AFTER Terry Downes despatched an ageing Ray Robinson in London back in 1962, he famously said: “I didn’t beat Sugar Ray, I beat his ghost”. Nearly 60 years later, it looked like the apparition of a different middleweight great had appeared in a prize ring in Japan. But after spooking all of those already with an eye on September 17, Gennady Golovkin proved that at 40, only a few months younger than Robinson was that night against Downes, there is plenty of life – and fight – in the old dog yet. The spirit of Ryota Murata was finally crushed after 2-11 of the ninth.

Golovkin had started so slowly that it looked like he was finished, that the Super Arena in Saitama would play host to his final fight. Within two rounds he seemed to be sucking in air and carrying his hands so low that Murata could not miss to either head or body. It made for pure entertainment.

We all know by now, however, that Triple G is made of something different. He looked every single day of his age at the weigh-in on Friday, draped in a bizarre dressing gown and seemingly as dry as humanly possible. This was also his first fight since he beat the over-matched Kamil Szeremeta in December 2020 and the ring rust seemed obvious.

But he grew into the fight and Murata could not handle it. He didn’t know where he was by the time the towel came in from his corner after Golovkin had dropped him with a hard right hand. This was not vintage GGG but there were flashes; that world-class chin, the numbing uppercuts and trademark hooks that start somewhere above their target but corkscrew down onto it. Murata did well in patches but it must be said that he would never have lasted nine rounds with the Golovkin of old.

Now attention turns to the only man on the planet who holds a win over that version of the Kazakh legend, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The 31-year-old signed a two-fight deal with DAZN which includes the trilogy clash with Golovkin on September 17.

The pair first met in September 2017 when Canelo got away with a hotly disputed draw. Then, 12 months later, the same man won a majority decision in a T-Mobile Arena classic. It looked certain that a third clash would come almost immediately but only now, four years on, is it happening.

The fight, of course, depended on Triple G getting the job done in Japan and now Canelo must keep his side of the bargain against Dmitry Bivol on May 7 in Las Vegas. The Mexican is the firm favourite to win but it will not be easy.

He is also already a big favourite to make it three out of three against Golovkin and, after the trouble he had early on against Murata, expect nearly everyone to now predict a wildly painful night this time around. Canelo has developed ever since they first met while it appears as though Golovkin has been in decline.

However, assuming Canelo comes through against Bivol, the trilogy clash will take place up at 168lbs which is just as well considering how gruesome Golovkin’s weight cut for this fight appeared to be. Plus, with the ring rust now gone, he may be better placed to roll back the years.

Remember too, not only has he never been stopped but he has never even been dropped in his 44 fights as a professional or during his 350-odd amateur bouts.

With that in mind, those lumping on Canelo inside the distance could be in for a fright.