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Middleweight IBF world champion Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan (L) and middleweight WBA champion Ryota Murata of Japan (R) fist bump in Tokyo on April 7, 2022 ahead of their boxing world title unification fight on April 9. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

In a compelling middleweight title unification bout, Gennady Golovkin will look to treat himself to a 40th birthday present in Ryota Murata's WBA strap on his opponent's home soil. Read on for our Golovkin-Murata picks ahead of Saturday's clash in Japan.

If I may help myself to Gennady Golovkin's now immortal quip, Saturday's middleweight tilt with Ryota Murata has all the makings of a "big drama show." For starters, the beloved Kazakhstani bruiser will end a 16-month layoff and put his IBF and IBO crowns on the line with tens of thousands in attendance at the Saitama Super Arena to cheer on his Japanese foe. And as if that wasn't enough, Golovkin will have turned 40 by the time he and Murata take the ring, and with this often dreaded birthday comes endless speculation over how long he has left as a world-class middleweight.

In the opposite corner is Murata, 36, who ends an even longer layoff dating back to December 2019 and puts his own WBA title on the line in Saturday's tilt. The native of Japan has ended his last two outings inside the distance, but he's now tasked with impressing a massive home crowd at the expense of his toughest, most seasoned foe to date. Stakes and implications aside, this title clash has diehard fans of the sweet science salivating, as these middleweights' in-ring habits match up beautifully.

Will Murata's peek-a-boo style and patented bodywork earn him another two middleweight titles, or will Golovkin outlast his foe in the pocket and hush his doubters?

Here are my Golovkin-Murata picks and predictions for Saturday's marquee boxing matchup (odds via Caesars Sportsbook and FanDuel; pick confidence is based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Golovkin vs. Murata Fight Info

Date/Time: Saturday, April 9, 1 a.m. ETTV: DAZNLocation: Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan

Golovkin vs. Murata Odds Analysis

Experience and strength of schedule seem to be on Golovkin's side ahead of Saturday's clash with Murata, as he's a heavy favorite with most oddsmakers and sits at a whopping -750 with FanDuel as of Wednesday night. You'd have to bet your weekly paycheck for a decent payout on a Golovkin win, and while a stoppage victory for GGG is much more accommodating, a win on points is most compelling at +270 with FanDuel.

As for Golovkin's dance partner, Murata's leaner resume and long layoff leave him at +450 with the same sportsbook. The lines on this matchup shift dramatically when betting on total rounds, with most oddsmakers listing the Over/Under on 9.5 frames as a pick'em.

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Gennady Golovkin Betting Profile

Golovkin may have missed out on undisputed middleweight supremacy in his two classic matchups with Canelo Alvarez, but he can still hang with much of the current middleweight heap.

In the three-plus years that have followed his second shot at Alvarez, the 39-year-old has outclassed Steve Rolls and Kamil Szeremeta, those stoppage victories sandwiching a close, and dare I say, controversial decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko. A classic boxer-puncher, Golovkin has bested many a man with stifling pressure, superhuman durability, and fearsome inside work, and in a game Murata, he gets a dance partner that should bring out many of his old tricks.

Ryota Murata Betting Profile

Murata's 2012 campaign for Olympic gold and current lengthy layoff leave him with a pro resume less than half as long as Golovkin's, one equally lacking in quality scalps.

The 36-year-old has made conquests of mostly middling competition, although he did impress in a 2019 rematch with Rob Brant that saw him end a wild firefight inside of two rounds. His pro record may not look like much, but Murata's commitment to working the body and love of a good slobberknocker are nothing to scoff at, and I expect him to meet Golovkin in the center of the ring ready to throw down - and occasionally clash heads - with his usual ear-to-ear grin.

Golovkin vs. Murata Picks

Golovkin to win (-490) ???Golovkin on points (+270) ???

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Golovkin vs. Murata Predictions

Golovkin to win (-490)

His name is now absent from most discussions regarding the world's pre-eminent middleweight, but luckily, Golovkin should get the kind of matchup he wants come fight night. He won't have to walk Murata down and back him to the ropes, as his Japanese foe will likely go forehead-to-forehead with him in the center and start trading zingers. Murata may be a clever body puncher, but he's hittable and rarely one for throwing combinations, which should allow Golovkin to turn back the clock for 12 rounds or less and leave Japan with another strap.

Golovkin on points (+270)

Had this fight been booked pre-Canelo, I'd have banked on a GGG knockout without a second thought, but fighters of Golovkin's age and experience aren't quite as trigger-happy come the third act of their careers.

All this to say, I expect Murata will do his damnedest to make this matchup a rock'em-sock'em battle, with Golovkin soundly outboxing him to earn the nod on the scorecards.

Where to Bet on Boxing

Here are our top-rated sportsbooks:

FanDuel SportsbookCaesars SportsbookDraftKings SportsbookPointsBetBetMGM

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Golovkin-Murata picks made 4/6/2022 at 9:48 p.m. ET.