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Ryota Murata defends WBA middleweight belt with eighth-round TKO win over Emanuele Blandamura

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Ryota Murata’s style of fighting is so simple: Press his opponent and use his deadly signature right to beat him.

It might have taken a little more time than fans expected, but he got the job done anyway.

Murata successfully retained his WBA middleweight belt by defeating Emanuele Blandamura in an eighth-round technical knockout victory at Yokohama Arena on Sunday night.

“I know you were all thinking, ‘Beat him sooner.’ I wanted to beat him sooner, too,” Murata (14-1, 11 knockouts) joked with the crowd after his win. “But I was lucky to be able to knock him down.”

The London Olympic middleweight gold medalist had some difficulty catching Blandamura (27-3, five KOs) because the Italian was circling around the ring to avoid being hit. Nevertheless, Murata kept accumulating damage on his opponent with his heavy right and body blows.

Many of Murata’s punches actually landed on Blandamura’s guard. Yet they were strong enough to cause damage and eventually weakened the challenger.

In the final seconds of round eight, Murata landed a right hook to send the tough Blandamura onto the canvas for the first time. Blandamura stood up but the referee stopped the bout with four minutes left.

Murata, who has now become the first Japanese to defend a world middleweight title, had a bitter smile on his face after failing to put on a good show, but he promised the fans that he would keep working.

When asked who he would like to take on, Murata insisted that he would like to fight Gennady Golovkin, who is the middleweight champion of the WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and IBO.

“I would like to set my goal there,” the 32-year-old Murata said. “But if I fight him now, I can’t beat him. So I have to make sure I keep improving.”

Earlier in the evening, Cristofer Rosales captured the vacant WBC flyweight title by defeating ex-champ Daigo Higa by a ninth-round TKO win.

Both fighters came out aggressively from the opening round, exchanging blows. Yet Rosales (27-3, 18 KOs) eventually prevailed thanks to his height and reach.

Higa started showing fatigue and took more hits from Rosales from around the eighth round.

And in the ninth round, one of Higa’s corner men stood up to tell the referee to stop the fight. The fight was stopped with 1:46 minutes left in the round.

Higa (15-1, 15 KOs) took his first professional loss.

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