More Sports / Boxing

Murata ready for 2nd title shot

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Sports competitions are often considered like chess matches, and when you face the same opponent twice, the second time is different because you and your opponent are going to come at each other with different preparation, tactics and strategy.

With a little over a month until his rematch against Hassan N’Dam, Ryota Murata said that the biggest difference for him going into his second fight against the Cameroonian-French is his mentality.

“It’s completely different,” Murata (12-1, nine knockouts) said of his mindset, comparing what it was before his first N’Dam bout at Teiken Gym on Friday. “This time, I can go into the fight with a certain level of confidence.

“For the previous fight, it was my first fight against a world-class opponent in my career, so I was uncertain how well I could do. But now I believe in myself and that’s huge mentally.”

In his first world title shot in May, Murata fell to N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs) in a controversial split decision taking his first pro loss when they competed for the then-vacant WBA middleweight title in Tokyo.

The 31-year-old said that his training has gone well and if he keeps it up, he’ll be able to have a good performance against N’Dam on Oct. 22 at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

But Murata, the 2012 London Olympic middleweight gold medalist, and his Teiken Gym staff are not taking N’Dam lightly, because he could be as prepared as the Japanese boxer when the two square off.

“We don’t know how N’Dam would come (against Murata),” Murata’s main trainer Sendai Tanaka said. “But no matter how he comes, Mura will have to be prepared and it’ll be important for him to win it in a clear way this time.”

Teiken invited two sparring partners from overseas: Mexico’s Adrian Luna, who lost to Murata in 2014, and American Patrick Day. The pair was also brought to Japan before the first Murata-N’Dam bout as sparring partners.

According to Murata, the two men have different boxing styles; Luna can fight toe-to-toe, while Day uses his speed, both of which N’Dam can exhibit. So Murata said the two are ideal training opponents for Murata.

In an open practice on Friday, Murata sparred for three rounds against Luna and worked on his short right because he feels he needs it when his opponent moves closer to him.

“N’Dam occasionally closes in, too,” said Murata, who’s now the No. 1 contender in the WBA middleweight division. “And I thought it’s important for me to fully swing my right even when he does it.”

Murata is also aware of his bad habit of holding his opponent to his left too long. He got hit with Luna’s overhand right a couple of times during their sparring session.

“That’s one of the moves I shouldn’t do,” the Nara native said. “If I extend my left for a long time, there’s more chance to get hit with a counter.”

Not surprisingly, Murata, also commented on Saturday’s middleweight unification fight between champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas.

“I’ve got to focus on my own fight first,” Murata said. “But the winner of the Golovkin-Alvarez fight is going to be what I am ultimately shooting for.

“But I should not lose my fight talking about it too much. I have to win my next fight in a clear-cut way and I’ll work hard in the remaining one month to make it happen.”

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