Japan’s “biggest” champion may be it’s biggest sports star
Ryota Murata’s style of fighting is simple: Press his opponent and use his signature right hand to try and stop them. While some boxing pundits find the style fairly basic, the Japanese public obviously loves to watch Murata use it as an average of 15 million viewers tuned in Sunday to watch him defend his WBA Regular middleweight championship against Emanuele Blandamura. The bout was also televised in America on ESPN. The telecast reached a peak audience of 17 million.
According to a couple of recent polls Murata, 14-1 11KO, is quickly becoming one of the most popular athletes in his home country.
Murata started building his following during his successful amateur career in which he recorded a record of 119 wins with just 18 losses. At the London Olympics in 2012, Murata became the first gold medalist from Japan since 1964 and the first ever to win gold in any weight class above bantamweight.
A country of fans that has primarily seen their native pugilist have success in the lower weight divisions has taken a keen interest in just the second Japanese born fighter to ever win a title in the middleweight division. When Murata won his “title” last year he became the first Japanese native since Shinji Takahara in 1996 to hold a middleweight belt of any kind.
Murata is arguably becoming as popular as baseball stars such as Ichiro Suzuki and the most popular boxer since the days of Yoko Gushiken and Fighting Harada. At 32 years of age Murata may not be long for the sport with his style of boxing however.
His promoter Bob Arum mentioned the possibility of a fight between Murata and middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin later this year perhaps. However, Golovkin is currently scheduled to fight against an opponent to be determined on May 5th. And after that a likely rematch against the consensus “cash cow” in Canelo Alvarez will take place in the fall.
A fight against Golovkin would almost certainly sell out the 50,000 plus seat Tokyo Dome while doing mega numbers on TV. Don’t be surprised if it’s a fight that comes to fruition sooner rather than later as Golovkin is seeking the “bigger” fights this late in his career.
By: Chris Henderson