Ryota Murata knocks out Emanuele Blandamura, retains secondary middleweight world title


Japanese star Ryota Murata easily retained his secondary middleweight world title with a one-sided eighth-round knockout of Emanuele Blandamura on Sunday on an international edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan.

Defending his 160-pound belt for the first time since knocking out Hassan N’Dam in the seventh round of their October rematch to claim the title, Murata had a similarly easy time with Blandamura. He pounded Blandamura throughout the fight, consistently backing him up with powerful right hands.

“I feel like a lot of people were paying attention, and I needed to perform accordingly,” Murata said through an interpreter. “I knew this fight was being televised in America [on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes], so it was important to make a statement.”

Blandamura spent long stretches of the bout trying to fight off the ropes. Murata so frequently forced Blandamura to the ropes that after only a few rounds he had bright red marks across his back caused by sliding along them so often.

Murata continued to pressure Blandamura in the fifth round and appeared to hurt him with a right hand to the body. Murata had him in trouble late in the sixth round as he banged away at him with power shots so hard that Blandamura bounced off the ropes when he got nailed.

In the eighth round, Murata again had Blandamura on the ropes and was doing major damage. Blandamura managed to slip away, but Murata quickly caught up with him and slammed him with a right hand to the chin, dropping Blandamura to all fours. He was in bad shape as he tried to get to his feet, and referee Raul Caiz Jr. waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 56 seconds.

Murata’s dominance was evident in the final CompuBox statistics. He landed 154 of 368 punches (42 percent), including an extremely high 106 of 180 power shots (59 percent).

Blandamura (27-3, 5 KOs), 38, of Italy, the former European middleweight champion, landed just 53 of 289 blows (18 percent) as his four-fight winning streak was violently halted.

The victory likely will propel Murata (14-1, 11 KOs), a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, into his third fight in the United States. The 32-year-old is expected to defend his title for the second time in July or August in Las Vegas on ESPN against Brazilian southpaw Esquiva Falcao (20-0, 14 KOs), 28, in a rematch of Murata’s close decision victory in the Olympic final.

“Another great knockout victory for the champion, Ryota Murata. Next stop: Las Vegas,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who co-promotes Murata with Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions.

As the secondary titleholder, Murata is also a mandatory challenger for unified world champion Gennady Golovkin, and that is the fight Murata really covets.

“The fighter I want is Golovkin,” Murata said. “I want to keep improving, and I’m thankful for the support of my fans in Japan and worldwide.”

If Arum and Honda have their way, they would put on a Golovkin-Murata fight as soon as late 2018 in a pay-per-view fight at the Tokyo Dome, the famed stadium where Buster Douglas scored his historic upset of Mike Tyson in 1990. Golovkin’s fall schedule is up in the air because he is unsure of the availability of Canelo Alvarez for their planned rematch because of Alvarez’s two failed drug tests that caused their May 5 fight in Las Vegas to be canceled. Alvarez is due to learn his punishment at a hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wednesday.

“Murata has such a big size advantage over Golovkin, which will enable him to win the fight,” Arum said.

In the co-feature, Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18 KOs), 23, of Nicaragua, knocked out Daigo Higa (15-1, 15 KOs), 22, of Japan, in the ninth round to win a vacant flyweight world title.

Higa was stripped of the belt Saturday for failing to make weight. He was 114 pounds for the 112-pound world title fight, while Rosales was 111.5 pounds and eligible to win the belt.

Rosales battered Higa throughout the fight until Higa’s corner threw in the towel to surrender at 1 minute, 14 seconds of the ninth round.

Open scoring was used in the bout, so Rosales knew he was ahead 79-73 and 77-75 on two scorecards and even at 76-76 on the third scorecard following the eighth round.

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