It’s time. Well, almost.
Two days before a WBA middleweight championship fight, Ryota Murata and Hassan N’Dam were not really in fight mode yet.
But they certainly seemed to be focused on their Saturday bout at Ariake Colosseum.
The fight will be the first world title shot for Murata while N’Dam (35-2, 21 knockouts), the interim champ, looks to secure the official title, which is currently vacant, by defeating his Japanese counterpart.
“I have respect for N’Dam,” Murata said at a news conference following a signing ceremony at a Tokyo hotel on Thursday. “I’ve seen him fight on television so many times and I’m excited to fight against him. And I would absolutely like to win.”
Asked what kind of emotions go through his head looking at the belt that was displayed in front of the two boxers at the news conference, the 31-year-old Murata, who has a 12-0 record (nine knockouts) as a pro, said that he doesn’t have much interest in an object like it but is pleased to have the opportunity to fight for a world title.
“I don’t really have any particular thought to see the belt,” said Murata, the second-ranked WBA middleweight who captured that division’s gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I’m focusing on nothing but beating N’Dam.”
N’Dam said, meanwhile, that he thinks Murata is ready to take him on, adding that he would not be caught off guard for their fight. The 33-year-old tough boxer added that he expects it would be “a great fight” and that fans are guaranteed to observe an entertaining fight.
“My nickname is ‘El Fenomeno.’ That means I’m the showman,” N’Dam, 33, said. “This fight is going to be a show.
“I’ve got to be ready for this fight. I think Murata is going to be, too. So I think this fight is going to be a great, great fight.”
One thing that we already know about the two boxers is that N’Dam, a two-time Olympian, is far more experienced than Murata professionally, including several world title matches. N’Dam emphasized that point, perhaps putting some pressure on Murata.
“I’ve already fought the best boxers in the world, I know this game,” said N’Dam, a former WBO middleweight champion. “So let’s see what we are going to do Saturday. But I think I’m going to win.”
In the end, the Cameroonian-French directly sent a message to Murata, who was sitting nearby: “Be ready for the fight on Saturday. You’ve had 12 fights, but you are going to face Hassan N’Dam and it’s going to be more difficult for you.”
The hotel ballroom was filled with dozens of reporters, including several from France, for the Murata-N’Dam match. It is clearly because Murata is a rare Japanese fighter that can challenge for a world title in a heavier division. Murata would be the first Japanese middleweight champion since Shinji Takehara, who earned the WBA middleweight title in 1995. This nation’s boxers haven’t captured a world title at a heavier division than Takehara.
But in response to a question from a reporter on how he would value being a champion in a heavier weight class, Murata repeated that he’s only focused on winning this fight.
“I’m not going to judge how valuable it would be myself,” he said. “I’ll let others do it, and I’ll just do the best I can and have some fun.”
On the same undercard for the Ariake event, there will be two other world title bouts.
Daigo Higa (12-0, 12 KOs), who fights out of Hall of Famer Yoko Gushiken’s gym, will challenge Mexico’s Juan Hernandez (36-3, 26 KOs) for the WBC flyweight title.
Kenshiro Teraji (9-0, five KOs) will also be attempting to get a world title belt against WBC lightweight champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17 KOs), also of Mexico.