Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Gennady Golovkin said he wanted to be taken twelve rounds. He wanted to go to a decision so that he could show off his full array of boxing skills. He almost got his wish, thanks to the extraordinary heart of Martin Murray – and, arguably, a little too much bravery on the part of the Englishman’s corner. But in the end, Golovkin couldn’t help himself, and however much he might have wished otherwise, he was once again too much for an overmatched foe; when referee Luis Pabon wisely rescued Murray in the eleventh round, the man from Kazakhstan had scored his nineteenth consecutive knockout.
Murray, to his immense credit, came to fight. He came with a good plan, too: use his superior reach to land long punches from mid-range and, whenever Golovkin looked to be closing the gap, hold on tight. For the first couple of rounds, it worked with surprising effectiveness, and he might have shaded at least one of those two frames, his long right hands finding their target even if they apparently had little if any effect on the champion.
But fighting off Golovkin is like hitting an oncoming python with a wiffle bat: no matter how much you might try, the deterrent effect is negligible at best, and meanwhile he keeps coming forward, slowly coiling himself around his foe and imposing his strength. In the third round, as Murray grew in confidence, Golovkin began to make his move. A right hand landed with authority, prompting Murray, who had begun this frame brightly, to wave him in. This was unwise. Golovkin cracked him again with another right hand; and then a left hook, followed by a big right hand, hurt Murray before the bell.
The fourth seemed set to be the final one, Golovkin taking advantage of Murray’s high guard to dig a right hand to the body that sent the challenger to his knees. Murray rose gamely at eight, retreated to a corner and went down again from a short flurry, punctuated with another right hand body shot. Somehow he survived the round, but the pattern was now irrevocably set. Only two rounds earlier, he had sought to command center ring, but now, Murray was retreating backward to the ropes; by the end of the fifth, he was in possession of a bloodied and busted nose, courtesy of Golovkin switching his attack to launch uppercuts through Murray’s defensive gloves.
Plenty of other opponents have folded under such an onslaught, but Murray showed himself to be made of sterner stuff than most normal human beings. Clearly hurting from the Golovkin onslaught, he nonetheless did his best to fend off his foe with torqued punches that landed well but elicited not even a hint of a reaction from the Kazakh.
Golovkin’s strengths extend far beyond his thumping punching power. His supreme ring generalship ensures that he keeps his opponents just where he wants them, he throws and lands punches with efficiency as well as force, and the variety of his punches means foes can only guess where the next blow will land. In the eighth, Golovkin suddenly landed a right hand to the top of Murray’s head; it was a punch he had not tried before, but he would return to it several times after it set in motion another sequence of blows – left hook, right hand – that had Murray hurt and reeling around the ring.
The end of the eighth felt like a good time for Murray’s corner to pull him from a battle he could not win, as did the beginning of the ninth, until Golovkin – as if sensing he was in danger of knocking out another foe – eased off the gas. He almost looked bored, allowing Murray to tee off ineffectively, the wiffle bat now broken and limp as the coils tightened. In the tenth, too exhausted even to hold up his hands, breathing through his mouth as the blood plugged his nose, Murray sought to duck under the incoming artillery. After he slipped one right hand, Golovkin shook his head in annoyance, recalibrated his sights and landed a pair of thumping right hands that laid out Murray flat on his back.
Once more, Murray beat the count and made it to the bell, and inexplicably his corner sent him out for more punishment. The end was just a matter of time, and after a pair of right hands caused Murray to buckle in the corner, Pabon saved the Englishman from his own heart.