When we talk about robberies we rarely see the local fighter on the wrong end. In 2017 however we saw a really poor decision go against an unbeaten local star. Not only was the local man robbed, but he was the new face of the country's boxing scene and he was an Olympic champion. It seemed like he had dominated the bout but was still, some how, seeing his opponent get their arm raised. The bout was among the very worst decisions of the year, and lead to a rematch being ordered and judges, for once, being punished. At least for a little while.
Ryota Murata (12-0, 9) Vs Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (35-2, 21) I
The fans who had crowded into the Ariake Colosseum in May 2017 had expected the event to be a huge one for Japanese boxing. It was a triple title show and Japanese fighters Kenshiro Teraji, then fighting as Kenshiro, and Daigo Higa had both won titles earlier in the show. It was now time for the country to have it's second Middleweight world champion as Ryota Murata took on Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam for the vacant WBA Middleweight title.
On paper this was a huge step up for Murata, who had won an Olympic gold medal in 2012, but was regarded as a winnable bout against the talented N'Dam N'Jikam. Murata had proven himself to be a physically strong and imposing fighter, but technically quite limited, quite slow, flat footed and someone who often relied on his physicality and strength rather than his skills. Despite his limitations he was a nightmare to face and when he put his foot on the gas he had shown glimpses of being very special.
As an Olympic champion Murata was pretty much put on the fast track not just to a title but super stardom in Japan. He had his pro-test bout televised and had linked up with Bob Arum, Teiken and Misako who all worked alongside Dentsu to help handle a Japanese boxing super commodity.
Although a very talented fighter N'Dam N'Jikam was best known for his heart and determination, often picking himself off the canvas in his losses. He was dropped numerous times by Peter Quillin and David Lemieux, but had shown his desire by finishing both bouts, and being competitive when he remained on his feet.
Just 5 months before this bout N'Dam N'Jikam had won the "Interim" WBA Middleweight title with a brutal KO win over Alfonso Blanco. Rather than being upgraded to the "regular" champion N'Dam N'Jikam was taking on Murata for the vacant title.
From the first round Murata took the centre of the ring, applied consistent, effective and direct pressure on N'Dam N'Jikam who moved around the outside of the ring throwing mostly single shots, moving away from the Japanese fighter. Early on Murata didn't do too much, he certainly gave away from rounds, but when he got going he began to dominate, landing all the heavy shots. Those heavy shots saw him dropping N'Dam in round 4.
N'Dam N'Jikam showed real heart, something we all knew he had, but was rocked time and time again. It didn't seem like a competitive bout at times in the middle rounds, but N'Dam's desire and toughness kept him in it. Somehow. By the middle rounds it seemed less and less like N'Dam N'Jikam was trying to win, and instead trying not to be stopped.
After 12 rounds it seemed a foregone decision. There was no logical way to see anything but a Murata win. He had, at worst, lost the first 3 rounds, and gone on to drop N'Dam N'Jikam before dominating the final 8 rounds.
Some how the judges saw something different. Gustavo Padilla managed to some how, score the bout 116-111 to N'Dam N'Jikam whilst Hubert Earle had given it to N'Dam N'Jikam with a score of 115-111, over-ruling a 117-110 card in favour of Murata from Raul Caiz Sr. Some how N'Dam N'Jikam had got the split decision, in a bout that seemed impossible to give him in Murata's home of Japan. It was one of those incredibly rare robberies against the unbeaten local. And it was a result that still, 3 years on, makes no sense.
The two judges who scored the bout for N'Dam N'Jikam were suspended for 6 months, the head of the WBA scored the bout himself, scoring 117-110 for Murata, and then a rematch was ordered. The rematch saw Murata stopping N'Dam N'Jikam, who retired after the 7th round, to claim the title he should have got here.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features