Earlier this year we saw Ryota Murata (13-1, 10) suffer his first loss, losing a very controversial split decision to French-Cameroonian Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-3, 21) for the WBA Middleweight title. That loss took away Murata's unbeaten record but was so controversial that the WBA ordered an immediate rematch, which took place earlier today in Tokyo.
The fight started closely, with Murata employing a style based around methodical and consistent pressure whilst N'Dam moved and threw combinations. It was a round that could have gone either way, with Murata being the more effective, and the heavier handed, but N'Dam did seem to be out-landing Murata with his flurries, which whilst mostly blocked did have shots getting through. The second round was much like the first, though Murata did manage to have more and more success, landing several shots late in the round, including a left to the body and a huge right hand up top to take it.
In round 3 Murata seemed to step it up slightly and landed more frequently with his heavier blows. There was some flashy work from N'Dam but the body shots and straight right hands from Murata were chipping away at N'Dam's resolve, with the body shots particularly taking a toll on the champion's gas tank. To neutralise N'Dam's holding Murata used his physicality to lean and push N'Dam around, further draining the champion who's footwork had began to slow.
Murata seemed to grow and grow through the bout and in round 4 the body shots of the Japanese really began to land at will along with a number of huge right hands. He wasn't ultra active but was consistent and methodical with his work being incredibly effective, whilst N'Dam seemed to be wasting energy just trying to get Murata's respect. The pressure was amped up again in round 5 and the round could have been scored a 10-8 with Murata simply bullying N'Dam as the wheels began to come off the champion who was beginning to be force fed right hands. To his credit N'Dam showed his toughess and always tried to fight back, but was wobbled several times as Murata turned the screw, one right hand at a time.
The screws tightened further in round and N'Dam started to become more and more desperate as the shots began to buckle his knees. For a man who had been down numerous times in the past it was staggering to see N'Dam remain upright, but he was taking a beating and it was clear that he wouldn't see the final bell unless something changed. There was simply nothing N'Dam could do to get space, time or respect of Murata, who marched forward and did as he pleased whilst N'Dam began to show visible signs of tiring.
With N'Dam looking like a man falling apart Murata only had to keep doing what he was doing, chipping away at N'Dam and breaking him down. That's exactly what he spent round 7 doing, landing some lovely short burst up stairs and down stairs, and landing his right hand consistently onto the had of N'Dam who was wobbled. Even the jab of Murata's was thrown with bad intent and forced N'Dam on to the back foot.
The corner of N'Dam seemed to realise their man was too deep after round 7 and retired their man, who really had taken a lot of punishment, and was taking more round by round. The body shots had taken his snap away and the head shots were all shaking N'Dam, who's toughness was tested to the extreme. The corner, knowing their man had taken enough made the right call, well aware it was only going to get worse.
For N'Dam it ends his short reign, which really never should have been, and saw him suffer his first stoppage loss. For Murata, who was very emotional after the win, the victory sees him become only the second Japanese fighter to claim a world title at 160lbs, even in this overly diluted era, and helps set up potential super fights with Billy Joe Saunders, David Lemieux, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and even Gennady Golovkin. It might not erase the “1” from his record, but it will go some way to easing the pain of the injustice of the decision in the first bout.
At it's best the sport of boxing is one that entertains, excites and has us talking for all the right reasons, the action and the drama in the ring. Sadly however our great sport is one that often pushes away it's best fans and has decisions thats leave even the most ardent of fans confused and feeling like they should be doing something other than watching the sport. Sadly we had one such decision earlier today, and one that cost Japanese icon Ryota Murata (12-1, 9) [村田 諒太] a place in history, his unbeaten record and the WBA Middleweight title, whislt Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-2, 21) has ended the day feeling like the luckiest man in Japan,and one of the luckiest in the sport of boxing.
It was a decision that was so wrong that it has since seen the WBA head honcho Gilberto Mendoza apologise to Murata, the promoter Teiken, and fight fans whilst publically stating that he will be demanding a rematch. It was the type of result that no one could explain, and the sort of outcome that further harms boxing.
Despite the result, and post fight outrage, it was actually N'Dam who started the fight well. He seemed to clearly take the first 2 rounds as Murata started very slowly and did little other than apply ineffective pressure on the Frenchman, but by the end of round 3 Murata had began to find a home for his right hand, which would become one of the fights key punches.
In round 4 one of those Murata right hands deteonated on N'Dam who dropped hard to the canvas, in what was the bouts only, official, knockdown. It showed Murata's power was genuine, though of course it also showed N'Dam recuperative powers as he not only got back up, but went on to take the fight back to Murata as he looked to re-establish himself.
The Frenchman was shaken again in round 5, and it looked clear that Murata's right hand was a major concern and at one point it looked like the ropes had kept him up right as he was rokced backwards. It could well have been a second successive 10-8 round for Murata, had Luis Pabon seen the shot that sent N'Dam stumbling into the ropes. In round 6 Murata again hurt N'Dam who had began to do little more than run and through "stay away" jabs, rather than actually try to fight. The pressure of Murata wasn't the most intense, but it was effective with N'Dam hitting little more than gloves, and being forced onto the back foot through out.
Had N'Dam's jabs been landing, and had he controlled the tempo of the round, avoided the solid right hands of Murata and fought with conviction he could have had some claim to the round, but he didn't and it was clear that Murata's slow start was behind him and that he was now in the drivers seat.
Murata continued to apply his constant and educated pressure through the rest of the middle rounds with N'Dam doing incredible little in round 7, as he danced around the ring, and refused to engage with Murata, showing far too much respect to the Japanese fighter. N'Dam, to his credit, did let his hands go a little more in roudnd 8, but was again incredibly negative, putting on performance that really lacked any fire at all, with shots that hit the guard and did little to really impact the fight. Murata was kept quiet,due to the movement of N'Dam, but he was looking to make a fight, something N'Dam was trying to avoid.
After 8 rounds the bout seemed like one that Murata was leading comfortably, however the officials cards had the bout almost even after 8 rounds, with the judges having the bout 77-74 to Murata, 76-75 to Murata and 76-75 to N'Dam. Murata rocked N'Dam again in round 9, whilst N'Dam struggled to land anything meaningful. N'Dam seemed to come alive a bit in round 10, but was again made to look like a scared fighter, moving excessively and being tagged by both the jab and right hands by Murata.
In the final couple of rounds N'Dam did let his hands go more often than he had earlier on, but he was tagged just as often as he landed, with the Frenchman taking the bigger shots, and being negative throughout.
After 12 rounds they went to the score cards, and amazingly the bout was announced as a split decision, an instant shock to many including the fighters, fans, and everyone in the arena. It seemed that whilst N'Dam had his moments, he had been beaten in whatever way you want to score the bout. Unless you were scoring for landing on the guard and negative movement. Shockingly however the cards read 116-111 and 115-112 to N'Dam whilst the third was 117-110 to Murata.
The first card to N'Dam drew real shock from the crowd, and commentary, whilst the final decisoon drew loud boos, from a Japanese audience who are usually happy to respect a result against their fighter. Their disgust here was obvious, and it's the confusionm of those at Teiken, Murata himself and Fuji TV was clear.
The decision has been widely criticised, representatives from Teiken have said it was one of the worst they have seen in years, French TV critiised it and Murata himself has stated he feels it was wrong. The fact Mr Mendoza has criticised it as well syas it all. The decision was wrong, it was rotten and it made little sense. It wasn't a shut out, but it was a bout that looked like a clear win for the local fighter who will now be wondering whether their is any point in continuing in a sport that will, right now, feel corrupt to him.
Whilst a rematch is seemingly set to be ordered it is a shame that the judges got this so badly wrong. Interestingly however one of the judges scoring for N'Dam has turned out peculiar scorecards in Japan in the past. He had the December 31st 2014 bout between Takashi Uchiyama and Israel Hector Enrique Perez a draw at 85-85, prior to the stoppage, whilst one judge had that 90-78 amd another had it 88-82, he also had Noberto Jimenez beating Kohei Kono 115-112, with the other judges having it 114-114 and 116-111 for Kono, he was one of two judges to favour Anabel Ortiz against Etsuko Tada in their 2013 clash , though he did strangely have Koki Kameda beating Juan Jose Landaeta in their first meeting back in 2006.
A seriously look needs to be had of Gustavo Padilla's score card, and the refereeing of Luis Pabon who has consistently been poor in the big fights.
Although we suspect Murata Vs N'Dam II will be a huge fight later in the year, it doesn't help the sport in the slightest. The fans are agry, the media is angry and the sport will have some way to go to rebuild the trust in Japan. N'Dam might be the champion but it's clear that even his own countryman are unhappy at the result, with the media over their have suggested it was an "unfair result", with a "very surprising result, as Murata seemed to have dominated ". It's a shame that a fighter who could have created several slices of history has veen denied in this way and in many ways it's an issue with boxing that needs to be sorted before fans turn away all together.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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