LONDON – Boxer Ryota Murata demonstrated in 2011 that he can compete successfully on the world stage, placing runnerup as a middleweight at the world championships in Baku.
A year later, Murata has a chance to become Japan’s first boxing gold medalist since the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, where bantamweight Takao Sakurai claimed the top prize.
Sakurai passed away in January at age 70.
Murata, seeded second in the Olympic boxing tournament, will enter the ring at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday to compete for the gold. His opponent is Brazilian Esquiva Falcao Florentino, the No. 4 seed.
Murata defeated Falcao Florentino by a 24-11 score in the semifinals in Baku.
Stamina was the key to win the semifinal bout, Murata said.
“I have met the Brazilian before so I am prepared and I will do my best to knock him out,” Murata said on Friday after his 13-12 semifinal triumph over Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev, a two-time world champion (light heavyweight in 2007, middleweight in 2009).
“Since we met, he has improved a lot and I think this time he has analyzed my style quite closely, so I have to be at my very best against him.”
Murata will become Japan’s first Olympic boxing medalist since bantamweight Eiji Morioka earned the bronze in 1968.
“I will be very proud to be the first Japanese boxer to win a gold or silver in 48 years,” said the 26-year-old who studied business administration at Toyo University.
“It is up to me now to win gold or silver.”
Murata delivers quick, powerful punches. He’s equally quick to give credit to those who guided him on the path to success. His boxing mentor, Maekawa Takemoto, played an instrumental role in preparing him for what he has accomplished.
Competing and succeeding at the Olympics, “is not only for me but my supporters, especially my high school teacher who was my best teacher and had been supporting me for a long time. He died a couple of years ago,” Murata said.
“He was the person who taught me boxing but he also taught me a lot as a human being. I am here today because of him,” the boxer said.
Tips from the champ
Britain’s Anthony Joshua revealed how advice from ex-world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis helped him win his place in Sunday’s Olympic super heavyweight final.
The 22-year-old Londoner will take on Italy’s defending Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle for the gold medal after the Briton’s 13-11 semifinal win over Ukrainian Ivan Dychko on Friday.
Britain’s former world champion Lewis was ringside to see Joshua see off Dychko and the pair shook hands after the semifinal bout.
“I came to support Nicola (on Thursday) and as I was leaving, I saw him outside,” explained Joshua.
“He said ‘Pop him with the jab!’ and started throwing jabs and shadow boxing, it was great!
“I will always put my coaches first, because they are with me day in, day out, but Lennox gave me some advice which I took into my fight.”