• Kyodo

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After getting a full night’s sleep, newly crowned WBA middleweight champion Ryota Murata is finally letting the seventh-round technical knockout victory sink in and speaking like a winner.

“Yesterday I was hoping it wasn’t a dream,” the 31-year-old Murata told a news conference on Monday. “Now I’m finally realizing it isn’t a dream.”

Yet, he admitted he’s not comfortable being referred to as the champion.

“That still makes me itch,” Murata said. “I want to prove that I can be one who everyone recognizes as being a true champion.”

On Sunday, Murata, a gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, stopped France’s Hassan N’Dam after seven rounds at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan to become the first middleweight champion from Japan since Shinji Takehara in 1995, and only the second ever.

He is also the only Japanese boxer who is both an Olympic medalist and a world champion.

Murata suffered a controversial loss to N’Dam on May 20 that saw two of the judges suspended for their scoring the fight in favor of the Frenchman.

WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza called for a rematch after the fight ended with N’Dam surprisingly winning a split decision. The Japan Boxing Commission had sent a written document to the WBA demanding the match be reviewed.

Murata, who refused to comment on the dispute of the scoring when the rematch was announced in August, only said he was hoping to settle the fight for his fans and bring home the championship belt for his son.

After Sunday’s fight, N’Dam, who took a flurry of punches before his corner threw in the towel, congratulated the Teiken Gym boxer, saying he thinks they have built a friendly rivalry and will hopefully meet again in a third matchup.

Murata, who said he dreamt of winning before the match in May, admitted the fight wasn’t easy but he was prepared to keep going until N’Dam showed signs of giving up. But defending his title is where the real challenge begins, he said.

“I went in there believing I’m the stronger one. The result proved that,” Murata said.

“I have to keep winning to prove myself. I’ll be humble and take one step at a time.”

His management is now working to arrange his first title defense in Japan as early as next spring.

“I want to train well, bearing the weight of being the title holder and aspiring to achieve a higher level,” he said.

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