Middleweight destroyer Gennady Golovkin was forced into the 11th round for the first time in his career, but he scored three knockdowns and dished out a thorough beating to Martin Murray en route to a knockout victory Saturday at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo.
With Golovkin fan Prince Albert II of Monaco at ringside, GGG retained his 160-pound title for the 13th time and scored his 19th knockout in a row as he raised his knockout percentage to 90.6. That is second-best among active titleholders behind only heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs), who has knocked out 97 percent of his foes but has faced far inferior opposition.
Golovkin (32-0, 29 KOs), boxing's most dynamic fighter, was never in any danger against Murray, a brave Englishman who many viewed as GGG's toughest opponent to date. While he was indeed tough and determined, he took a tremendous amount of punishment in making it into the 11th round.
Golovkin, with his relentless pressure, precision punching and heavy hands, beat, battered and bloodied Murray, who connected with solid combinations, though none of the punches remotely rattled Golovkin.
Golovkin scored a pair of knockdowns in the fourth round with right hands, sending Murray to his knees with body shots.
In the 10th round, with the 32-year-old Murray (29-2-1, 12 KOs) in serious trouble, Golovkin landed a big right hand high on the head to send him to the canvas for the third time in the fight. He made it to his feet by the count of eight, but it appeared only a matter of time until Golovkin added to his knockout streak.
There was concern in Murray's corner after the round, but his trainer, Oliver Harrison, sent him out for the 11th round and Golovkin continued to paste him with shots. Finally, after Golovkin, who is from Kazakhstan and recently relocated with his family from Germany to Los Angeles, drove him to the ropes and unleashed a powerful right hand to the head that snapped his head back and caused him to drop his hands, referee Luis Pabon intervened and waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
"Gennady has 19 knockouts in a row now and he not only knocks guys out in the second or third round, but he showed he keeps his power into the late rounds," Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, Golovkin's promoter, told ESPN.com. "He won every round, dropped Murray with body shots and with a head shot.
"Murray came to fight and he showed a lot of heart and was trying to fight back. He just wasn't on the same level as Gennady. No middleweights are. But not many fighters could withstand the punishment he took for 11 rounds."
By notching title defense No. 13, Golovkin broke a tie with the Hall of Famer Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Felix Sturm (who avoided Golovkin for years when Golovkin was his mandatory challenger) and now stands alone in third place for most consecutive middleweight title defenses. With one more defense, Golovkin can tie Hall of Famer Carlos Monzon for second place, with a long-term goal to break the record of 20 in a row by legend Bernard Hopkins.
Many viewed Murray as an undefeated fighter coming into the bout. The blemishes on his record, both of which came in world title fights, were a somewhat controversial decision loss to then-champion Sergio Martinez in 2013, and a disputed draw against then-titleholder Sturm in 2011.
In the build-up to the fight, Golovkin said he would be OK with going the distance just to show a shrinking band of critics that he could do it. But he is so heavy-handed he has not heard the final bell since an eight-round decision victory against the unknown Amar Amari in Denmark in 2008.
Only once before had Golovkin even been into the 10th round, and that was when he scored a knockout of former junior middleweight titleholder Kassim Ouma in a title defense in 2011 in Panama.
Golovkin was quite satisfied with his performance, and why shouldn't he have been? According to CompuBox statistics, Golovkin landed 292 of 816 punches (36 percent), while Murray connected on only 131 of 469 (28 percent).
"I feel great. Why? This is my plan. Thank you very much for my knockout," Golovkin said during his postfight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman. "This is my strategy -- first 5-6 rounds just show my drama show, and after six rounds just knock him [out].
"Of course, he is a strong fighter. He is very good fighter, but plan is 5-6 rounds just boxing, and then finish him."
Golovkin, who would like to fight four times this year -- a busy schedule for an elite fighter -- is penciled in for a return on May 16 in the United States, possibly in Southern California or San Antonio, Loeffler said. But as was the case in lining up many of Golovkin's fights, Loeffler and HBO have a hard time finding opponents willing to face him.
Golovkin would like to face well-known opponents, such as middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez, super middleweight titlist Carl Froch, inactive super middleweight champion Andre Ward or former middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. None have shown an inclination to face him, however.
But in addition to Golovkin's alphabet 160-pound world title, he also owns an organization's interim belt. The full titleholder is Cotto, who is allowed an optional defense before he has to either face Golovkin in a mandatory fight or be stripped of the title.
Golovkin wants Cotto next, however.
"I hope, I hope Miguel Cotto," Golovkin said. "My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division. I need unification fight."
Cotto had been in talks to face Alvarez, which would be a significant pay-per-view fight. However, Alvarez got tired of waiting on Cotto and instead made a fight for May 9 against slugger James Kirkland. Cotto was also thought to be a backup plan for pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch. But on Friday, the long-awaited deal for Mayweather to face Manny Pacquiao was finalized.
That leaves Cotto without a marquee opponent for his likely June return.
"Gennady would absolutely be available to fight Cotto in May or June, whatever he wants," Loeffler said. "We'll make the terms very attractive for Cotto. We would make a lot of concessions to get that fight. But I don't think he will fight until he is forced to fight or vacates the title.
"Now that Floyd and Canelo -- the two fights Cotto was talking about -- aren't available, there is no more marketable opponent for him than Gennady. That would be a huge fight. We're ready."
Golovkin, as he has shown consistently for the past few years, is ready for anyone. The only question is will any of the top fighters face him, and if one finally does agree, can he survive 12 rounds of thunder?