Ryota Murata easily defends WBA title with eighth-round KO over Emanuele Blandamura

Japanese star Ryota Murata defended his WBA "Regular middleweight title with an eighth-round knockout of former European 160-pound titlist Emanuele Blandamura Sunday on an international edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan.

Murata (14-1, 11 KO's), 32, was defending his belt for the first time after knocking out former interim middleweight champion Hassan N'Dam in the seventh round of a rematch held in October. Murata suffered a very controversial split decision loss in the first fight against N'Dam last May, in a fight that most people saw Murata winning handily.

The key for Murata in the fight was his right hand. He backed up Blandamura with the shot throughout the bout, and took the air out of him with thudding straight punches to the body. Struggling to find oxygen, Blandamura covered up and was forced to the ropes for most of the fight, but Murata, like predator on prey, kept coming for more.

"The fighter I want is Golovkin," Murata said through a translator. "I want to keep improving, and I'm thankful for the support of my fans in Japan and worldwide."

In the eighth round, Blandamura's body finally gave way, as Murata connected on a huge right hand to the chin, sending the 38-year-old Italian to the floor. With just four seconds remaining in the round, referee Raul Caiz Jr. halted the action.

According to CompuBox statistics, Murata delivered the money on 154 of 36 punches (42 percent), against only 53 punches connected by Blandamura out of 289 thrown (18 percent).

And Murata knew he had to put up an impressive performance.

"I feel like a lot of people were paying attention, and I needed to perform accordingly," Murata said.

"I knew this fight was being televised in America [on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes], so it was important to make a statement."

The loss for Blandamura (27-3, 5 KO's) snapped a four-fight winning streak, but one of those bouts was against a fighter with 79 losses. Before Murata, the best opponent he had faced was former international 154-pound champion Michel Soro, but Blandamura suffered an eighth-round KO.

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