Ryoto Murata isn’t well known in the US, but the Japanese middleweight took a step, maybe a step and a half, in the right direction when he stopped vet Hassan N’Dam in Japan on Saturday-Sunday in Tokyo.
Murata has a deal with Top Rank to handle the US side of things and promoter Bob Arum was in promoter mode when he talked up the Japanese hitter, as a possible pound for pound level guy in short order, maybe, earlier in the week.
Murata’s fight with N’Dam ran on ESPN3 (online) and then on ESPN2 Sunday night.
N'dam has fought more names familiar to US boxing fans and has been somewhat up and down for a decent spell now. He rebounded with four wins after betting basketballed by Peter Quillin in 2012 and then tasted defeat again, courtesy David Lemieux, in 2015. He’d met and gotten a decision from Murata in his last tango, after four wins in a row. At 33, was the Cameroon born boxer too far past his prime for the striver Murata, fresher at 31, with a 13-1 mark?
Many had thought Murata got served food poisoning level home cooking when he lost a decision to N’Dam in May.
In the first, N’dam, boasting the WBA middleweight belt, cracked the jab. He slid laterally, and Murata stalked. To round two, we saw N'Dam peppering, and sliding, ever sliding. Murata doesn’t look like he has fast hands, but he doesn’t wind up too much, so his connect rate is OK.
In round three, there was trading. Murata went to the body, right side then left side. An uppercut blasted N’Dam and the hometowner was getting cooking in Japan. The crowd dug the body work from Murata, and his left hand was educated and politely persistent.
In round four, Murata stalked, and he got his right out of the holster. N’Dam had already quit the constant movement. But he was having success at middle distance, because Murata wasn’t exploding at him and making him pay for being more stationary. We saw N’Dam clock-watching and also go down, no knockdown called. Was he fatiguing badly?
In round five, we saw more body work from the Japanese boxer. Subtle but effective. In round six, N’Dam got smacked and the crowd reacted. The left hook landed right above the hip bone and N’Dam ate it…would the reaction show down the line, in fatigue, in dead legs? A right down the pike buckled the Cameroonian in the waning seconds. He was fighting back at the bell, though.
To round 7—Murata pressed from the start, looking to continue a theme. Right upstairs, left to the body, he was placing shots well. A clean right cross just missed landing at full force, then Murata kept on surging. He was the boss of the ring. Rights were staggering N’Dam, and we had a minute left. The Cameroon boxer tried to steal the round with work in the last five seconds.
Round 8 now…Nope…The fight was halted after seven complete. The N’Dam corner told Kenny Bayless that their guy was cooked. Murata shed a tear, getting emotional at winning this first pro crown. And N'Dam…it is likely he and his people discuss throwing in the career towel.
My three cents: Murata is now in the second tier of top middleweights and I don't see him striking fear in the heart of anyone within sniffing distance in the WBA top ten.