Gennadiy Golovkin closes in on unification, interim bouts likely scrapped

Gennadiy Golovkin Ryota Murata

Amanda Westcott / Top Rank

While the plan in the works remains for Gennadiy Golovkin and Ryota Murata to meet near the end of the year in a middleweight world title unification fight, the chances of them also participating in interim bouts ahead of their showdown – as has been discussed – has become more remote, a source with knowledge of the situation told World Boxing News.

“It looks more and unlikely based on people needing to be healthy for December and nobody wanting to risk a cut or an injury,” the source said of the proposed interim bouts, which were discussed for a scenario in which the two titleholders would either defend their titles on the same card or fight on the same date from different locations on a split-site show that would be streamed by DAZN, which would carry the unification fight as well.

The camps hoped to hold the interim bouts either in August or early September, but with time running out to arrange them and not a lot of enthusiasm from DAZN, which has an exclusive contract with Golovkin, that plan is likely to be scrapped in favor of going directly to the unification fight.

UNIFICATION

Golovkin, who holds the IBF 160-pound title, and Murata, who has the WBA crown, are in the process of finalizing the unification bout, which would likely take place on Dec. 28 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, just outside of Toyo.

The arena is the same venue where Naoya Inoue defeated Nonito Donaire in a bantamweight unification fight that was widely hailed as the 2019 fight of the year,

The deal for the unification fight is at the stage where the terms have been discussed, and proposals are circulating between the camps for tweaking, the source said.

DAZN had expressed interest in Golovkin first facing WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (30-0, 18 KOs), who is also with DAZN, in a unification fight this summer. However, the GGG camp was not interested and preferred to lock in the plans to fight Murata, the source said.

Besides using potential Golovkin and Murata interim bouts to help hype up the unification showdown, the more practical reason was the issue of ring rust.

Gennadiy Golovkin
Melina Pizano

GOLOVKIN WAIT

By the time December rolls around, Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs), 39, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, will not have fought for one year, since he made the first defense of his second title reign against Polish mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta, whom he knocked down four times en route to a one-sided seventh-round knockout on Dec. 18 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

That fight was his first in 14 months, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Golovkin made 20 successful title defenses in his first title reign before losing his unified belts to Canelo Alvarez by controversial majority decision in their September 2018 rematch of their first even more controversial first fight that ended in a draw.

The 35-year-old Murata (16-2, 13 KOs) Murata will not have boxed for two years come December. Teiken Promotions, Murata’s co-promoter, had hoped for him to have a tune-up fight before facing GGG, who would be by far the toughest opponent of his career.

Murata’s last fight came was when he defended his world title against Canadian Steven Butler on Dec. 23, 2019, in Yokohama, Japan, a fight that Murata, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and Japanese national hero, won by fifth-round knockout in his first defense since regaining the belt by second-round knockout of American Rob Brant in a rematch in July 2019.

Dan Rafael is the lead boxing contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on Twitter @DanRafael1. Dan Rafael is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.