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Murata makes history with 1st title defense

YOKOHAMA — Ryota Murata added to his growing list of achievements in the ring when he became the first Japanese boxer in history to successfully defend a world middleweight title on Sunday night.

Murata, a 2012 London Olympic gold medalist, stopped sixth-ranked Emanuele Blandamura of Italy in the eighth round at Yokohama Arena in the first defense of his WBA middleweight title.

Murata started out tentatively before going on the offensive in the middle rounds with left jabs. He then scored with numerous one-two combinations to take complete charge.

In the eighth round, with the 38-year-old Blandamura in retreat, Murata tagged him with a powerful right hook that caused the Italian’s knees to buckle. The referee ended the fight at 2:56 of the round.

“My jabs were more effective than I thought they would be,” said Murata, who improved to 14-1 with 11 KOs as a pro.

Having defended his title for the first time, Murata has opened up the possibility of a next title defense in the boxing hotspot of Las Vegas, as well as a unification bout with Kazakhstan star Gennady Golovkin, the holder of middleweight belts for three other world boxing organizations.

“If I’m going to aim for something, I might as well aim for No. 1,” Murata said.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosales captured the WBC flyweight belt with a ninth-round TKO over champion Daigo Higa, who had to relinquish the title regardless of the outcome after failing to make weight the previous day.

The defeat ended Higa’s Japan-record-tying streak of 15 consecutive knockouts


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