The general view is that Murata is so far more advanced than anyone in his homeland that his next fight in Japan, at the end of the year, is likely to be his last before he sets off to the US to move towards a world title fight.
Sadly the fact Murata is so much better than the others in his weight at home has perhaps hurt the domestic title scene but in fairness to the JBC and the OPBF they have both of their titles around the waist of the next best Middleweight in Japan, Akio Shibata (22-8-1, 9), one of the stars of the Watanabe Gym.
Shibata was the debut opponent of Murata back in August 2013 and was stopped in the second round by the Olympic champion. He bounced back well from that loss however and dominated the big punching Daisuke Nakagawa to unify the OPBF and Japanese titles whilst also expelling any lingering demons following the loss to Murata.
It's unfortunate in many ways that Shibata will be remembered by international fans as "the guy Murata beat on his debut" because he's actually a fantastically talented boxer-mover. He combines an intelligence in the ring with great hand speed and clever footwork. He may not be the most durable with 5 stoppage losses but he's worked on staying away from a tear up well and with reigns as unified champion at both 154lbs and 160lbs it's hard to discredit him.
Whilst Shibata is much better than many fans realise, especially those who only know of him for the Murata bout, his opponent in his up coming title defence is a lot better than his record indicates. His challenger Hikaru Nishida (10-6-1, 3) has the record of an extremely limited fighter, someone who is miles away from being being a potential threat to one of the best Middleweights in Asia. Nishida however posses a record that is nothing short of misleading.
The challenger lost 5 of his first 10 bouts beginning his career 4-5-1. Those losses were all close and, although on paper, it was an awful start to his career he did seem better than the records suggest and he also went 1-1 Sanosuke Sasaki, who later became the Japanese Middleweight champion.
Since his first 10 bouts Nishida has gone 6-1 scoring a string of notable wins including a stoppage over former multi-time title challenger Fukutaro Ujiie, a decision over former 2-weight OPBF champion Kazuhiko Hidaka and most recently a decision over former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami. Whilst those wins may have been a little bit down to luck and timing on Nishida's part they are all very solid wins and the sort of wins that deserve to get someone a domestic title fighter.
At 26 years old Nishida is coming into his prime, he's battled hardened and, although not fully developed as a fighter or a man, he is a very credible challenger in the form of his life. Unfortunately him some would argue he's a small Middleweight, stood at 5'9, and should be competing at 154lbs if he can make that weight.
We are fans of fighters who battle through early career adversity like Nishida has. It's things like that that make us get behind fighters like Gerpaul Valero and Rey Loreto. Unfortunately for Nishida however we think Shibata's talent and speed will be too much to overcome and in the end Nishida will put up a brave effort but lose a clear cut decision to a talented and often over-looked fighter who deserves more respect than he seem to get.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe gym)