• Kyodo


Middleweight Ryota Murata, who became Japan’s first Olympic boxing champion in 48 years last summer at the London Games, said Friday he is turning pro.

Murata will make his pro debut with Tokyo’s Misako Gym, which has produced such fighters as former world champion Koichi Wajima and Takao Sakurai, the bantamweight champion at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, who also joined the gym after turning pro.

“Once I won the gold medal at the Olympics, I said I would think about it (turning pro),” said the suit-clad Murata in front of over 100 members of the press gathered at a Tokyo hotel. “I was able to do that. I want to make a fresh challenge.”

The hurdles in front of Murata would appear daunting in the middleweight division, where only one Japanese boxer, Shinji Takehara, has ever captured the crown — back in 1995.

The now-deceased Sakurai lost a 15-round decision against Lionel Rose for the bantamweight title in 1968 in his only world title bout, and two other Japanese Olympic medalists also turned pro but never won world titles.

The 27-year-old Murata, who became the first Japanese to win a silver medal at the 2011 world championships, had considered retiring after his victory in London before having a change of heart.

“I asked my family if they would allow me to pursue my one remaining dream,” he said. “I feel indebted to the people who supported me in my amateur career, so that’s another reason why losing isn’t an option once I’ve turned pro.”

Undefeated WBA champion Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan, who knocked out challenger Nobuhiro Ishida in the third round in his seventh successful title defense in Monte Carlo on March 30, would naturally be a dream fight for Murata.

“I don’t intend to box to win decisions. I want to have clear and decisive victories — the kind of boxing that anyone who watches knows that I’m the winner,” said Murata.

Japan Amateur Boxing Federation chairman Akira Yamane was informed of the possibility that Murata might turn pro in mid-January after it was reported he was in negotiations with Misako.


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