Former Champion and Trainer Explains Ryota Murata’s Chances of Winning
The fight of the century is coming up: the WBA and IBF unified middleweight title match on April 9. Ryota Murata, Japan’s highly anticipated WBA champion, will face Gennady Golovkin, the star champion who holds the IBF title.
Don’t worry, I’ll put on a good fight and win.”
On March 21, after six rounds of sparring, Ryota Murata continued to sift punches into the mitts held by Carlos Linares. Carlos and Murata are about the same height. This trainer told him, “Don’t forget to defend yourself,” and he himself put his hands on the WBA middleweight champion with his mitts.
Carlos is the younger brother of Venezuelan golden boy Jorge Linares, who has worn the WBC featherweight, WBA super feather, WBC, and WBA and lightweight belts, and is the #1 ranked Japanese middleweight with a vacant title in the same division.
Murata ducked, parried, and blocked Carlos’ attacks, and without pausing, rhythmically unleashed combinations of straight right hooks, right hooks, one-two, left body hooks, one-two, left hooks, and straight rights.
The gym was filled with the sound of Carlos’s commands, Murata’s tapping of his mitts, and the breathing of the two men in the ring.
I’m in the challenger’s position this time. It’s easy for me to take the fight to the next level,” said Murata, who seemed to be in a state of physical and mental well-being.
Carlos also said.
We have been practicing to bring out the best in Murata. He is in great shape right now. Golovkin and Murata’s boxing is very similar. I think they will exchange blows. Don’t worry, I’ll give him a good fight and win. I’m looking forward to it.”
Gennady Gennadiyevich Golovkin, known as GGG (Triple G), has a record of 41 wins (36 KOs), 1 loss and 1 draw. He won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics representing Kazakhstan, and after turning pro, the first world belt he won was the WBA middleweight title, the same one Murata won. He defended the title 19 times and is a first-class champion who has also unified the WBC and IBF.
For Murata, he is the “world’s number one man” whom he can respect with all his heart and put himself on the line against. Even though it is champion vs. champion, Murata positions himself as a challenger.
Murata also expressed his current state of mind as he prepares for a match of unprecedented scale.
I hope that I can teach the next generation something through how I feel going into the match and what kind of internal experience I went through to get to this match. I hope that this will be conveyed not only to my sons and daughters, but also to anyone who comes into contact with me. For example, if I can convey to those who are suffering, the kind of struggles that I have experienced because I am weak, then they will be glad that I did boxing.
Of course, it is a happy thing to have won and earned money through boxing, but I would like to be able to leave what I have done to the next generation, rather than just chasing the result of winning or losing. In the end, the important thing is to go back to your inner self.
For Murata, who is always asking himself how he should live his life, Golovkin is his best opponent.
The great former champion saw it this way
As you know, there are four major titles in boxing today: WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO. With four champions in the same division, it is hard to say who is the best. GGG, a Kazakhstani, was not blessed with matchmaking and had a hard time getting fights with big names. Despite this, he has continued to improve his value by winning by KO.
Tim Withaspoon, who won the WBC title in 1984 and the WBA heavyweight title in 1986, had this to say about Gennady Golovkin’s thorny path
It’s not easy for a Kazakh to be popular in the boxing world in the United States. Even the judges can work against you. In a fight between an American and GGG, if the rounds are evenly matched, I think some judges will give points to the other fighter.
With that understanding, he was committed to a knockout win. Eighteen consecutive KO wins in world title fights is a great record. GGG, who has a lot of experience as an amateur fighter, could have won a decision unscathed using his skills as a weapon. But in order to gain recognition and popularity in his home country, he decided to stick to his style of knocking out his opponents.
Although Witherspoon was also quite a talented wrestler during his active career, there was a time when he cried because of exploitation by unscrupulous promoters and lost his passion for the ring. That is why we can understand Golovkin’s situation, who had to walk in the shadows. He said that he sincerely respects the current IBF middleweight champion, who has overcome adversity.
‘GGG must be 40 now. There are certainly areas where he has shown some decline in his last few fights: the fight he drew with Saul Canelo Alvarez in September 2017 and the one he lost by decision the following year, both of which could have been won. You’ve been getting punched around quite a bit, and the fight that returned you to the IBF title in October 2019, eh? I was hit in such a way. We’ll see how well he’s conditioned this time around.”
Witherspoon has also seen footage of Murata’s last six matches.
He said, “Of the world fights he’s fought, the best match in my opinion is against Rob Brandt on July 12, 2019. It was a crushing second-round KO, but Murata lost to the same opponent nine months earlier. It was a one-sided affair, albeit by decision.
In the return match, he was a different man and sank Brandt. It shows how smart he was in the fight and how he fed off the defeat. Brandt would have been left with the feeling of the punches he had hit cleanly. Murata has enough intelligence not to make the same mistakes again.”
What was the mistake that Witherspoon felt?
‘What bothers me is that in the middle of his first world fight (May 20, 2017, a decision loss to Hassan Endam), early in his fight with the Italian (April 15, 2018, Murata successfully defended his WBA title for the first time with an 8th round KO win), and in the first fight with Brandt, Murata was looking too much for his opponent to The longer you watch, the less rhythm you get. The pace of the other side will be the other way around.
In the rematch with Brandt, you took advantage of that experience and aggressively made your moves. I think this is the kind of boxing he should be doing. I’m sure he realized it, and the fact that he won the fight outright gave him confidence. I think it’s a very valuable win.”
While it was difficult to make predictions for April 9, Witherspoon kept his word.
‘GGG hasn’t fought since December 2020, and Japanese Guy hasn’t fought since December 2019, an even longer year. As for the blanks, one could argue that GGG has the advantage. But we don’t know what kind of training he has done and how much he has grown during the time he hasn’t been in the ring.
I think Murata has a good chance this time against a slightly down GGG. There are not many boxers who are in exactly the same condition on the day of their last match as they were on the day of their last match. The situation changes from moment to moment, and in boxing, you can get fatally injured in practice. The boxer who studies his opponent, understands his own strengths, makes a strategy based on that, and finishes the fight properly will probably win.
When comparing the experience of the two fighters, GGG naturally has the advantage. He will have more drawers. But at 40 years old, he can’t do the same moves as a fighter in his 20s, and as long as he fights, some part of his body will hurt, which is the profession of a boxer. It is natural that a 40-year-old boxer who has fought 24 world title fights would be a little slower. Well, maybe the damage has been undone over the past year and four months.”
Witherspoon added that there are two more factors that should not be overlooked.
‘GGG signed a six-game deal with DAZN in March 2019, right? Some media reported $100 million for six games. With that much money guaranteed, whether or not he’s still hungry will also affect his condition.
Then again, I am looking at the scene where Murata won the gold medal at the Olympics, and the value of a man who wins once every four years on a stage where the whole world is watching is really sky-high. I think he has a great chance.
Ryota Murata asked himself how to live his life before the Golovkin fight, and on April 9, the WBA middleweight champion will show us what he has to offer.
Soichi Hayashi’s book on Tim Witherspoon’s life, “Fist of Minority” ( click here to purchase)
Interview and text： Soichi Hayashi Photo： Takeshi Kinugawa