Dan Rafael reported Wednesday that middleweights Gennadiy Golovkin and Ryota Murata appear headed towards a unification fight next, bypassing the summer tune-ups that had been previously discussed.
Part of the reason for scrapping the interim bouts is to avoid potential injuries or cuts that could jeopardize the unification, tentatively scheduled for December 28 in the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. As Rafael notes, the tune-up fights were intended to drive up interest in the matchup, as well as to allow both boxers to shake off rust after long absences from the ring.
Regarding the issue of creating buzz for this matchup, both teams are probably wise to prioritize the health of their boxers over promoting a unification with interim bouts. Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KO) has a solid fan-base who are more interested in seeing him take on the likes of Derevyanchenko (who he defeated to win the vacant IBF belt in October 2019) and Murata than the Steve Rolls and Kamil Szeremetas of the division.
As far as Murata (16-2, 13 KO) is concerned, he is a massive star in Japan after winning Gold for his country at the 2012 Olympics, and won’t need to go the extra mile to sell a fight of this stature. He doesn’t hold the same sort of name value in the US, despite being elevated to WBA “Super” champion at middleweight after Canelo’s move up, but a legitimate unification fight in a glamour division should be sellable on its own.
The issue of ring rust is a real one, though. Golovkin is 39 years old, and fought only once in 2020 following a year-plus layoff after winning the title against Derevyanchenko in 2019. Murata hasn’t entered the ring since stopping Steven Butler in December 2019, and is two years removed from his demolition of Rob Brant in their rematch.
That being said, both men are excellent technicians with serious punching power, which goes a long way in staving off the kind of ring rust that would detract from the product in the ring. This matchup will be presented on DAZN, which is great for the platform considering Canelo’s next fight will be on PPV. Who knows, maybe DAZN will even be able to get the winner to take on Demetrius Andrade.