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It’s breakfast with the middleweights on Sunday, April 15, as Ryota Murata makes the first defense of his World Boxing Association (WBA) middleweight title against Italian challenger Emanuele ‘Sioux’ Blandamura at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. This special, international edition of Top Rank on ESPN will air live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes and stream on the ESPN App at 8 a.m. ET, with a same-day replay scheduled for 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Murata (13-1, 10 KOs), from Nara, Japan, captured a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics (165 pounds), becoming the first Japanese boxer to accomplish that feat since Takao Sakurai at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He turned pro on Aug. 25, 2013, and by his fifth pro bout, was already fighting in scheduled 10-rounders. Murata made a big statement on U.S. soil on July 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, when he knocked out George ‘Comanche Boy’ Tahdooahnippah in the opening round.
His first title challenge came this past May against Hassan N’Dam for the vacant WBA middleweight title at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. In one of the year’s most controversial verdicts, N’Dam prevailed via split decision. The WBA ordered an immediate rematch, and the two judges who scored the bout for N’Dam were suspended for six months and ordered to pass several evaluations before being allowed to judge WBA-sanctioned fights again. Murata got his revenge — and the WBA world title — in the rematch on Oct. 22, when he dominated the action and forced N’Dam to retire on his stool following the seventh round.
Blandamura (27-2, 5 KOs), ranked No. 8 in the WBA middleweight rankings, is a former European middleweight champion who captured the title with a 12-round split decision over Matteo Signani on Dec. 3, 2016. In his last ring outing, on June 17, 2017, Blandamura retained the European title with a unanimous decision against Alessandro Goddi. He later vacated the title and heads into his first world title bout riding a four-bout winning streak.