By Oliver Goldstein
Gennady Golovkin faces Martin Murray Saturday night in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on the latest leg of his ravenous tour through the middleweight division. Golovkin, the Kazakhstan native, has spent the past three years mincing all fighters in the weight class not named Sergio Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, or Miguel Cotto, and Murray figures to be the latest in a line of game but ultimately deficient opponents. His task might not be to try winning, but to prove merely durable enough to remain a viable opponent in the division. There are, Murray doubtless well knows, other middleweight titlists past Golovkin.
This, oddly, is the division's reality right now: no matter his obvious dominance and burgeoning fanbase, Golovkin yet stands little chance to tempt one of his fellow big guns into action. Knowing this, he has instead sought to force their hands in the most brute way possible -- not necessarily by pursuing further political clout (Golovkin shows no desire to leave the impressive K2 set-up), but rather by rendering a plausible list of capable opponents increasingly implausible for the rest of the division. While GGG can lay no claim to having run through a middleweight's murderer's row, what he has done is to beat thoroughly enough a set of good fighters into near irrelevance. Having been chewed up and spat out by Golovkin, none of Matt Macklin, Daniel Geale or Marco Antonio Rubio read as attractive prospects any longer. The stoppage of Geale was particularly striking, resembling as it did a peeved fighting Gulliver batting off a Lilliputian fly -- the Australian was swatted to the canvas as he landed his own punch.
In common with these, Murray is likewise not called Martinez, Cotto, or Peter Quillin, who makes this list by virtue of his determined unwillingness to fight notable fights thus far. What Murray is, though, is a talented fighter in his own right, with a dubious loss to Martinez (then well on his way to being flattened by Cotto) and a perpetual sense of having a point to prove. The comparison with Golovkin might only extend as far as their pleasingly alliterative names -- is Golovkin's extra G a teasing nod to his extra power? -- but Murray is capable enough to be considered a real fight. With Andy Lee too, he is one of the last standing in a generation of talented if underwhelming British middleweights -- and likely the best.
Murray has also come from tougher places than most, with a history in violent crime (he has served time in prison on four occasions) serving as a prelude to his work in the ring. This history continues to dog him, having blocked his passage to potential American riches in a fight with Chavez Jr. Now working with Rodney Berman's Golden Gloves outfit, Murray has transformed his career into a thoroughly international affair: his last five fights have taken place in Argentina, London, Monte Carlo, and South Africa (where Berman is based). This makes him an anomaly in the increasingly orthodox British fight scene, which is almost entirely dominated by Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn. "I only do what I want to do," he told this month’s Boxing Monthly when asked about his recent career movements. "I did, and it has worked out right. There are no regrets at all."
This, though, should have little bearing on Saturday night's action. Murray relied heavily on a high guard defense and chuntering forward momentum to neuter Martinez two years back, who for his part came to resemble the fragile, near-shot fighter he now is. But the Merseyside man's predilection for lingering stationary with guard up and eyes down should prove costly against Golovkin, who relishes the chance to break a complete structure into little bits and pieces. Remember Macklin, who loitered briefly along the ropes in their 2013 meeting, and subsequently woke up collapsed nasty on the canvas. Murray knows this ("Golovkin puts you in the places he wants," he also told Boxing Monthly), but it is one thing understanding Golovkin, and another resisting him.
The truth of this fight, after all, is that Golovkin is special and Murray is likely not. Worthwhile, yes; strong, sure; but not, unlike GGG, blessed with the kind of raw, intangible, unquantifiable power which manifests itself in such raw, tangible and quantified moments in the ring. It is Murray who wears the scowl of the true puncher, but Golovkin who brings his pain. With 28 knockouts in 31 wins, the Kazakh is not one for pseudery: just the brute reality of his thrusting fists.
Murray might prove a challenge for the first few rounds or so, or at least he may seem an illusion thereof. But amidst the fast decadence of Monte Carlo's reckless wealth and neon landscape Murray should learn that the wind blows mostly cold in boxing, especially when faced with a threat as fraught as Golovkin. The de facto middleweight champion should keep chewing his way through the division, until by sheer virtue of exhausting the weight class he finds himself with something meatier to get into. Miguel Cotto and his lineal crown would be well advised to look away.