Ryota Murata says he regards Gennady Golovkin as an unbeaten fighter after the pair's much-anticipated middleweight clash was confirmed on Thursday.
'GGG' has just one defeat on his professional record - the controversial majority-decision defeat to the great Canelo Alvarez in September 2018.
But such is the respect between the Japanese fighter and Golovkin, Murata thinks that 'GGG' was the winner over the powerful Mexican champion.
The first fight between the pair finished in a draw, but Canelo edged the rematch.
"I'm not going to say who won tonight, because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges," said Golovkin.
Now though the focus switches to a match up between two fierce rivals. IBF middleweight champion Golovkin will square off against WBA (super) titlist Murata in a unification fight on December 29.
It will be the first time the hard-hitting Kazakh has been in a boxing ring for a year when he enters the ropes in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
The 39-year-old Golovkin won by TKO over Polish opponent Kamil Szeremeta after knocking his rival to the floor four times in December last year.
The referee stopped the fight before the eighth round with Szeremeta almost grateful after taking a 21-minute pummeling.
Golovkin in the process set the record for the most title defenses by a middleweight in boxing history (21).
For Murata, 35, he has been inactive for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former Olympic gold medalist beat Canada's Steven Butler in December 2019 to defend his WBA regular title.
"I am really excited to be bringing the 'Big Drama Show' to Japan, a country where boxing is very popular," Golovkin said.
"Ryota Murata has been an outstanding champion. It is going to be a special night when we fight in the ring to unify our titles.
"I am really excited to be bringing the Big Drama Show to Japan, a country where boxing is very popular," said Golovkin. "Ryota Murata has been an outstanding champion. It is going to be a special night when we meet in the ring to unify our titles. We are going to give the fans a great fight."
Murata added 'more power'
Murata, who was elevated by the WBA to super champion at the start of 2021 when Canelo vacated the belt to move up to super-middleweight, says it's a fight he's been longing for.
"I feel that my entire amateur and professional boxing career has been a preparation for this fight against Gennady Golovkin. This fight will determine my place in the middleweight division and boxing history," said Murata.
"Gennady Golovkin has long been the standard-bearer of the middleweight division. To me, he is still undefeated. I have the highest respect for him. It has been almost two years since my last fight, because of the pandemic, but I have put that time to good use, working very hard with my trainers on improving my physical conditioning and adding more power to my punches.
"I am so proud Japan is hosting this fight. It is a great honour for me."