By Keith Idec
Bob Arum still believes in Ryota Murata’s ability to become one of the best boxers in the world.
The 85-year-old Arum thinks Murata was wronged when judges scored him a split-decision loser to Hassan N’Dam on May 20 in Tokyo. If Murata can avenge that defeat in their rematch Sunday in Tokyo, Arum, Murata’s co-promoter, feels the Japanese middleweight will get right back on track toward stardom.
ESPN2 will televise the N’Dam-Murata rematch live Sunday in the United States. The network’s coverage will begin at 7 a.m. ET/4 a.m. PT.
“[Murata] has the ability to shine in the middleweight division,” Arum said, according to a Japan Times story posted Friday to its website. “And I think probably by the end of next year, he’ll be recognized as one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
“I’m not saying he’ll be [No. 1] because I have other fighters, like [Vasyl] Lomachenko and [Terence] Crawford. But Murata will be right up there in the pound-for-pound ratings.”
The 31-year-old Murata, who won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, got off to a 12-0 start and was fast-tracked to a title shot. N’Dam, born in Cameroon and based in France, came to Murata’s homeland, however, and was awarded a split-decision victory in their 12-round fight for the then-vacant WBA world middleweight title five months ago at Ariake Coliseum.
Two judges – Hubert Earle (115-112) and Gustavo Padilla (116-111) – scored their fight for N’Dam. Another judge, Raul Caiz Sr., scored it for Murata (117-110).
If Murata (12-1, 9 KOs) can overcome N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs) and win a world title in just his 14th fight Sunday, Arum wants to bring him to the United States for his first title defense. Murata has fought twice in Las Vegas thus far, but Arum is certain he can become more popular in the U.S., similar to the way Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has done in baseball.
“It will all depend on [Murata’s] ability to shine in the boxing ring,” Arum said. “And I think once he does, he will be tremendously accepted and he will be a big draw card in the United States.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.