Rob Brant and Ryota Murata to Clash for WBA Middleweight Title for Second Time

WBA “regular” middleweight champion Rob Brant will defend the title against Ryota Murata in Osaka, Japan on Friday.

Updated: July 10, 2019 • 8:20 PM ET

Ryota Murata is looking to avenge his loss to Rob Brant.

The “regular” WBA middleweight title will be on the line this Friday in Osaka, Japan, as champion Rob Brant will travel to unfamiliar territory to defend his title against the fighter he defeated to become champion, Ryota Murata. In the co-main event, Ken Shiro will defend the WBC light flyweight title against Jonathan Taconing.

Brant is coming off a powerful 11th-round TKO of Khasan Baysangurov in February, successfully defending the title for the first time after winning it by unanimous decision over Murata last October. The 28-year-old Brant (25-1, 17 KOs) has won three straight fights since suffering the only loss of his professional career to Juergen Braehmer during a brief stint at super middleweight a year before he won the title.

While big names could be on the horizon should Brant win on Friday, an unexpected name has been linked to Brant’s next fight. Former welterweight champion Jeff Horn could be in attendance on Friday and is clamoring for a fight with Brant. Brant’s promoter, Greg Cohen, sees a fight with Horn as a possibility.

"There's no secret that we're partners with Top Rank, and Top Rank has some type of partnership and done events with Jeff Horn," Cohen recently said via ESPN. "I can see that as a real possibility before year end. Rob's a world champion, boxing's a global sport, we have no problems fighting outside of the United States if it makes financial sense."

There are other household names in the division that are possible fights for Brant, such as WBO champion Demetrius Andrade or WBC champion Jermall Charlo, who are both coming off recent wins. Then, there’s Canelo Alvarez, who holds the WBA and IBF titles. Brant, though, must first get by Murata, who’s ready to regain his title; but Brant isn’t nervous about defending the belt in Japan.

"He's like a LeBron James-type figure over there," Brant said. "When we went to the press conference, there were more people than were at some of my early pro fights. [But] I'm excited for it more than I am intimidated by it."

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Murata (14-2, 11 KOs) had the option for a rematch, but didn’t immediately exercise it, which is why Brant defended the belt against Baysangurov. Like Brant, Murata had a great amateur career and started his pro career 12-0.

"I heard the rematch was something that they were interested in, and honestly, I thought it was right -- he came to the United States and gave me a shot at the title," Brant said. "I feel it's right for me to go to Japan and give him a shot back.

"Of course, there is a financial gain in going over to Japan as well. [And] I'm very comfortable in feeling that I'm going to beat him again."

Murata challenged for the vacant WBA title in May 2017, but lost a controversial split decision to veteran Hassan N’Dam. He was granted an immediate rematch in October 2017 and defeated N’Dam by seventh-round TKO to become champion.

The 33-year-old Murata defended the belt once against Emanuele Blandamura in April 2018, winning by eight-round TKO. He then defended against Brant, but couldn’t deal with Brant’s relentless attack and punching output. Murata fought hard in the later rounds, but Brant put together a strategic game plan and threw more than 1,200 punches in the fight.




Co-main event

In the co-main event, Japanese WBC light flyweight champion Ken Shiro will defend the title against veteran Jonathan Taconing.

Shiro (15-0, 8 KOs) will defend the belt for the sixth time after winning it by majority decision over Ganigan Lopez in just his 10th professional fight in 2017. The 27-year-old has since gone on a run, which has seen him defend and defeat Pedro Guevara, Gilberto Pedroza, Lopez again, Milan Melindo and Saul Jaurez.

Taconing (28-3-1, 22 KOs) has won six straight fights, most recently defeating Vince Paras by unanimous decision in September. His last loss was to Lopez for the WBC title, the second time he unsuccessfully challenged for the belt after losing to Suriyan Satorn in 2012.

The 32-year-old Filipino fighter has fought well against lesser competition, as his last six opponents had a combined 59-33-9 record. A win over Shiro would be the biggest of Taconing’s career and the biggest upset on the card.


• The main card can be seen on ESPN+ at 7 a.m. ET this Friday

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