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Olympic champ Murata relaxed ahead of second pro fight

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

With a couple of days to go before his second professional bout, Ryota Murata was still chilling. In fact, he looked so relaxed it was as if his fight was two months away.

“I don’t turn my switch on until the day of the fight,” Murata said at a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday.

Murata, the middleweight gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, will face Dave Peterson of the United States in the penultimate match of Friday’s show held at sumo’s mecca, Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The 27-year-old Murata, who KO’d compatriot Akio Shibata in the second round of his pro debut bout in late August, expects a tougher bout against a foreign fighter this time. But he is more relaxed than he was before his first pro match.

“I don’t know how I’ll fight until I get in the ring,” Murata said. “But at least I’m more calm than I was before my first fight.”

Meanwhile, his opponent, Peterson, called Murata a “good fighter.” But he also didn’t forget to politely warn the referee not to stop the fight too soon even if he takes shots from the Japanese boxer.

“I watched some of his fights,” said Peterson, whose nickname is “The Prodigy” and who has a 13-1 record in his professional career. “I believe his first professional fight was stopped prematurely, so hopefully it doesn’t happen in this fight.”

The contract weight for the match is 73 kg and will be fought up to eight rounds.

Facing a foreign pugilist for the first time as a professional, a smiling Murata said he would prefer to be fighting against a Japanese boxer.

“I’m more relaxed than I would be if I were facing a Japanese fighter because I see them all the time,” Murata joked. “But I experienced so many fights against foreign fighters, representing my country (as an amateur). So I don’t have any jitters whatsoever.”

Murata, who is promoted by Top Rank, is likely to have a bout in Macau in February, depending on how he fights this time. The show, according to Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, could feature three gold medalists from the London Games: Russian heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev, Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming and Murata.

Murata, who had a training camp in Las Vegas for a month beginning in late October, didn’t comment on it too much, saying, “I didn’t train thinking about it.” He knows that he needs to beat Peterson first before he can think of Macau.

For the main bout of the day’s card, WBC flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi will try to defend his title for the first time against former WBC light flyweight champion Edgar Sosa of Mexico.

Asked about fighting in the final bout after Murata’s fight, Yaegashi was indifferent.

“I really don’t have any thoughts on me being the main bout,” said Yaegashi, who earned the belt in April. “I’ve just been thinking of defeating Sosa. I wouldn’t mind had my fight not been the main one, but I would like to put up a great fight that deserves to be the main fight.”

Earlier on Friday, there will be another pair of fascinating bouts.

Twenty-year-old Naoya Inoue will take on Jerson Mancio of the Philippines for the light flyweight title of the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation, while OPBF bantamweight champion Hiroki Shiino will face Ryosuke Iwasa.

Inoue, Shiino and Iwasa will be looking to use their respective bouts as a stepping stone for a world title challenge in the near future.