December 18, 2020. 

That was the last time that Gennadiy Golovkin laced up his gloves and fought professionally, and while time away from the ring can be a bonus in a sport as physically demanding as boxing, the Kazakhstan ace could have picked an easier opponent in his comeback fight. 

In the most popular boxing betting markets, the man known as Triple G is a 1/8 sure thing according to the bookies in his upcoming bout against Ryota Murata on April 9. The Japanese star is considered to be nothing more than a 4/1 outsider.

But one fight in the best part of two and a half years is not ideal preparation for a bout against the WBA middleweight champion.

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Of course, the mitigating factor is that Murata has faced just as long on the sidelines given that the duo’s initial date was scrapped, but the Japanese technician is three years younger than Golovkin and will surely find it much easier to return to his fighting weight. The most knowledgeable boxing preview columns will also note that the underdog won WBA middleweight gold against Rob Brant after nine months out of the ring – and without a warm-up fight first. 

Golovkin will also have to overcome a partisan crowd of 36,000 fans in Saitama, so could ring rust and home comforts see Murata spring an almighty upset?

Class is Permanent

The elephant in the room, as far as Japanese supporters are concerned, is that while Murata enjoyed a fine amateur career that yielded an Olympic gold medal and a World Championship silver, his stint as a professional has been less decorated.

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The 36-year-old has only had 18 fights – he turned pro way back in 2013, and he is yet to beat an opponent that we might regard as world-class. Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam is perhaps the best name on Murata’s CV, and he only beat the Cameroon fighter five months after losing their initial contest.

With two defeats against good but not great opponents, you have to wonder if Murata – who has not been busy at all in recent years – still has the qualities to step up in grade and trouble Golovkin.

At 39, you suspect the best days of his career are behind GGG, but the hard-hitting middleweight was once upon a time ranked among the best pound-for-pound pugilists in the business, and while hand speed slows and reactions diminish, innate ability can live on for boxers well into their forties.

If nothing else, Golovkin looks in excellent shape – as evidenced by posts shared on social media, and the suggestion is that he still craves a trilogy fight with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who handed the Kazakh the sole blemishes on his record.

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To fulfil that ambition, he simply cannot afford to lose to Murata, who he won’t be taking lightly. That motivation should be enough to see him through against a fighter who hasn’t exactly gone above and beyond to remain busy in recent years.

The fight is being billed as ‘Big Drama in Japan’, but Golovkin will be hoping that there is little action forthcoming from his opponent – and his ambitions of a legacy contest with Canelo remain alive and well.