The two fighters used different words and phrases. But their messages were the same: They are ready to box.
Ryota Murata, who will challenge champion Hassan N’Dam in a rematch for the WBA middleweight title, said at a Tokyo news conference on Friday that he was excited about getting in the ring for another title shot.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and famous ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. were also in attendance for the news conference, which drew a large amount of reporters both from Japan and overseas.
“With Mr. Arum sitting right next to me, and Mr. Lennon is also here,” Murata (12-1, nine knockouts) said with a smile after the signing ceremony for the match. “This is a scenery I dreamed of growing up as a boy, and I’m extremely happy about it.”
But the middleweight gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics added that what he would do in the ring against N’Dam would essentially be no different than from their first fight on May 20.
“What I’ll do is to keep moving forward putting pressure (on N’Dam) and hit some punches,” said Murata, who took his first pro loss in a controversial split decision to N’Dam five months ago, when the two battled for the then-vacant title. “The T-shirt that I’m wearing today says ‘Make this ours.’ This fight is going to be won by our whole team, not just by myself. We want to show our team power.”
N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs) said that he has worked on eliminating issues and mistakes he made in their first bout, and has made progress in preparation for his first title defense.
The Cameroonian-French added that he is “ready 1,000 percent” and expected it would be another great and intense fight with Murata.
“So in two days, it’s coming,” the 33-year-old said. “I’m ready and can’t wait for the show, because last time, it was a great show and we want to put up an even (better fight) for the fans. We’ve trained for that.”
Murata and N’Dam have built a friendship since their fight, but it’s of course only outside the ring. The Japanese said that he wasn’t sure how well he’d do in his first world title shot in May, but now he’s certain he can box, though he refrained from showing reporters the same level of confidence that N’Dam did.
“I can get in the ring with confidence,” the Nara native said. “And punch him with confidence.”
Arum wasn’t present for the first Murata-N’Dam bout but said he watched it on television. But the 85-year-old gave his honest perspective by saying that the decision “was wrong.”
Arum added that he was happy the WBA ordered the direct rematch.
“So whatever any of us scored about the decision in the first fight is now irrelevant, because,” Arum said, “and what’s good about boxing, it will be decided on Sunday in the ring, who is the better fighter.”
Arum also mentioned the potential future for Murata, who is co-managed by Teiken Gym and Top Rank.
“If, as we hoped, Murata wins the fight on Sunday, I will sit down with (Teiken chairman Akihiko) Honda-san and we will figure out where he will fight next,” Arum said.
Arum said that he wants Murata to have some fights in the United States in 2018.
Arum added that if Murata wins this time, it would be “logical” to have him fight against Esquiva Falcao, who lost to Murata in the gold medal match at the London Games. The Brazilian boxer is 18-0 (12 KOs) as a pro.
Arum insisted that there are not many Japanese who can be competitive in the weight division around Murata’s because the people from the nation tend not to be so big, but Murata is “really something.”
“(Murata) has the ability to shine in the middleweight division,” Arum said. “And I think probably by the end of next year, he’ll be recognized as one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.”
“I’m not saying he’ll be in the first because I have other fighters like (WBO super featherweight champ Vasyl) Lomachenko and (WBC, WBA and WBO super lightweight champion Terence) Crawford. But Murata will be right up there in the pound-for-pound ratings.”
Asked what kind of impact an Asian fighter like Murata would bring to the U.S. market, Arum responded by saying that differences in nationalities or races would not matter as long as any fighters can box.
“People in the United States are open to athletes from whatever country as long as they perform,” said Arum, a New York native. “A pitcher like (New York pitcher Masahiro) Tanaka, who comes from Japan, it doesn’t matter to any Yankee fan. As long as he gets the other side out, whether he’s Japanese, or Australian or American. Or white, black, yellow, or orange. It doesn’t matter as long as he can play the game, as long as he’s a good person and a good athlete.”
Arum began his statement at the news conference by thanking Japan for providing Tanaka to the Yankees. The Japanese right-hander delivered seven scoreless innings on Wednesday to help the Yankees take a 3-2 lead in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
“It will all depend on (Murata’s) ability to shine in the boxing ring,” Arum continued. “And I think once he does, he will be tremendously accepted and he will be a big draw card in the United States.”
American Kenny Bayless, who has officiated many major fights, including the one between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015, will be the referee for the Murata-N’Dam match.