High Amateur/Olympic Pedigree Does Not a Great Pro Career Make (Not Always, Anyway)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Mon, 11 Apr 2022
Olympic medalists Gennadiy Golovkin (R) and Ryota Murata fought last weekend in Japan.
Of course, WBC's Mauricio Sulaiman would say that Cuba's return to professional boxing is a very important milestone as he welcomes the prospects of its Olympic champions and other amateur standouts in the paid ranks.
But for him to say that current world champions are in danger because of this development is a tongue in cheek exaggeration.
At least for this generation.
For it takes more than winning an Olympic gold to essay a successful transition into the paid ranks. And it takes years for one to develop into a world class or world champion caliber fighter.
Consider the cases of Gennadiy Golovkin and Ryota Murata whose Olympic pedigree is eight years apart.
Golovkin was "just" a silver medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics, losing the finals to a Russian. He turned pro in 2005 and it took him five years to become first an interim and later upgraded to regular world middleweight champion of the WBA by fighting and defeating a mix of obscure and legitimate contenders.
It took him another eight years to be recognized as a unified, later undisputed world champion by fighting and defeating an assortment of opponents including a few up and comers. But he was only recognized as the true world champion in two fights with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez which ironically ended in a controversial draw and a close defeat.
Golovkin recovered by winning the IBF belt by outpointing Russian Sergei Derevyanchenko and recently added the WBA super title of Murata in essentially a fight between a former Olympic silver medalist against an Olympic champion eight years removed from each other.
Murata was the 2012 London Olympics gold medal winner beating Brazil's Esquiva Falcao in the finals. He was immediately regarded as a prospect in the pros not only because of his lofty amateur and Olympic background but also of his skills and fighting style that fit the pro, mainly his great body punching.
The Japanese was moved along in the pros relatively faster than Golovkin and Murata became world champion three years after turning pro in 2013 also with the WBA by beating Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam in their title rematch in 2017 after losing controversially to the Cameroonian in their first fight.
After a successful title defense, Murata lost his WBA title to American Rob Brant on points in 2018 but he regained the trinket by stopping the same Brant with his famed body punching in their title rematch the following year. Murata was later upgraded to super champion by the WBA.
Last weekend, Murata faced Golovkin in a title unification with also a minor IBO crown at stake.
Exploiting Golovkin's characteristic slow start and the fact that GGG had been inactive for two years because of the pandemic, Murata started fast and strong. He even troubled Golovkin with his signature body punching and raked his face with some vicious blows.
Many were already thinking at that point that Golovkin's age of 40 was showing and that the bigger Murata was wearing him down.
But beginning the fourth round, the vintage Golovkin started to show and imposed himself, raking Murata with his own vicious combinations to the side of the face rendering the Japanese antenna defense useless.
Soon Golovkin had the younger and bigger Murata at his mercy albeit the Japanese still gamely returning fire though obviously already on tottering legs.
The end came in the ninth round when Golovkin felled Murata with a ponderous counter and the Japanese corner threw in the towel of surrender.
With the victory, Golovkin is reportedly on the way to a third fight versus Canelo if the Mexican red head wins his own fight against Russian Dmitri Bivol at light heavyweight.
Now, how do we fit those great Olympic gold medalist Cubans there?
In the first place, there is no Cuban in the last Tokyo Olympics in the middleweight class fought over by Brazilian Herbert Sousa Conceicao, Ukrainian Oleksander Khrysniak and Filipino Eumir Felix Marcial.
The last Cuban to win a medal at middleweight at the Summer Games was Arlen Lopez who won the gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Lopez fought at light heavyweight in Tokyo and won the gold over UK's Benjamin Whitaker.
Let us see how Lopez progresses in the pros in the coming days And the other Olympic gold medalists as lightweight Andy Cruz, welterweight Roniel Iglesias and heavyweight Julio Cesar La Cruz.
But from my perspective, the landscape in the pro boxing as far as the division's those Cuban amateur standouts turned professionals are impregnable with the likes of Kambosos, Teo Lopez, Ryan Garcia and Lomachenko; Tank Davis and Josh Taylor; Spence, Crawford and Ennis; Alvarez, Golovkin, Bivol and Beterbiev; and certainty Tyson Fury and Oleksander Usyk at the forefront.
Though some of them are aging, those Cubans also are, and they are just starting.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at email@example.com and by phone 09215309477.
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