Ryota Murata is not a bluffer, so he does not lie about how he feels.
Two days before his first title defense at Yokohama Arena against Emanuele Blandamura, the WBA middleweight champion said at a Tokyo news conference on Friday that he could not comment on how he would feel in the ring until Sunday.
“I’ve been able to tune up for the fight well,” said Murata, who captured the title in a rematch against Hassan N’Dam in Tokyo last October. “But as far as my mentality, I don’t know how it will be until the day after tomorrow. But I feel calm for now.”
With a victory, the 32-year-old Murata (13-1, 10 knockouts) would become the first Japanese middleweight world champ to successfully defend his title. In 1995, Shinji Takehara earned the belt that Murata currently holds, but failed to retain it in his first title defense the next year.
Murata, a Teiken Gym boxer, jokingly said that he would have to be aware of the pressure of keeping the belt in his hands because other people, including the media, ask him about it.
“Once again, I’m not sure how I’d feel the day after tomorrow,” the Nara native said. “But I’d say that I have mixed feelings between excitement and a little bit of fear for now.”
It will be the first world title shot for the sixth-ranked Blandamura (27-2, five KOs). The Italian said that he was composed like Murata and the bout against the champion wouldn’t be different than any of his previous fights.
“The title certainly gives the fight some meaning,” the European Union middleweight champion said through an interpreter. “But there is me and my opponent in the ring — this is our sport and what you are supposed to do is the same. I will just do my best.”
Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum traveled to Japan for the fight. The 86-year-old said that he would “look forward to this being a tremendous fight.” He added that it would be televised live on ESPN in the United States as was Murata’s previous fight in October, which he said drew “a very good rating in the United States for the early morning.”
The October fight’s broadcast began at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and Sunday’s bout will start at 8 a.m. EST in the U.S.
“I want him to win, I like him to show off a good performance,” Arum said of Murata. “He’s getting much better and better every fight. Everybody loved his last performance (a seventh-round technical knockout win). As I said, it got a very good rating in the United States for the early morning. We hope this would get a good rating and then will lead into a fight in the United States whenever he’s ready to do it.”
Arum said that Top Rank is working on a fight in Las Vegas against Brazilian Esquiva Falcao, who lost to Murata in the gold-medal match at the 2012 London Olympics as a near-future opponent for the champion. Arum added that Top Rank has talked to Falcao and he is ready to get in the ring against Murata.
“That should be a tremendous fight,” Arum said. “I know many thousands of Brazilians would be coming to Vegas for the fight. MGM (Grand Garden Arena) tells us that many thousands of Japanese would be coming. So we are looking forward to the huge event.”
Arum and Top Rank are hoping to line up an even bigger event beyond that: Murata vs. WBA (super), WBC, IBF, IBO middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin at Tokyo Dome.
“I’ve been promoting for more than 52 years,” Arum said.
“One of my dreams would be to co-promote an event in the Tokyo Dome, because I wasn’t involved in the (Mike) Tyson thing,” he added, referring to the February 1990 fight in which heavy underdog and challenger James Douglas shocked the world by knocking Tyson out in the WBC, WBA, IBF heavyweight championships.
Arum continued: “That would be the biggest fight in Japanese history. And hopefully, we’ll get that done in the winter this year.”
For Sunday’s event in Yokohama, WBC flyweight champion Daigo Higa will be back in the ring after just a two-month layoff for his third title defense against Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosales (26-3, 17 KOs).
The 22-year-old Okinawa Prefecture native (15-0, 15 KOs) tied the Japanese record for consecutive KO victories with a first-round KO of Moises Fuentes in Naha in early February. Teiken president and former WBC super lightweight champ Tsuyoshi Hamada held the record.
“I’m feeling just like I’ve always felt,” Higa said of his physical condition. “I know I can give 100 percent in the fight. I will do my best to knock my opponent out from the first round. I will knock him out, I promise.”
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