WBA "regular" middleweight world champion Ryota Murata will have his first title defense against a fighter who people might think is a cushy opponent. (photos by Naoki Fukada).
But the Japanese boxer is keen to emphasize that there are no easy fights.
The 32-year-old Murata, who captured the belt in a rematch with Hassan N’Dam last October, will take on Italy’s Emanuele Blandamura at Yokohama Arena on April 15, organizers announced Monday.
Blandamura is a 38-year-old veteran who has gone 27-2 in his professional career. But his next fight, against the London Olympics gold medalist, is his first world title shot.
“I’ve competed in boxing for 20 years. But today’s a special day for me. It’s not even an overstatement to say this is the best day of my life,” said Blandamura, who flew all the way from his country to attend the news conference in Tokyo. “I have the utmost respect for Murata. It will be a career-defining fight for me.”
The Udine native got off to a 22-bout winning streak to start his professional career, which began in 2007. That record came to an end when he fell to eventual WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders in an eighth-round technical knockout in 2014.
Blandamura, who defended his European Boxing Union middleweight title last June before he subsequently relinquished it, is placed seventh in both the WBC and IBF rankings, while he is ranked 10th for the WBA.
Compared to Murata, who has stood on top of the world both in amateur and professional competitions, Blandamura is a no-name presence.
But Murata knows that first title defenses are difficult for any boxer, and that he will be under more pressure than Blandamura because everybody thinks he will have no problem defeating him.
Some even consider this to be a stepping-stone for Murata, who is promoted by Teiken Promotions and Top Rank, to have bigger matches against notable fighters going forward.
“‘This has to be a fight that will take me to the next level’ — I want people to stop saying things like that,” Murata (13-1, 10 KOs) said with a smile. “It would great if it works out that way, but unless I win this one, there’s no next one. So I will focus on pouring all my energy into this one.”
Murata, meanwhile, cautions that Blandamura achieved plenty in his amateur career (33-8-3), and that such boxers might not have deadly punches but often have the skills to score points.
“Sometimes it’s tough to take on an opponent like that,” Murata said, when asked about the Italian having had only five KOs in his pro career. “He’s kept winning with few KOs. That means he knows how to fight for 10 rounds, 12 rounds.”
Teiken Promotions President Tsuyoshi Hamada said that it would be important for Murata to be the last man standing and it does not matter how he beats Blandamura.
Murata is the second Japanese to hold a world middleweight title (after former WBA champ Shinji Takehara). But he would be the first to defend his belt.