Gennady Gennadzhievich Golovkin (GGG) vs. Ryota Murata was a fight that attracted worldwide attention, and Tim Withaspoon, who won the WBC heavyweight title on March 9, 1984, and the WBA sameweight title on January 17, 1986, witnessed this fierce battle at his home near Philadelphia.
Tim Witherspoon, born December 27, 1957, was a standout American football player through high school and dreamed of joining the NFL, but a back injury set him back during his first year of college. He became a professional boxer, winning the WBC heavyweight title in his 19th fight and the WBA same-class title in his 26th fight, and showed his ability by winning his first WBA defense against Frank Bruno by KO in the 11th round in front of about 40,000 spectators in hostile England.
How did this fight look in the eyes of the famous champion who has left his mark in boxing history? About 24 hours after the match, we asked him how he felt about it.
He was in trouble.
GGG struggled more than I’ve ever seen them struggle. It was different from anything GGG had ever done before. It’s getting old. I have the impression that he has declined. I even wondered if I had not prepared enough. He was in trouble when he got hit by Murata’s body.
Murata on the other hand was very aggressive. He got off to a great start. His right hand was sharp and his body shot was good. He’s got a good punch. I thought he could have won by KO in the first half.
But he slowed down after about the sixth round when his mouthpiece blew off. It was a shame, because the early rounds were good. This is the seventh fight I’ve seen footage of Murata that you (the author) sent me, and I think the GGG fight was his best, better than the Rob Brandt fight where he regained the WBA title.”
When asked about the difference between the two, the former world heavyweight champion said, “I think the difference is that I was the one who was the better fighter, and the one who was the worse fighter.
I think GGG, even though he’s 40 years old, was able to pace himself,” said the former world heavyweight champion. GGG is 40 years old now, but I think he was able to pace himself, and he was calm in a pinch. He had a plan for how to overcome Murata after Murata’s good body hit him. Even after losing a point, he had the ability to come back.
He would land a series of fine strikes. He used footwork. Punching through gaps in the guard. Whether it was a jab or a hook, he changed his trajectory, and I felt that he had a lot of options.”
Witherspoon responded after hearing me say that I thought Ryota Murata fought to the end with all his might.
Murata fought a good match. What was missing, I think, was the smarts beyond the GGG experience. He didn’t slow down in the first half because he was flying too fast, but because of the damage from the punches he took.
He should have used his upper body a little more softly and hit different patterns of combinations. Murata is a perfect champion in terms of endurance and fighting spirit. I also saw that he has prepared well and built his body well, and he will need to work on closing the gap a bit if he wants to win the title back from GGG. Seriously, I think it’s just a little bit of a difference. That’s experience and intelligence.
Witherspoon grew more emphatic.
Murata wants to learn how to use a combination of strength and weakness,” Witherspoon said. I want to see more combinations, maybe four or five,” Witherspoon said. I also want to increase the angle of my jab.
And not just paring, but head slips to avoid their jabs. You ate quite a few GGG jabs, didn’t you? I also want to learn to block and hit the return jab right away, and to kill their punches with my elbows. After all, a boxer shouldn’t get hit. It is players like Murata, who are good at in-fighting, who need to thoroughly hone their defense.”
At 44 years old, Witherspoon, who was ranked ninth in the IBF heavyweight division, said.
I think Murata can still grow,” said Witherspoon, who is 36 years old and ranked No. 9 in the IBF heavyweight division. I think Murata is still growing. 36 years old is still old enough to do it. I think he will gain more confidence with practice. Whether he gains confidence or loses heart in this match will determine his future. But I see Murata getting his belt back. No kidding.”
Golovkin’s victory over Murata has already generated heat in the U.S., with talk of GGG challenging Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for his WBA/WBC/IBF/WBO super middleweight title on September 17. Alvarez is set to challenge for the WBA light heavyweight title on May 7, but a third fight with GGG is drawing more attention.
‘GGG’s third fight with Canelo or …… it’s going to be harder than the Murata fight if he doesn’t prepare for it. He was hit pretty hard this time, so he will need to rest for about two months. Whether he can beat Canelo or not will be determined by his training afterwards. It will depend on what I can do before the bell to start the match. It’s how I hone my skills and how I get in shape.”
By the way,” Witherspoon asked.
Murata felt he was a man who was strong in himself. He’s a stoic guy, isn’t he? Quite a hard worker, aren’t you?”
I gave him a rundown of what I had seen so far about Ryota Murata.
A voracious reader and student. That’s wonderful. He must have graduated from university. I have a lot of respect for you. I’m a dropout.
Withaspoon said with a wry smile.
I also like the way you take care of your family. Children of parents like that will grow up straight. He must be a good dad.”
In that regard, you will not be outdone, I told him. Withaspoon has never been married, but he is the father of one son and five daughters. He raised all of his children “single-handedly.
I told them to be educated,” he said. For Black, the greatest weapon that can protect you is learning. I didn’t understand that, so I dropped out of college after getting in with a football recommendation. I still regret it.
Murata, who studied in college properly, would understand the value of learning. He’s a great guy because he’s a middleweight world champion and fights on the big stage.
Witherspoon’s son and up to his fourth daughter are already adults, but his fifth daughter, born in 2010, is still in elementary school, and he continues to live his life as father and daughter, smiling every time he sees the former world heavyweight champion bending over, pan in hand, cooking breakfast and helping his daughter with her homework.
I’m proud to say that I’ve always boxed without getting hit, but getting in the ring is still a life-threatening experience. I’ve been in the middle of losing fights a few times, and I’ve seen the kids’ faces in my mind. The only way to overcome fear is to train, but in his later years, with his children to take care of, he did not have enough time to train.
I’m glad he was able to return home to his family uninjured, as I’m sure Murata never had that experience, and neither did GGG. I’m sure Murata is a smart guy and will be able to get on with his life away from the ring.
I stayed in the ring until I was 45 because, as you know, the best way to make money is to fight. There are plenty of fighters like that in America. And sadly, there are also countless men suffering from damage. I definitely don’t want the next generation of fighters to be like that.”
During his conversation with Witherspoon, he also mentioned Golovkin’s gift to Murata of his favorite national dress, the chapin. Witherspoon showed his white teeth and said.
‘That’s a beautiful story. They recognized each other…GGG must have felt a sense of respect while fighting. I think the Big Three of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman also had that kind of relationship. Frazier was hurt in part by Ali’s harsh words about him being a gorilla and whatnot, but deep down, he respected him.
I’m good friends with Ray Mercer, who I fought at the end of 1996. We call each other all the time. Boxers understand how hard it is to train, how tough it is to fight, how painful it is to fight, and how much pain we are in, so we can communicate with each other. Of course, we are all human, and there are plenty of people who don’t get along, but I think GGG and Murata might become best friends. It warms my heart to hear that they gave each other their precious gowns.”
Ryota Murata showed his man in the unified middleweight title match; on April 9, he was a beautiful loser. His image will be talked about for a long time to come.
Soichi Hayashi’s book “Fist of Minority” about the life of Tim Witherspoon ( click here to purchase)
Interview and text： Soichi Hayashi Photo： Hiroaki Yamaguchi