By David Greisman
Ryota Murata Saves Career, Wins Brant Rematch With Second-Round TKO
Ryota Murata’s loss to Rob Brant last year cost him a huge fight. Another loss in the rematch would’ve derailed his career.
There were huge stakes when Murata took on Brant again this past Friday in Japan. And Murata responded with a huge performance, rocking Brant repeatedly and scoring a dominant second-round technical knockout.
Brant had stymied Murata when they first fought last October, both outworking and outboxing him, throwing more than 100 punches per round, sending out combinations and then moving before Murata could respond.
Brant started off with a similar volume of punches this time around. But this wasn’t the same Murata. He wasn’t going to wait for Brant to be done before throwing. He punched amid Brant’s flurries, when Brant was in front of him and more vulnerable. And he cut off the ring better to keep Brant in range.
Murata found particular success with his left hook, landing it both to the head and the body. A hook and a right hand hurt Brant with about 16 seconds in Round 1. Murata returned to that combination early on in Round 2. But it was actually a right hand that first hurt Brant in that second round, which Murata landed as a counter over Brant’s left hook.
Brant reeled to the ropes. Murata continued to attack, pursuing Brant to the other side of the ring. The onslaught continued, and a right to the body followed by a left hook to the head had Brant badly wobbled. Murata followed up, and Brant went down. Brant rose quickly and continued to retreat. He was soon careening to the ropes again, sending out a few feeble shots in an attempt to keep Murata away. Murata landed another big right, followed it up and staggered Brant once more.
The referee jumped in. It was a good stoppage. Brant was still on his feet, but he was badly hurt, barely doing anything on offense, and doing even less on defense.
It was a huge and necessary win for Murata, who won gold in the 2012 Olympics but had not yet approached the top of the middleweight division as a pro. Some of that wasn’t his fault — he’d been robbed in a loss to Hassan N’Dam in May 2017, avenging that defeat in an immediate rematch, stopping N’Dam in seven rounds.
Before facing Brant last year, there had been talk that Murata was being considered for a fight with Gennady Golovkin. That loss took him out of consideration. And if he was ever going to be considered for a big fight again, he needed to impress against Brant.
Once again, Murata came up big after a defeat. He’s now 15-2 with 12 KOs. And the 160-pound division is packed full of talented fighters — Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Demetrius Andrade, Jermall Charlo — who will need notable opponents.
Brant is now 25-2 with 17 KOs. Like Murata, he’d bounced back from defeat before. The career middleweight had gone up to 168 in 2017, losing to Juergen Braehmer as part of the World Boxing Super Series. Brant returned to 160 and went on to upset Murata. This loss is a hard one — decisive and destructive. Brant will attempt to rebuild and rebound nevertheless.
Shakur Stevenson Shreds Late Replacement Opponent, Wants Title Shot
Shakur Stevenson needs better competition. The problem is getting them in the ring.
Stevenson was originally supposed to face undefeated prospect Hairon Socarras this past Saturday. Socarras pulled out less than a month before their fight. Franklin Manzanilla, who was coming off a loss to 122-pound titleholder Rey Vargas, stepped in. But then he withdrew, too.
In stepped Alberto Guevara, a smaller fighter whose best days were at bantamweight, but a respectable name for such late notice. Guevara’s only losses had come against accomplished opponents: Leo Santa Cruz and Shinsuke Yamanaka in title fights at 118, Emmanuel Rodriguez (who went on to capture a belt at bantamweight), and former 122-pound titleholder Hugo Ruiz.
Guevera was the one willing to get in the ring with Stevenson. All the will in the world couldn’t keep him in the ring, however. Stevenson, clearly one of the best rising contenders in the featherweight division, put Guevara down four times en route to a third-round knockout victory.
Stevenson’s advantage in size was one thing, but his hand speed and power exacerbated the situation for Guevara. Nor did it help that Guevara had come in as a late replacement.
“I seen him at the weigh-ins. He didn’t look like he was in that much shape,” Stevenson said in a post-fight interview.
Stevenson targeted Guevara’s body, and he also got away with veering below the beltline on several occasions. Two legit body shots led to the first knockdown with about 40 seconds left in Round 2 — a left cross from Stevenson’s southpaw stance followed by a right hook. Guevara tried holding but went to the canvas. He rose, only to be sent back down moments later as the result of a left hand upstairs.
Through two, Stevenson had landed 22 of 46 shots, according to CompuBox, while Guevara was just 3 of 32. It was a mismatch, and so Stevenson was rather comfortable taunting Guevara at the beginning of Round 3.
Guevara couldn’t do anything about the taunting. He couldn’t do anything about anything Stevenson was doing. A body shot and a low blow were from Stevenson were followed up with two shots to the head. Guevara went down again. A similar sequence brought the fight to an end, with a body shot and a low blow, then a flurry upstairs. Guevara listened to the referee’s count and only began to rise as he reached 10.
Stevenson is now 12-0 with 7 KOs. He called out titleholders Leo Santa Cruz, Oscar Valdez and Josh Warrington.
“I would love to go to England to fight Josh Warrington,” Stevenson said. “We could do that in December.”
Stevenson is clearly very good. He wants better competition. He wants title fights. But his management and promotional team might choose to wait a little longer before putting him in with top competition. Stevenson’s been a pro for barely two years. He’s just 22 years old. They don’t need to rush him just yet.
One of his managers is Andre Ward — the former 168- and 175-pound champ who now does commentary for ESPN boxing broadcasts. Ward said after the fight that he’d prefer for Stevenson to have more seasoning.
Guevara is now 27-5 with 12 KOs.
Ronny Rios Shocks Diego De La Hoya With Sixth-Round Stoppage
Ronny Rios didn’t have the big name. That belonged to Diego De La Hoya, cousin of Oscar De La Hoya, the Hall of Fame fighter whose company, Golden Boy Promotions, was putting on the fight.
Rios didn’t have the glossy record. That also belonged to De La Hoya, who was an undefeated contender while Rios was no more than a respected former title challenger who had lost three times.
But Rios was rejuvenated and motivated. And with the deck stacked against him, he instead toppled De La Hoya’s house of cards, catching him with flush shot after flush shot, dropping him in the sixth round and scoring a technical knockout win.
De La Hoya started the fight looking to land counter left hooks as Rios approached. It was Rios, however, whose left hook would be the most potent weapon of the night. Rios buckled De La Hoya with a one-two early in Round 2, then repeatedly turned to the left hook to De La Hoya’s body and head, catching De La Hoya’s exposed chin again and again. De La Hoya fought back, scoring with a one-two, and soon a good right hand to the head. Rios retaliated with a jab, right hand and a left hook, and soon a right cross and another left hook.
It was an action-packed round: De La Hoya landed 26 of 45 power shots, according to CompuBox, and Rios was similarly accurate, going 25 of 49.
De La Hoya could land but wasn’t deterring Rios. Meanwhile, Rios was landing and was breaking De La Hoya down. De La Hoya battled back, but he’d never been in circumstances like this situation. An extended exchange at the end of Round 5 saw Rios land several left hooks, leaving blood spattered underneath De La Hoya’s nose. In Round 6, Rios landed a left hook early and then went repeatedly to De La Hoya’s body, looking to bring his gloves down, opening up the head.
Again, De La Hoya dug in and tried to respond. He scored with a right uppercut in close. Soon, though, Rios retaliated with a left hook to the body and a right uppercut to the chin. De La Hoya dropped to one knee, rising before the referee reached the count of eight, but indicating to the ref that he didn’t want to continue.
Rios, now 31-3 with 15 KOs, has resuscitated his career. He’d felt like he was done after losing in six rounds to Azat Hovhannisyan in March 2018.
“I was in a dark place,” Rios said. “It was very, very hard for me to come back.”
But he came back earlier this year with a win. And now he’s scored a huge one, a victory that will land him another notable fight.
De La Hoya, now 21-1 with 10 KOs, was done in both by his defensive lapses and by a lack of punching power. He may want to consider moving up to featherweight. He’d had trouble making 122 before, and it’s possible that an extra four pounds of leeway on the scales will also make a difference in the ring.
Karlos Balderas Stays Busy After Opponent Drops Out at Last Minute
Shakur Stevenson isn’t the only fighter who had to take on a late replacement opponent. But at least he had more notice than Karlos Balderas did. And at least Stevenson’s fight was still on television.
Balderas, a lightweight prospect, learned at virtually the last moment that his original opponent, Joshua Hernandez, had decided to pull out. Instead of fighting in the co-featured bout on the Premier Boxing Champions show on Fox Sports 1, Balderas took on Robert Frankel in a bout that was not broadcast.
Balderas stopped Frankel in the seventh round, according to BoxRec.com. He is now 9-0 with 8 KOs. Frankel drops to 37-22-1 with 8 KOs.