Gennady Golovkin stopped Japan’s Ryota Murata on Saturday to add the WBA middleweight title to his IBF belt and home in on a potentially career-defining third fight against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Kazakh star “GGG” Golovkin, who turned 40 on Friday, downed Murata in the ninth round in Saitama, north of Tokyo, to claim a technical knockout win in his first fight in 16 months and take his record to 42-1-1, with 37 KOs.
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The hard-hitting Golovkin had been hailed as the biggest name to enter a ring in Japan since heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who was knocked out in Tokyo by 40-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas in one of boxing’s biggest upsets in 1990.
But 2012 London Olympics gold medallist Murata could not pull off the same trick against Golovkin, who proved his punches have not lost any of their ferocious power even past his 40th birthday.
Golovkin will now turn his attention towards a potential third crack at pound-for-pound king Alvarez in a blockbuster trilogy fight later this year, having pushed the Mexican all the way in two previous epic encounters.
Murata made an aggressive start to the fight and rocked Golovkin with several big body shots in the early rounds.
The Kazakh looked in trouble but he steadied the ship and gradually took control as the match wore on.
Golovkin sent Murata’s mouthguard flying early in the sixth round and the Japanese fighter showed heart as he hung on in the face of a fierce attack.
There was no way back when Golovkin finally sent him to the canvass in the ninth round, however, as Murata’s corner threw in the towel to end the fight.
In a classy act after the fight, Golovkin gave his blue and gold robe to Murata in a sign of respect.
The all-conquering Alvarez, having last year unified the four super-middleweight belts in just 11 months, will move up to light-heavyweight to challenge undefeated WBA champion Dmitry Bivol on May 7.
If he wins, a September trilogy fight with Golovkin could smash box office and pay-per-view records.
Their first fight, in September 2017, saw the Kazakh give an inspired performance, with many believing he had won, only for the judges to declare the bout a split draw.
The rematch eight months later was postponed after Alvarez tested positive for a banned substance.
When it eventually took place in September 2018, Alvarez battled to victory by majority decision after a pulsating contest.
Golovkin recently said his rivalry with Alvarez was not “the only thing that characterises my career”, and that he was not “bothered by the results in the first two fights”.