Preview: Brant vs Murata II
Rob Brant takes on Ryota Murata this Friday in Japan.
This Friday at
What’s at stake?
Brant (25-1, 17 KO) will be defending the secondary WBA “world” middleweight title (the WBA “super world” title is held by Canelo Alvarez) in a rematch after taking the strap from Murata (14-2, 11 KO) last October in Las Vegas. It’s a big fight in Japan, where Murata is a star.
How did Rob Brant get here?
Brant was a good amateur on the national level, starting in 2007 and winning a national championship in 2009 and the national Golden Gloves in 2010, but topped out at that level and turned pro in June 2012. He fought regularly in his native Minnesota, racking up a record of 17-0 before making his ShoBox debut in Oct. 2015, going to Arizona to beat Louis Rose by majority decision.
It was a legitimately close and competitive fight, but Rose was a spoiler type, a serious test for a rising prospect, and the win proved Brant had actual promise. He returned to ShoBox about three months later and knocked out Decarlo Perez. He put together a few more early stoppage wins over Delray Raines, Chris Fitzpatrick, and Alexis Hloros before taking a risk in Oct. 2017, moving up to super middleweight to enter the World Boxing Super Series.
In his first round fight in Germany, Brant was outpointed by veteran Juergen Braehmer, and there was no controversy or anything to it. Braehmer was simply better than Brant on that night in Schwerin, and Brant’s gamble didn’t pay off, as he suffered a notable career setback that left people thinking maybe he just wasn’t going to be a world-level fighter.
Moving back down to middleweight, Brant came back in March 2018 with a first round knockout of club fighter Colby Courter, a tune-up meant to get Brant back in the winners circle.
Seven months later, he found himself in a Las Vegas ring against Ryota Murata, the reigning WBA “world” titleholder and a fighter Top Rank had very high hopes for at 160. Murata had just one loss, and it was a blatant robbery, which he had also emphatically avenged. The Japanese star was a significant betting favorite, closing at around -1100 for the bout. It was expected that Murata would win and perhaps even set up a mega-fight in Japan against Gennadiy Golovkin.
Brant ruined those plans, battering Murata over 12 rounds and winning a clear-cut decision. Scores weren’t remotely close, as Brant ran away with the cards, 118-110, 119-109, and 119-109. It turned out Brant really could fight on the world level, at least at 160 if not 168.
Murata had the option for a rematch but didn’t immediately exercise it, so Brant returned to the ring in February, back home in Minnesota for a victory lap defense against Khasan Baysangurov. Brant dominated again and stopped the Russian in the 11th round, having already dropped him in the second.
Now Brant goes over to Japan, something he says he’s not intimated by in the least, feeling it’s fair enough that Murata met him in the States, so he’ll go over to Japan for a rematch. He’s supremely confident in his abilities, and obviously should be — he did it once, so he expects to do it again.
How did Ryota Murata get here?
Murata, like Brant, was a standout national amateur in his home country, winning five national titles, but unlike Brant, he became a standout on the international scene, too, winning silver at the 2011 World Championships and finally a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics. His final match in London was a close fight with Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao, and the Brazilians wanted a review of the fight, but AIBA turned down the request. The difference in the 14-13 result was a two-point holding penalty against Falcao in the third round. It was just the second boxing gold medal in Japan’s history, and their first since 1964, making Murata a legitimate star in Japan.
Murata turned pro in Aug. 2013, co-promoted by Top Rank and Teiken. He stopped veteran Akio Shibata in his pro debut, and didn’t spend time taking on total no-hopers, as he turned professional at the advanced age of 27 and had high-level amateur experience.
After running his record to 12-0, Murata was matched against Hassan N’Dam, a good veteran fighter, in May 2017, with the vacant WBA “world” middleweight title on the line. Though Murata was fighting at home in Japan, he was robbed on the scorecards, with Raul Caiz Sr seeing it about right, 117-110 for Murata, while judges Hubert Earle and Gustavo Padilla bafflingly scored the fight 115-112 and 116-111 for N’Dam.
An immediate rematch was rightly ordered for Oct. 2017, and Murata left nothing to chance that time, hammering and stopping N’Dam after seven rounds. Though a paper title, Murata could claim a pro world title in addition to his gold medal.
A defense against Italy’s Emanuele Blandamura followed in April 2015, again in Japan. Blandamura, a European-level fighter at best, was no match for Murata, who stopped the road fighter late in the eighth round.
The trip to Las Vegas to face Brant was meant to give Murata exposure to the US audience as a headline-level fighter, and went sour, with Brant taking the title. Murata initially decided not to rematch Brant, but is now doing so, with no other really viable options out there for him. It’s a chance for Murata to get himself back in the mix for big fights at 160, and to avenge his legitimate defeat.
How do the fighters match up?
They’re about the same size, physically. Brant is listed at 6’0½” to Murata’s 6’0”, and Murata has a bit of a reach advantage, 72½” to 70½”. But stylistically, Brant was just a nightmare for Murata in their first meeting. Brant threw over 1,200 punches in that fight, wearing Murata down and out. He pushed the tempo immediately and never let up. You could argue it was a little closer a fight than the scores indicate, but Brant had the right attack and game plan, and he executed.
Who’s the favorite?
Haven’t seen odds listed, but Brant has to be the favorite this time. He was without question the better fighter last October, and even going on the road to Osaka, it’s hard to figure Murata being the favorite again. There was nothing fluky about Brant’s win, it was a thorough and complete victory over 12 rounds.
Who will win?
Check back Thursday at Noon ET for our staff picks!
- Top 108-pound fighter Ken Shiro (15-0, KO) will defend his WBC title against Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22 KO). Ken Shiro, 27, has been really good as a pro, and has dominated since a couple of pretty close calls in 2017 against Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara. Taconing, 32, fought for world titles against Kompayak Porpramook in 2012 and Ganigan Lopez in 2016, losing by decision both times, but he’s a decent fighter, and has won six straight since the loss to Lopez. Ken Shiro is the obvious favorite here, and it’d be a big upset if he loses, but there are worse world title fights all the time.
- Joe Noynay (17-2-1, 6 KO) will defend a minor WBO super featherweight title against Satoshi Shimizu (8-0, 8 KO). Shimizu, 33, won bronze at the 2012 Olympics and has been a regional standout as a pro, joining the paid ranks in Sept. 2016. The 23-year-old Noynay has learned on the job and stopped Kosuke Saka in two last time out on April 20 at the same venue as Friday’s card in Osaka.
Bad Left Hook will have live coverage of Brant vs Murata 2 this Friday, July 12, at 7 am ET, streaming live on ESPN+