No matter how you slice it, Gennadiy Golovkin had a helluva run.
He was the consensus boogeyman of the middleweight division for several years, titillated premium cable audiences with a prodigious KO streak and earned himself positive mentions in sentences alongside household 160-pound names of the recent past like Hagler and Hopkins.
The numbers may differ depending on one's go-to definition of a legitimate world title.
But they’re prodigious by any measure.
In this space, we’ll go with 21 title fights, 19 wins and 17 KOs – and at least one victory in a championship event in every year from 2011 to 2020.
Still, some would suggest it could have been even better.
Better had Golovkin not gone 0-1-1 in two fights with Canelo Alvarez. Better had he expanded his domain with a jump up to 168 or down to 154. Better had he landed a bigger fish sooner than age 35.
Nevertheless, the affable Kazakh seems completely at ease in his own skin as he approaches birthday No. 40, which will arrive a day before he puts his IBF middleweight strap up for the second time – in a unification bout with reigning WBA claimant Ryota Murata on Saturday night in Japan.
“It’s difficult for me to give you any names or to try to fantasize about what might have happened,” Golovkin told BoxingScene.com. “I’m really happy with my career. I’m very comfortable with my current situation, my current position and I don’t have any regrets.”
Golovkin took time out of his pre-Murata preparation to sit down with BoxingScene to discuss the Murata fight, the challenges of fighting at his advancing age and his reaction to outside perceptions of his career and the fighter with whom he’ll be historically linked – Alvarez.
BoxingScene: How is training going? Similar routine for this guy? Have you changed anything up or is it business as usual?
Gennadiy Golovkin: Indeed. There were some changes and we had to tweak a lot of things. I’m certain that I will be ready when the time comes.
BoxingScene: Certainly 39 years old is different than 29 or 25 or whatever. Do you do anything differently now than you did 10 or even five years ago? How do you make sure it’s all pointed to April 9 and nothing is left in the gym?
Golovkin: Indeed. I had to change quite a few things with age. At the same time I’m trying new things and everything is being done in order to keep the top level of boxing that I’m able to demonstrate.
BoxingScene: Talk about Murata as an opponent. Not a lot of fans are familiar with him. But he’s big in Japan and he’s had a belt for a while. What sort of style does he present and what sort of challenges does he present?
Golovkin: Indeed. I know him personally and at some point in the past we even sparred together. He’s a boxer of high level and his achievements speak for him. He’s a former Olympic champion, he’s the current WBA super champion and it’s for a reason. He really earned what he has.
BoxingScene: How big a deal is it to fight in Japan? You fought at major venues in the U.S. and England. How big of a thrill is it to fight in Japan as opposed to some of the other places you’ve been?
Golovkin: It’s not easy to describe in a few words but it is obviously a challenge to go to another country, to step into foreign territory and to fight away from home. But at the same time, it’s an interesting challenge. But it is a challenge.
BoxingScene: You’ve been around a long time. A ton of title defenses, a big KO streak. You’ve done everything anyone who’s wanted to do this for a living would dream of. What’s the motivation these days? Is it legacy? Is it something else? What gets you up and running and ready to fight these days?
Golovkin: Quite a few factors that can be looked at. Links in a chain. Of course it is my style that I have been leading for a long period of time. That allows me to be active to continue to be able to step out in the ring. It’s the team. It’s the people who surround me who also make everything possible for me to continue.
BoxingScene: Some fighters say they pay no attention to fans and media about rankings and pound-for-pound lists. Others say it matters a lot and it’s important. Where are you on that scale? And historically, in whose company do you belong?
Golovkin: Of course I pay attention to it and it’s natural. I think that people who say they don’t care what other people are saying about them from the professional standpoint are not telling the truth. And there are also people who say that it matters to them a great deal, they are probably also not correct. I think you should find the middle road where you feel comfortable and at the same time you do pay attention to all those ratings and how it plays out in the eyes of the media and the fans.
BoxingScene: You’re a student of the game. When you have big rivalries, you essentially can’t say one fighter’s name without the other – Ali and Frazier, Gatti and Ward, Hearns and Leonard. I imagine you realize you’re probably going to be linked with Canelo in that way, whether you fight again or not. Are you OK with that?
Golovkin: Indeed you’re right that many boxers are characterized by the rivalries they had during their professional career. But at the same time I don’t think that my rivalry with Canelo Alvarez is the only thing that characterizes my career. Just to point out a few things, I am the record holder of the number of defenses, 21 defenses, I have the biggest number of knockouts. And I think there are people who will remember me by that. There are people to whom it would matter more.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/IBO/WBA middleweight titles – Saitama, Japan
Gennadiy Golovkin (IBF/IBO champ/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Ryota Murata (WBA champ/No. 6 IWBR)
Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KO): Second title defense; Won 19 of 21 career title bouts (19-1-1, 17 KO)
Murata (16-2, 13 KO): First title defense; Avenged both career losses with KO victories
Fitzbitz says: Golovkin will be 40 on fight night, which presents the possibility that he’ll suddenly turn into a 40-year-old overnight. But Murata’s not in his league. Not at 30, 35 or 40. Golovkin in 10 (95/5)
WBO flyweight title – Saitama, Japan
Junto Nakatani (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Ryota Yamauchi (No. 2 WBO/No. 31 IWBR)
Nakatani (22-0, 17 KO): Second title defense; Five straight victories by KO (28 total rounds)
Yamauchi (8-1, 7 KO): First title fight; KO wins in two of three career 12-round bouts (2-1, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Nakatani appears to be the real deal. He’s tall and strong. He’s a southpaw. He knocks people out. And he’s handled some decent competition. This one looks routine. Nakatani in 7 (95/5)
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Meenayothin)
2022 picks record: 7-3 (70 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,216-395 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.