Over the last year or so we have seen various stories swirling that Japanese Middleweight Ryota Murata (12-0, 9) [村田 諒太] was looking to challenge WBO Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12). In fact the stories have been more than mere rumour with Saunders' own promoter Frank Warren confirming an offer had been made for his man to travel to face Murata.
Now it seems that it's not just Murata's Japanese promoter Teiken looking to create the bout but also Murata's American promoter Bob Arum who has stated that it is one of a number of bouts he is looking to secure in the coming months.
The American promoter, the head of Top Rank, stated that he is having talks with Frank Warren about the contest taking place if Saunders isn't going to face his mandatory challenger Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Something that seems to be plausible with Alvarez having been linked to bouts with Kanat Islam and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and a longer term move to prepare for super fight with unified champion Gennady Golovkin, rather than the WBO champion Saunders.
The bout appears to be planned for May and could take place either in Japan or in the US, with Murata's stating on his Teiken profile that his dream is to headline in Las Vegas, a genuine possibility if he was to fight Saunders in the US.
The bout would depend on more than just Canelo looking elsewhere. Firstly it would mean that Saunders would have to accept a fight with a dangerous foe, something he didn't look interested in doing in 2016, a very disappointing year where he fought just once and only just squeezed past the unknown Artur Akavov. Although talented, as wins over Andy Lee and Chris Eubank Jr show, he's certainly not setting the world on fire and his ability to draw a crowd has been widely questioned in the past and there is a chance that Warren may well push for him to take a big money fight with Murata rather than waste any more time with the likes of Akavov.
If the bout was to happen in the US Murata could become one of the few Japanese fighters to win a world title on the road. If the bout was to be staged in Japan, where Fuji TV would put up sizable money for the purse, it could potentially come as part of a super show with Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi also part of the show. If Murata was to beat Saunders he would become only the second Japanese fighetr in history to claim a Middlewieght world title and would be the first Japanese fighter to claim both Olympic and professional gold, whilst also being the first Japanese fighter to claim amdal at the Olympics, the world championships and a professional world title.
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