LONDON – It came down to a fast-and-furious slugfest, but in the end Ryota Murata became the first Japanese in almost half a century to win an Olympic gold in men’s boxing.
Second-seeded Murata beat No. 4 seed Brazilian Esquiva Falcao by a 14-13 margin in the middleweight final to capture the gold medal at the London Olympics on Saturday, bringing Japan’s total gold medal tally to six.
“I have the talent, and that’s why I could win a gold medal. God was also on my side,” Murata said.
Takao Sakurai was the last Japanese to win an Olympic gold in boxing when he achieved the feat in the bantamweight class at the 1964 Tokyo Games, 48 years ago, and Murata became only the second Japanese to win an Olympic boxing gold.
The 26-year-old Japanese, making his Olympic debut, hit his opponent with shots to the body and punished the Brazilian with his right uppercut to take the first round 5-3. He continued his Herculean effort, though he dropped the second round 5-4.
Murata, the 2011 world silver medalist, refused to retreat, even when Falcao pounded him with rights to the head in the third round, and the Brazilian received a warning for an unclear offense as he tried to stop an onslaught of body blows.
“I was shooting for the gold medal. That wasn’t a dream, but my goal. But I don’t consider this an evaluation of myself,” Murata said. “My life from now on will be how I evaluate myself, so I want to live a life that I am not ashamed of.”
Japan had not won an Olympic boxing medal since the 1968 Mexico Games, when Eiji Morioka took bronze in the bantamweight class.
It was also the first time that the country won more than one boxing medal in an Olympics after Satoshi Shimizu clinched the men’s bantamweight bronze.
Murata had decided to retire after failing to make the Beijing Olympics, but, unwilling to give up on his Olympic dream, he returned to boxing three years ago.
“When he got the gold medal, I thought, ‘fantastic!’ and a mixture of emotions welled up thinking about how he got this far,” said Japanese boxing coach Hirokuni Moto.