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.
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.