Olympic champ Murata beats Shibata in pro debut


London Olympic champion Ryota Murata scored a second-round stoppage of Akio Shibata, the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation middleweight champion, in his pro debut nontitle match in Tokyo on Sunday.

Murata stunned Shibata with a right jab that sent his opponent down in the first round and the referee waved an end to the bout at 2 minutes, 24 seconds after another crushing right in the second at Ariake Colosseum.

“I feel happy to be able to stand in this ring. He hit me with a dangerous punch in the first round,” said Murata, who has been receiving instruction from Cuban Ismael Salas, who has worked with several world champions in the past.

Asked how he would have rated his own fight, Murata quipped to the fans gathered to see him, “Can I give it about 80 percent?” drawing rapturous applause.

The 27-year-old became the second Japanese to win Olympic gold before turning pro in April this year. The late Takao Sakurai won gold in the bantamweight class at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics but lost a 15-round decision against Lionel Rose in 1968 in his only world title bout.

Murata, who in June inked a deal with major U.S. boxing promoter Top Rank with the support of Teiken Gym, is aiming to become the first Japanese to capture a world title in the 72-kg class. In his preparations for the fight, he had been training in Las Vegas.

“Today was the birthday of my former teacher (the late Maekawa Takemoto from Minami Kyoto High School). I knew losing wasn’t an option. I want to be No. 1 in the world; I want to be recognized by everyone as a world champion,” Murata said.