With Christmas just a few short days away WBA Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] gave Japanese fans something to celebrate as he successfully defended his title against Canadian challenger Steven Butler (28-2-1, 24), in what was an entertaining fight between two men who believed their power would be the difference.
From the opening round we saw the style of the bout being set. Murata was applying pressure, and Butler boxing and moving. It was what both men had done in their previous bouts and no real surprise we saw it here. In the opening could of rounds Butler had some real success with combination, being thrown and getting in an out, and he landed a huge right hand in the opening round that really caught the eye. The problem for Butler however was that he could never get Murata's respect. The Japanese fighter just continued walking forward, and landed more than enough of his own heavy shots to take the first two rounds.
By round 3 it was starting to look inevitable that Murata was going to stop Butler. The pressure wasn't really changing, but Butler was starting to respond when Murata tagged him, he was showing he was hurt and holding late in the round. Mentally it must have been horrific for Butler to land his best shots and see Murata simply reset and march forward, and then be shaken when Murata landed his own shots.
Murata's success grew in round 4, and he finishes with a huge flurry after really ripping in some sick body shots on to Butler. Butler had taken them well, but they had begin to take away his legs a bit, and Butler's own body shots always looked rather like slaps rather than crisp and clean punches that Murata was throwing. Butler was still giving a good go of everything, but was being broken down, bit by bit.
To his credit the challenger came out fast in round 5. He was trying to turn the tables and stem the flow of the bout. It didn't work. At all. Instead Murata was cutting the ring off with ease, getting Butler where he wanted and landing a growing number of clean shots, to head and body. The cracks in Butler's defense were becoming bigger, and Murata was ramming shots through them. Late in the round a he wobbled Butler, and a follow up dropped him hard with just a few seconds of the round left. The referee wisely called it off.
Ideally ext for Murata will a big name, Gennady Golovkin would be ideal, if not he needs a fighter who will make him look sensational. If Golovkin isn't next a bout with Liam Williams would be a fine filler for a defense, as they styles should make for a great fight. Even if Murata would be massively favoured.
As for Butler, he showed heart and skills, but seemed to realise that his power isn't world class at Middleweight. He has to change his style, boxing more and punching less, if he's to make it to the top. Despite the loss, he could, with maturity and development, become a genuine player in the division. Today however he looked like he was second best through out.
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.
Earlier today fight fans across Japan, and the US, had the chance to see WBA "regular" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (14-1, 11) [村田 諒太] record his first defense, as he overcame the game but horribly out-matched Italian challenger Emanuele Felice Blandamura (27-3, 5).
From the opening moments the bout looked like a mismatch, as the physically imposing Murata began to stalk the ring applying his typical deliberate pressure on the challenger. Blandamura didn't seemed too concered about the pressure, and moved well around the outside of the ring, but was unable to ever slow Murata who picked his spots and landed some hard jabs and stiff straight right hands.
There wasn't much original about Murata's work but what worked was working and he kept to the same style through out the fight. Applying his constant, educated and almost mechnical pressure on Blandamura. The Italian was competitive, in spurts, but as Murata moved through the gears the bout was becoming more and more one-sided, with Blandamura given a real pounding in round 5 and 6 as he began to really feel the pressure, power and consistency of Murata, who seemed to land with an insane amount of his shots.
Despite dominating Murata struggled to land clean, had he done so he may have stopped Blandamura early on, but the Italian was in survival mode around round 5 as he retreated and looked like he knew he was a beaten man.
With Blandamura hurt and unable to really stop Murata it did seem like the champion turned off somewhat in round 7. He took the round, but looked less aggressive than he had in the previous few rounds. In some ways it was almost as if he wanted to give Blandamura false hope, allow him to open up and counter him. Sadly though Blandamura didn't really play ball and instead Murata moved up a gear in round 8, finally dropping the challenger, and scoring the stoppage with the referee saving the challenger from further punishment.
After the win Murata spoke about his desire to face Gennady Golovkin, and that is a real possibility down the line, though it does seem like his return to the ring won't be against the Kazakh but instead against Brazilian Esquiva Falcao, who Murata beat several times in high profile amateur bouts including the 2012 Olympic final.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
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)
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.