Gennadiy Golovkin’s wait to become a two-time unified champion will have to last a little longer.
GGG was slated to meet Ryota Murata in a middleweight title unification on Dec. 29 in Saitama, but the fight is now postponed, sources tell ESPN, due to new COVID restrictions that prohibit foreigners from visiting Japan.
The country’s mandate was handed down Monday in an effort to combat the spread of the novel omicron variant. Officials hoped to obtain an exception for Golovkin from the Japanese government but were denied, sources said.
The Kazakhstan native has been training in Hollywood, Florida, for weeks in preparation for the bout. Officials plan to reschedule the bout in Japan next year, sources said.
GGG, who turns 40 in April, is one of the biggest stars in boxing over the past 10 years. The menacing puncher was held to a controversial draw with Canelo Alvarez in their 2017 meeting before he dropped a narrow decision to the Mexican in the 2018 rematch.
Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) regained the title with a grueling victory over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October 2019, but has competed just once since.
“I am really excited to be bringing the Big Drama Show to Japan, a country where boxing is very popular,” the future Hall of Famer said last month. “Ryota Murata has been an outstanding champion.”
Murata (16-2, 13 KOs) represented a chance for GGG to claim a second title and also grow his reach. The 35-year-old became a star in Japan after claiming a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics (Golovkin won silver in 2004).
Both boxers were set to end career-long layoffs. Murata, ESPN’s No. 4 middleweight, hasn’t entered the ring since December 2019. He regained the WBA middleweight title with a second-round TKO victory over Rob Brant in 2019, exacting revenge over the only man to beat him in the pros.
“I feel that my entire amateur and professional boxing career has been a preparation for this fight against Gennadiy Golovkin,” Murata said in November. “This fight will determine my place in the middleweight division and boxing history.
“Gennadiy Golovkin has long been the standard-bearer of the middleweight division. To me, he is still undefeated. I have the highest respect for him.”
GGG, ESPN’s No. 2 160-pounder, last fought in December 2020.