By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
2012 Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata (13-1, 10 KOs), 160, impressively captured the WBA middleweight belt as he kept stalking defending champ Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (36-3, 21 KOs), 158.75, France, positively threw punches to the elusive target and finally had him retire in the corner after the seventh session on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan. Murata had failed to win the belt, losing a controversial split verdict to N’Dam this May. In a highly anticipated grudge fight, Murata looked so much determined that he was very aggressive from the opening session.
Until the end of the seventh round, Raul Caiz Jr. (US), Robert Hoyle (US) and Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand) all had Murata leading on points: 69-64, 68-65 and 70-63 respectively. The third man was Kenny Bayless (US).
Murata, taller by an inch and two years his junior at 31, maintained the pressure to the elusive footworker from the outset, and landed solid shots to the side of the belly to the champ. The fleet-footed champ tried to outjab the challenger, who, however, came forward to mix it up and landed strong overhand rights punctuated by his trademark left uppercuts to the body.
Moving side-to-side, N’Dam attempted to outleg Murata and counter with fast combinations, but the Japanese warrior aggressively threw right crosses and left hooks to the side of the belly to keep his initiative.
The sixth saw Murata turn loose with a very solid right that had him staggering to the ropes, and the champ often grabbed the willing mixer with both hands. N’Dam was visibly slowing down and indicated his fatigue due to his continual absorption of Murata’s body punches. He had a narrow escape.
N’Dam, after round seven, abruptly quit fighting to ask his chief second Pedro Diaz to take off the gloves, saying “No Mas.” It’s a dramatic halt that produced a new world champion in Murata.
The winner and new champ jubilantly said, “This victory was made by all supporters to me. I thank for your supports that truly encouraged me throughout the fight.”
Typhoon coming and the national election being held on this day, Japan had a new world champion in the middleweight category under a storm. It’s a heart-warming incident.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions in association with Top Rank Inc. and Univent Production.
WBA supervisor: George Martinez (Canada).