While GGG’s titles may not be in danger on Saturday night, his stoppage streak could be.
Gennady Golovkin returns to Monte Carlo this weekend for his first fight of 2015. It comes off the back of another astonishing year for the world’s top middleweight. The Kazakh KO kingpin hasn’t put a foot wrong since being first introduced as a potential hot property to HBO audiences back at the tail end of 2012. Eight fights and eight KOs later bring his undefeated run to 31 with the last 18 straight all ending inside the distance.
When a boxer turns in consecutive performances of the calibre Golovkin has for the past two plus years now, people start to take notice. Early doubters have gently quieted themselves and opponents have become hard to come by. It seems that the better and more ambitious the opposition, the quicker and more brutally he dispatches of them. There is no longer any questioning that the guy is a special talent. It’s been a matter of trying to find somebody who is truly capable of testing out just how good he actually is. Matthew Macklin couldn’t do it; neither could Geale or Rubio – all of them good quality middleweights in their own right. Martin Murray is next up to play his cards.
Murray, like Golovkin, has fought 31 times, but is without the unblemished record of the champion. From his eight year pro career, the St Helens man has one loss and one draw to go with his 29 wins. Tellingly, both setbacks came in world title fights, but equally significant is the fact that both were close and controversially scored bouts. In his first fight at world level, Murray went to Germany to face Felix Sturm. He surprised me and surprised a lot of people with how competitive he was that night. The judges gave it a split draw. His next big opportunity would come 16 months later in Argentina against then lineal champion Sergio Martinez. Murray was again largely unfavoured going into the fight. This time Martinez took a unanimous decision, but one many felt he was lucky to get. Murray has put together four wins since then against tough trial-horse type opponents to ready himself for this shot.
The challenger has been perennially underrated in the division and it’s easy to make sense of why. Nothing Murray does looks spectacular. There is no one part of his game that you can point to and say that’s where the danger is. He is just incredibly solid. He’s a big, strong middleweight. He boxes better than people think. His jab is good. He fights well at close quarters – especially for a lengthy fighter. He knows how to use the body shot to create openings up top and vice-versa, and his defensively skills are tight.
Above all though, Murray is just a guy with a work ethic that defines him. He never stood out as a major threat on his way up in the sport. When he won PrizeFighter in 2008, he only just edged past Cello Renda in the final. After that, he was seen as a trailing forth place behind Andy Lee, Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin in a strong division domestically. He never separated himself from the pack, but he just stayed on his grind and kept continuing to improve. The amount at which he had came on only really started to sink in for most people in the Sturm fight and then even more so when he pushed Martinez to his limits. Having gone into the lion’s den twice and survived both times, a match up on neutral ground won’t faze Murray – even if it’s against somebody as scary as Golovkin.
No boxer, no matter how good, can shine in every fight. No puncher, no matter how powerful, can knockout everyone put in front of him. Eventually they will come up against a style match up that’s awkward or an opponent that is just too tough. Deontay Wilder found that guy in Bermane Stiverne last month. Keith Thurman met him in Leonard Bundu before that. Golovkin has set the bar high for himself. The fans have come to expect and he has made his name off exceeding those expectations, but surely he can’t keep doing it every time he fights. At some point, there has to be somebody who can make him at least look human again. Trying to find that guy has almost become a game at this point, so could it be Murray?
The British fighter has made himself a handful for everybody he’s ever been in the ring with. I said from the opening line that I don’t believe he can win this bout. That’s not because he isn’t good enough to take a world title because I think that he is good enough – just not against GGG. He doesn’t have the power to hurt Golovkin, nor the skills to outbox him. What he might be able to do though is take him some rounds. Murray is tough on a whole different level. I have never seen him really troubled in any fight he’s ever been in. Maybe he can surprise everybody again and extend Golovkin the distance.
The difference in one shot power will become obvious when they trade. That will accumulate as the rounds wear by and Golovkin will gradually break Murray down. There will come a time in this fight where Martin Murray, as durable as he is, will have to decide whether he want to go for broke or just go the distance. With the fight gone and the pressure mounting, I think the corner will take that decision out of their fighter’s hands. Golovkin will be made to work for it, and might even be taken deeper that he’s ever had to go before, but ultimately he will keep the KO streak in tact.
Prediction: Golovkin by 10th round corner stoppage