him before his fights with Alvarez.
But, Alvarez may just be one chapter in the storied career of Gennadiy Golovkin.
Closing out 2021, should he come out victorious against Murata, there are a plethora of options available for GGG to pick up his career where he left off, whether it is against Andrade, Charlo, Munguia, or Lara.
He can once again prove to be the best middleweight in the world, and a fight with Alvarez isn’t needed to make that a reality.
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