Murata to defend middleweight title vs. Butler on Dec. 23

Japanese superstar Ryota Murata will defend his secondary middleweight world title against Stephen Butler in the main event of a world title tripleheader on Dec. 23 at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan, FightNights.com has learned.

Murata (15-2, 12 KO's), a 2012 Olympian, will make the first defense of his second reign at 160-pounds on ESPN+.

Murata lost his secondary title to Rob Brant in a lopsided decision last October in Las Vegas, but scored a second-round knockout of Brant in a rematch on July 12 in Osaka, Japan.

The winner of Murata-Butler will be obligated to face Brant, who exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Murata, but agreed to a step-aside deal which permitted Murata to face Butler first. Brant is expected to take a tune-up fight in January.

Butler (28-1-1, 24 KO's), 24, of Montreal, also had an offer to face middleweight world titlist Demetrius Andrade in December, but accepted a deal to face Murata instead.

Butler has won 10 fights in a row, but mostly against weak opposition, since getting stopped in the seventh round by former world title challenger Brandon Cook in January 2017.

The card will also feature a junior flyweight word title unification fight between Ken Shiro (16-0, 9 KO's), 27, of Japan, and Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30 KO's), 30, of Nicaragua.

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