By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat
Olympic gold medalist, Japanese middleweight Ryota Murata will make a pro debut against current OPBF middleweight champ Akio Shibata (21-7-1, 9 KOs) for six rounds in Tokyo on this coming Sunday. Murata is said to have good condition under the tutelage of Cuban trainer Ismael Salas for months, having been training in Las Vegas and Tokyo. The Japanese six-footer, 27, is a hard-hitting puncher who loves exchanging hot rallies in the close quarter. Shibata, 32 and a bit taller, is a fast footworker with his good hand speed and countering right. Murata, whose amateur mark was 119-14, 88 stoppages, is a prefight favorite because of his superior physical power and power punching. Only problem will be his stamina, as it is the very first time for him to battle for six rounds. Murata is the second gold medalist ever produced in Japan since golden bantam Takao Sakurai in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. His good performance will be highly expected, and Top Rank’s CEO Bob Arum arrived here to watch Murata’s first since he has the Japanese ex-gold medalist under his promotional wing—along with Zou Shiming of China and Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine. We wish to watch his debut with our great national interests.