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
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.