The career of Japan's Ryota Murata's (15-2, 12) [村田 諒太] has been filled with much promise, but cursed by a failure to deliver on that promise. The 2012 Olympic gold medal winner was expected to be a mega star in global boxing.He was good looking, had an exciting style, was signed up to Top Rank, along with Misako and Teiken, and seemed to have all the pieces in play to be a huge star. Sadly though things rarely clicked for him, and there always seemed to be something underwhelming about him when he was in the ring.
That about to underwhelm was full on show last year, when Murata lost the WBA "regular" Middleweight title to American Rob Brant (25-2, 17). The loss came in a performance that left many wondering what the big fuss about Murata was, and querying how he won an Olympic medal, and why his team were trying to secure a super fight at a Japanese dome with Gennady Golovkin.
The loss to Brant, on US soil, saw Murata go from being a man regarded as a talented top contender, whilst holding the WBA "regular" belt, to a man who had many, including ourselves, wondering if retirement was going to be next. He showed little more than a rugged toughness against Brant who used him as for target practive.
Today the two men had a rematch, and this time around we finally got a chance to see Murata's potential being unlocked, as he dominated Brant to reclaim his title and score a pretty solid upset win.
The opening round was similar to the way the two men had faced off last year. It saw Brant trying to be the busier man and Murata following Brant around. There was a difference however. This time around Murata's powerful right hand was effective, and so was Murata's pressure, as he managed to actually back Brant up this time, forcing his fighton to the American. Murata's pressure saw him not only landing hurtful right hands up top, something he failed to do cleanly in their first bout, but also landed a steady stream of good body shots, looking to slow the American's legs and work rate.
Unlike their first bout Murata's pressure was immediately successful, he was landing shots of his own, and whilst he was still taking some from Brant, he didn't look like he was inept. He looked like he was boxing to a well thought out game plan, though Brant was still having his moments, and seemed to be landing the higher volume of shots, even if they didn't have the effect that Murata's blows had.
In round 2 that game plan really came into it's own with the pressure from Murata amping up, he was stopping Brant from creating space, stopping the American from unleashing his combinations and really going to the body, before landing a huge right to the head. The head shot caught Brant clean and hurt him, with Murata following up with serious intensity, and eventually dropping Brant. The fact the American had taken so many shots to go down was a testament to his toughness, and his heart lead him to getting up and continuing the fight. That was, however a poor decision with Murata straight on to him, smelling blood, and ripping him with shots to head and body, unloading with everthing he had until the referee finally stepped in, saving Brant from further punishment.
At an official time of 2 minutes 34 seconds of round 2 Murata had excorised the ghosts of losing to Brant last year, shown what he was capable of, and for one of the few times in his career showed that he was a real talent. He had shown glimpses in the past, but this time we saw more than just a few seconds of Murata's ability, what we saw in round 2 here, was easily the best we've seen from Murata so far and hopefully a sign that he has developed from the man who had promised much but under-delivered..
At the moment it's unclear what's next for the two men, though the Japanese media have again raised the possibility of Murata facing Golovkin at the Tokyo Dome. It seems unlikely, though would be a huge fight for Japan, and the two men, however their would be broadcast issues with the bout, and it certainly wouldn't be easy to make given GGG's relationship with DAZN and Murata's realtionship with ESPN and Top Rank.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In one of the biggest shocks of 2018 we saw Ryota Murata (14-2, 11) lose the WBA “regular” Middleweight title, as he was soundly out pointed by mandatory challenger Rob Brant (24-1, 16). In a bout that was Murata's worse performance as a professional, which seemed to be a case of the Japanese fighter looking towards the future and over-looking the man he had in front of him. The lure of a big money bout with Gennady Golovkin at the Tokyo dome seemed to be on his mind through out, whilst he, and his team, likely though Brant had no chance to upset the apply cart.
From the opening round it looked like Brant had the ideal game plan, he was using a very sharp jab, a high level of activity and smart movement. His shots weren't hurtful on a single shot basis, but the first 2 rounds he unloaded with so many shots that he left Murata bloodied from the nose and swollen around the left, and in a hole. Murata's usually tight guard was being split time and time again by Brant who unloaded with such volume that shots were getting through, whilst Murata did little in return. Murata merely smiled through the shots, and did little to fight back.
In round 3 we saw Brant slow dramatically, and Murata had one of his best rounds as he connected to the body of the challenger. It was about the only round Murata won as he began to be out worked through the rest of the bout. He had moments, but seemed to fight like a man with only a single gameplan, and it all seemed to come down to landing a knock-out blow with a big right hand. The movement, and continual busy jabs from Brant, prevented Murata from really getting his distance or timing. Instead the Japanese champion only ever really managed to land single shots, whilst eating combinations in return.
By the middle of the bout Murata's right eye would be marked badly, to go with the swelling around the left and he was looking very much like a man who was getting worked over. His guard was being penetrated time and time again, and that was when he even had it up. All too often he was caught with his hands down by the fleet footed Brant, who avoided being cut off by the lumbersome and clumsy foot work of Murata.
Going into round 8 it seemed like Murata would need a knockdown at the very least, a knockdown that never looked likely. Instead it was Brant that seemed more likely to get a knockdown as he rocked Murata several times. It was too easy for Brant to land hard straight shots as Murata became more predictable and easier to counter. The body shots and inside work we'd seen from Murata in the past just weren't there with any consistency, there no jabs being thrown to set up his right hand and instead he was throwing the right hand in hope of landing clean. Given the fact he could never really set his feet against the agile Brant he never had any chance of landing the right hand cleanly.
As we hit the championship rounds Murata was needing a KO, and he know it. The need for a KO didn't make him change his tactics at all. Instead he kept lumbering forward, as Brant seemed to get his second wind, and at times in both rounds 11 and 12 Murata was hurt. He had moments in both rounds, but they were few and far between as Brant easily and clearly out worked him.
Going to the scorecard there was no doubting the winner, with the judges delivering cards of 118-110 and 119-109, twice, in favour of Brant.
We need to wonder what really went on in camp for Murata. His game plan was totally off, it seemed like he under-estimated Brant whilst focusing on the rumoured Golovkin bout and he totally under-delivered. Brant fought to the perfect gameplan, but it was a gameplan that wasn't ever put under-threat due to Murata's inability to switch styles, his failure to deal with Brant's jab and his lack of activity.
With his 33rd birthday coming in January we're unsure what Murata has left in his career, but it's obvious that if he's to return in 2019 he needs to seriously think about what he wants from the sport. This is his first legitimate loss, with the other being a really bad robbery against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, but it's hard to see what he has. He took a lot of punishment here and looked old, slow, clumsy and incredibly out of sorts. His popularity may be able to secure a rematch but his reputation has been badly damaged by this performance.
For Brant the door has opened for some big money matches, and we suspect there will be a number of fighters chasing a bout with him. This was a great performance but we suspect the leading contenders will see him as a lesser fighter than he looked here, against a man who looked terrible.
World Title Results
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