By Alexey Sukachev
Three-time alphabet interim champion Hassan N’Dam is now a holder of a regular title for the first time in his career.
To achieve his greatest honor, N’Dam traveled over half of the Earth to the legendary Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, to defeat local star Ryota Murata on Saturday in one of the bigger upsets and undeniably one of the most dubious results of 2017.
N’Dam overcame a knockdown late in the fourth round to win on two of the three scorecards in Murata’s home country of Japan. The controversial victory enabled N’Dam to win the WBA world middleweight title.
The Cameroon-born N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs) won on the scorecards of Panama’s Gustavo Padilla (116-111) and Canada’s Hubert Earle (115-112), but American judge Raul Caiz Jr. scored the fight for Murata by a wide margin (117-110). The 31-year-old Murata, a gold medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the WBA’s No. 2-ranked contender, lost for the first time as a pro (12-1, 9 KOs).
N’Dam, who won the WBA Interim middleweight belt last December with a “Knockout of the Year” candidate against previously undefeated Alfonso Blanco, utilized his excellent footwork to avoid Murata's hard punches since the very first round. N’Dam, 33, moved well laterally, but his speed was ultimately not enough to avoid getting hit by the Japanese contender’s power blows, specifically by his right hands.
France’s N’Dam landed his series of punches in return, but its effect was limited as Murata just shrugged them off to continue his march.
The opening rounds were quite successful for a N’Dam, as Murata struggled to land cleanly. Both fighters also engaged in a body-snatching contest, with Murata getting an upper hand. In the fourth, Murata began to land bigger and cleaner punches against his opponent, reaching his apex at the end of the stanza, when Murata's right hand dropped N’Dam to the canvas.
Well-known for his recovery ability – N’Dam was down six times against Peter Quillin and four times against David Lemieux – the Frenchman got up and lasted till the end of the round.
Murata, 31, continued stalking N'Jikam in rounds five and six, albeit with lesser effect. N’Dam went down several times, though none of his falls were ruled knockdowns by referee Luis Pabon.
As rounds went by, N’Dam’s footwork worsened, with his feet slowing down. He was still able to annoy the local fighter with some well-timed combinations, although their effect was questionable.
In rounds nine and 10, Murata rocked N’Dam a couple of times, but the interim title-holder was able to weather those shots. The ending rounds were quite even, with neither boxer getting an upper hand.
It seemed the fight was in Murata’s hands, so it came as a bitter surprise when the announcer read the first card in favor of the Frenchman. A surprise turned into a total shock once all three cards were announced and N’Dam won the fight in enemy territory.
BoxingScene.com was in agreement with Caiz’s score, as there was no way N’Dam looked to be a winner of the contest.
With a highly questionable victory, N’Dam, himself a two-time Olympian, is now a regular WBA middleweight champion. Gennady Golovkin is the WBA’s full “super” middleweight champion, thanks to his unanimous-decision victory over Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs on March 18 at Madison Square Garden.
N’Dam has previously held the interim WBA (2010-2011) and interim WBO (2011-2012) middleweight championships.
On the undercard Saturday, Japan’s Daigo Higa (13-0, 13 KOs) stopped Mexican Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-3, 25 KOs) with two seconds left in the sixth round to win the vacant WBC flyweight title. Navarrete, who lost his title at the scale Friday, previously went down once in the first round and once in the fifth round.
Higa was the WBC’s mandatory challenger for the title.
Also Saturday, Japan’s Ken Shiro improved to 10-0 (5 KOs) by recording a razor-thin majority decision over Mexican Ganigan Lopez (28-7, 16 KOs) in a 12-round fight for the WBC light flyweight title. Shiro won by the same score on two cards (115-113), but the fight was even on the third card (114-114).