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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Ryota Murata, Higa-Rosales, Hagler-Hearns)

A mailbag first-timer who lives in Japan isn't impressed with Ryota Murata, but the Japanese middleweight star's co-promoter Bob Arum has big plans for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist. Photo / Naoki Fukuda




16
Apr

MURATA AND HIGA

Hi Doug,

I’m a long-time reader, first-time writer. I enjoy the bags. Hope you keep them coming until you’re senile and no longer able. I live in Japan and was finally able to catch a live broadcast featuring two Japanese titlists (and I use the term titlist lightly, particularly in Ryota Murata’s case).

The local broadcasts kind of piss me off because the commentators focus so exclusively on the local fighter that they don’t always mention what the opponent is doing well. During Cristofer Rosales’ filleting of Daigo Higa, they had to scour the replay footage to find a notable blow landed by Higa. Naturally I began to cheer for Rosales. The man peppered his foe with crisp jabs and slashing combinations. He carved Daigo up like a tough cube steak. The blows provoked the opposite of cheers. The crowd burst out in sympathetic “ohs” and “ooos.” Although the corner stopped the fight a bit early, Daigo wasn’t going to win that fight. It takes a lot of guts to come to another guy’s home town, carve him up and take his belt. I hope Rosales shoots up in the ranking from this performance.

The marque fight, if it could be called that, featured one of the least inspiring fights I’ve seen in some time. Let’s be honest about WBA titlist Ryota Murata; he ain’t much to look at. Calling him a meat-and-potatoes guy is generous. He marches forward behind ear muffs and occasionally throws a one-two. He grinned after each round which baffled me given the poverty of his punch output. His opponent, the embarrassing Emanuele Blandmamura, seemed to be allergic to punches and move in reverse so swiftly his back had skid marks from the ropes! Murata was so poor with judging distance his guard touched the timid Italian’s without a blow thrown. The knockout punch that mercifully ended the bout seemed like the only notable punch thrown in the bout. Blandman politely obliged the crowd by staying down.

I was watching some vintage B-Hop the other day and was thinking how that guy would have blasted Murata out by mid-fight. What do you think if Murata were to fight GGG, Alvarez or Saunders?

Mythical Match Ups:

Hopkins-Murata

Hopkins-GGG

Hopkins-Alvarez

Keep up the good work! Cheers! – Mike in Japan

Hey Mike! Thanks for reading the mailbag column for as long as you have and thanks for finally sharing your thoughts with us.

I think the peak middleweight version of B-Hop (1999-2003) would stop Murata by the late rounds (8-10) and clearly outpoint both Golovkin and Canelo in competitive fights.

Murata cracks Hassan Ndam with a right to the body. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

I agree that Murata is a methodical stalker with a very stiff upper body and low punch output, but I also view him as a legit top-10 contender. His jab is one-dimensional but he’s got a good right cross, a damaging body attack and decent punch-blocking ability. If he could just learn to work his jab more (and learn some variation with the left stick), move his head, and increase his punch volume (maybe throw a three-punch combo every now and then), I think he could become more of a threat to his fellow contenders because he is strong and durable.

However, he is far from elite, so I believe that Golovkin, Alvarez and Billy Joe would outclass him. I believe that Daniel Jacobs would also soundly defeat the 2012 Olympic champ.

Having said that, I think Murata can make for good 160-pound scraps against the fellow come-forward scrappers, such as Chris Eubank Jr. (if Junior every drops back down to middleweight), Sergiy Derevyanchenko, David Lemieux and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan.

I enjoy the bags. Hope you keep them coming until you’re senile and no longer able. The senility has already begun to set in, but don’t worry, I think mental fuzz actually helps me write the column. I’m gonna try to keep going ‘till at least 2021!

The local broadcasts kind of piss me off because the commentators focus so exclusively on the local fighter that they don’t always mention what the opponent is doing well. I don’t understand Japanese but it’s always sounded like the commentators there busted out the pom poms for the home-grown talent… still, I can’t help but love the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices when the Japanese fighter is kicking ass.

During Cristofer Rosales’ filleting of Daigo Higa, they had to scour the replay footage to find a notable blow landed by Higa. I noticed that. To Higa’s credit, despite being wasted from his weight struggles, he managed to land a few hard shots in each round. To Rosales’ credit, he still dominated every round.

Naturally I began to cheer for Rosales. The 23-year-old Nicaraguan is easy to root for. He faced Kal Yafai in Sheffield, England; and Andrew Selby in Wales. Rosales was brought into Yokohama to get slaughtered by Japan’s young KO King, but he’s the one who did the slaying.

The man peppered his foe with crisp jabs and slashing combinations. He carved Daigo up like a tough cube steak. I was impressed with Rosales’ effectively aggressive boxing. His jab was busy and educated and his inside combinations quickly wore down Higa, who is known for his vicious body attack.

Higa is consoled by his manager, Yoko Gushiken, following the first loss of his pro career.

The blows provoked the opposite of cheers. The crowd burst out in sympathetic “ohs” and “ooos.” That’s not surprising. Higa is behind only Murata and Nayoa Inoue in terms of popularity. He wasn’t a huge amateur star, but he still advanced quickly in the pro ranks under the guidance of Japanese boxing legend Yoko Gushiken. Higa has a fan-friendly style and he seems affable and approachable outside of the ring (I met him in Inglewood prior to the “SuperFly 2” card).

Although the corner stopped the fight a bit early, Daigo wasn’t going to win that fight. If Higa wasn’t going to win that fight (and I agree that he wasn’t) and he was getting “carved up like a tough cube steak” (your words), then I don’t think his corner stopped the fight a bit early. I think they saved their fighter from being ruined. And good for them. Higa is only 22. He can bounce back from this setback.

It takes a lot of guts to come to another guy’s home town, carve him up and take his belt. Yes, indeed, it’s takes the heart of a champion.

I hope Rosales shoots up in the ranking from this performance. He will.

 

HIGA-ROSALES

Did you see the Higa-Rosales scrap? Yet another one to throw in FOTY contention. It wouldn’t be my choice because it was a corner stoppage rather than the sadistic KO that many fight fans such as myself tend to associate with a FOTY, but great action nonetheless. I felt I was watching Izzy Vazquez-Rafael Marquez all over again. Wow!

Rosales is worth keeping an eye on, as his most recent setbacks were to a very good Andrew Selby (2017) and current champ Khalid Yafai (2015). Speaking of Higa. I actually felt for him when he didn’t make weight. He looked remorseful and embarrassed, two things I didn’t “see” from Luis Nery. Compounding that shame was facing a very good, hungry opponent who was taller with a longer reach and some nasty leverage on his left hooks.

How about your pick on Jarrett Hurd-Murata? Not often do you see two middleweights go shoulder-to-shoulder, but I can’t see that one not ending up in a phone booth.

Enjoy your work and very much look forward to Mondays and Fridays. – D in Bama

Thanks for the kind words, D.

Who would I pick if Hurd and Murata were to fight? I think their styles and mentalities point to a brutal battle of attrition, thus I have to give at least a slight edge to the naturally bigger man, which is Murata. I think he’s strong enough to prevent Hurd from coming forward. However, despite lacking Murata’s elite amateur background, Hurd is more crafty on the inside. Even if Murata bulls him to the ropes (as he tries to do with every opponent), I think Hurd would box and fight well off of them. I can see Hurd outworking Murata over the distance, but something tells me that he might not be able to shrug off Murata’s big shots as he did with the flush power punches from Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara.

Rosales dominated most of the infighting against Higa. Photo / Naoki fukuda

Rosales is definitely worth keeping an eye on. The Nicaraguan is a welcome addition to the 112-pound division. (Just as Higa will be welcome to the 115-pound division.) With Donnie Nietes recently abdicating his IBF flyweight title to campaign at junior bantamweight (and Higa expected to join the Filipino veteran in the super flyweight ranks), the 112-pound division is in need of new blood. Rosales fits the bill. He’s young (23), but experienced (30 pro bouts under his belt) and battle tested. He could rematch with Selby at flyweight before jumping to 115 pounds for rematches with Yafai and Higa. Beyond return bouts, there are unification fights vs. Artem Dalakian (WBA) and Sho Kimura (WBO). And I’m sure Japanese phenom Kosei Tanaka will earn a major belt soon (probably Kimura’s WBO strap) and a showdown with him would be a major event in Japan.

I thought Higa-Rosales was a good fight, but it didn’t come close to replicating the action of the Vazquez-Marquez trilogy. (It kind of reminded me of the Cristian Mijares-Katsushige Kawashima rematch.)

I was impressed with Rosales’ controlled but active aggression, and I admired the spirit that Higa fought with despite being physically out of the fight. However, it was too one-sided for me to consider it a Fight of the Year candidate. Higa’s will made it interesting but he didn’t do enough earn rounds against Rosales in my view.

The Okinawan was simply unable to fight with his usual relentless intensity and commitment to offense. Higa usually swarms his opponents, but against Rosales he was moving in and out without putting punches together. Once he started backpedaling by Round 4, it was clear that he wasn’t himself.

I hope he gets his weight issues under control and moves up in weight if need be. At 22, with only 16 bouts under his belt (without a distance fight), he’s still a work in progress. I think he can still have a bright future.

 

THE EIGHT-MINUTE WAR

Hi Dougie,

Quick question for a bit of wisdom. It’s the 33rd anniversary this week of my favourite fight, the Marvin Hagler v Thomas Hearns battle in which Hagler earned a 3rd-round stoppage of their MW title fight. Anyone who has seen the fight usually comments on the ferocity of the battle whilst it lasted. Out of curiosity, how would you have scored the 1st two rounds? For the love of me, the action see-saws so much that I’m unable to make my mind up if the scorecard would have read 2-0 to one of the fighters or an even 1-1 draw. How would you have seen it? Kind regards. – Raymond, Edinburgh, Scotland

Geez, I don’t know, Raymond. Hagler and Hearns combined to create a divine level of pugilistic violence. That scrap transcended scorecards. In my opinion, it’s beyond “winning” or “losing.” It’s just a breathtaking fight. Trying to score those rounds just doesn’t seem right.

I guess if I had to score the first two rounds, I’d have ‘em split between the two legends – Round 1 to Tommy, Round 2 to Marvelous.

A bloodied Hagler blasts Hearns with a right. Photo: THE RING

Hearns briefly stunned Hagler early in the opening round and he appeared to land more punches (as well as the harder shots). He couldn’t miss with his right hand (which is probably why he broke it). The Hitman also produced a bleeding cut over the bridge of Hagler’s nose with a punch. However, I should note that Hagler, who set the torrid pace of the fight, landed his share of head scramblers and forced Hearns to the ropes in the final minute of the round. He had Tommy staggering back to his corner after the bell.

Hagler was in more control in Round 2 because Hearns sought to gain command by boxing, but his legs weren’t 100% under him. Hagler was the stronger, more consistent fighter as Hearns tried to stick and move and bomb in spots. I think Hagler clearly outworked Hearns in the second stanza.  

 

CANELO’S RING MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION STATUS

Hi Doug,

I hope you along with your family are doing well. Let me start off by saying I like Canelo a lot and he’s definitely box office anytime he fights. Unlike the other Canelo trolls who hate on him, I, just like them, watch anytime he fights an opponent.

But what will happen to his Ring’s champion status if the Nevada Athletic Commission does indeed suspend him for a period of time? Will he get stripped of his status? – Eli, Austin, TX

If the commission suspends Canelo at Wednesday’s hearing in Las Vegas, we have no choice but to strip him of our middleweight title. That’s our policy.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer