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Ryota Murata-Steven Butler headlines stacked card in Japan on December 23

Ryota Murata (left) and Steven Butler. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Fighters Network

News reached The Ring earlier today that hugely popular Ryota Murata will face big-punching Canadian Steven Butler in a scheduled 12-round middleweight contest at the Yokohama Arena, Yokohama, Japan on December 23.

The stacked undercard will feature a mouth-watering junior flyweight unification between WBC titleholder Ken Shiro and IBF counterpart Felix Alvarado, along with Moruti Mthalane defending his IBF flyweight belt against former three-weight titlist Akira Yaegashi.

Murata, who is rated No. 6 by The Ring at 160 pounds, is a 2012 Olympic gold medallist. Since turning professional, the 33-year-old power-puncher has won 15 of 17 fights and avenged both setbacks, to Hassan N’Dam and Rob Brant, by stoppage.

Butler (28-1-1, 24 KOs) turned professional in 2014 and won 18 of his first 19 bouts, the lone blemish being a draw. He was stopped by local rival Brandon Cook in seven rounds in January 2017 but has won 10 consecutive fights since.

(From left to right) Ken Shiro, Ryota Murata and Akira Yaegashi. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Shiro, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring at 108 pounds, turned professional in 2014. The 27-year-old won a Japanese national title in just his sixth fight and edged wily veteran Ganigan Lopez to claim the WBC title in May 2017. Improving with each fight, Shiro (16-0, 9 KOs) has made six successful defenses.

Alvarado, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring, has long been the bogeyman of the junior flyweight division. After losing two world title attempts earlier in his career, “El Gemelo” rebounded to win the IBF crown last October. Alvarado (35-2, 30 KOs) has since returned to Japan and outpointed Reiya Konisha.

Mthalane, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 112 pounds, first won the IBF title in 2009 before vacating in 2014. Largely inactive for a period of years, the 37-year-old recalibrated under a new team and won back the same belt in July 2018. Mtahalane (38-2, 25 KOs) has made two successful defenses during his second title reign.

Yaegashi (28-6, 16 KOs) is one of boxing’s blood and guts warriors. He has won world titles at 105, 108 and 112 pounds and faced top fighters such as Kazuto Ioka, Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara. Yaegashi lost his IBF 108-pound title to Milan Melindo in May 2017, but the 36-year-old has won three fights in a row to to earn what might be his final world title opportunity.

Editor’s Note: Murata will be defending a version of the WBA middleweight title that is unrecognized by The Ring.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright