By Joe Koizumi
WBA middleweight champion Ryota Murata (14-1, 11 KOs), 160, successfully made his first defense when he kept stalking fleet-footed Italian Emanuele Blandamura (27-3, 5 KOs), 159.5, finally caught up with him and dropped him with an overhand right to prompt the referee’s intervention at 2:56 of the eighth round on Sunday in Yokohama, Japan. Murata, 2012 Olympic gold medalist, took the pace from the start and kept on throwing stinging lefts to the elusive challenger. The champ, six years his junior at 32, steadily piled up points as he remained aggressive to the circling Italian. The sixth saw Murata accelerate his attacks to force Blandamura to the ropes with a flurry of punches, but the Italian barely had a narrow escape with his defensive skills. Ryota, however, finally caught Emanuele with a vicious right, decking him on the knees in the closing seconds of the fatal eighth. The referee Raul Caiz Jr. wisely saw him unfit to go on and declared a well-received halt.