A pair of career middleweights are set for the division's biggest fight in more than three years.
Gennadiy Golovkin and local hero Ryota Murata both made weight ahead of their anticipated IBF/WBA middleweight title unification bout. Both boxers weighed in right at the 160-pound divisional limit for their scheduled 12-round title fight, live on DAZN in the U.S. and Amazon Prime in Japan from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Golovkin (41-1-1, 36KOs) enters off a career-long 16-month layoff, having also celebrated his 40th birthday as he stepped on the scale Friday afternoon. The bout marks the second defense of Golovkin's second middleweight title reign, and 25th overall title fight for the 2008 Olympic Silver medalist and 16-year pro.
The first reign saw Kazakhstan's Golovkin pull within even of the all-time mark for most middleweight title defenses, though when exactly his first reign began remains in dispute given the various WBA middleweight titles in existence. Golovkin is credited with 20 defenses of the WBA middleweight title, which tied that of Bernard Hopkins who established the mark 13 years prior.
Five of those defenses came with the IBF belt at stake that Golovkin won in an eighth-round stoppage of David Lemieux in their October 2015 unification bout at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The WBC belt was added to his collection after Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez refused to honor a 2016 mandatory title defense, as Golovkin previously held the interim WBC title.
Golovkin and Alvarez would eventually meet twice, beginning with a highly questionable 12-round draw in their September 2017 meeting at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Most observers felt Golovkin deserved the nod, with their rematch exactly 52 weeks later ending the record-tying reign as Alvarez claimed a less questionable though still disputed majority decision victory.
Three wins have followed for Golovkin, including an eighth-round knockout of Poland's Kamil Szeremeta in December 2020. A third fight with Alvarez is in play for September, providing Golovkin wins on Saturday and Alvarez (57-1-2, 39KOs)—the reigning undisputed super middleweight champion—escapes unscathed in his May 7 challenge of WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11KOs)
Murata (16-2, 13KOs) has not fought since the pandemic, as he attempts the second defense of his WBA belt.
The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time secondary WBA titlist regained his belt in a July 2019 knockout win over Rob Brant, avenging an October 2018 points loss in Las Vegas. Murata ended 2019 on a high note, stopping Canada's Steven Butler in the fifth round of his title defense that December in Yokohama, Japan.
The lengthy ring absences of both fighters were further extended with their title unification plans delayed by more than three months. Golovkin-Murata was originally due to take place last December, only to endure a postponement when Japan announced last November that its borders were closed to foreign travelers to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
The ban was lifted this past March, allowing event handlers to move forward with what is viewed as a superfight in Japan.
In the co-feature, Sagamahira's Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17KOs) attempts the second defense of his WBO flyweight title versus countryman Ryota Yamauchi (8-1, 7KOs).
Nakatani weighed 111 ¾ pounds in his first fight at home since winning the WBO title in a November 2020 knockout of Giemel Magramo in Tokyo. Yamauchi was right at the 112-pound flyweight limit for his first career title fight.
In his previous outing, Nakatani made his first successful title defense in a fourth-round stoppage of former junior flyweight titlist Angel Acosta last September in Tucson, Arizona.
Also on the show, former WBO junior lightweight titlist Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15KOs) of Tokyo weighed 135 pounds for his scheduled 12-round regional lightweight title fight versus unbeaten countryman Shuichiro Yoshino (14-0, 11KOs, also from Tokyo who weighed 134 ½ pounds.
The show is set to air 5:10 a.m. ET on DAZN (6:10 p.m. local time on Amazon Prime-Japan). The main event is expected to take place 8:10 a.m. ET/9:10 p.m. local time.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox