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20 JULY 2018

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Murata Denied Against N'Dam; Higa and Shiro Add Titles to Japanese Golden Era

Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam decisions Ryota Murata
Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam decisions Ryota Murata

By Derek Bonnett


Two Japanese boxers captured their first world championships as a professional at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan this morning, May 20. A third fell victim to poor scoring. Ryota Murata overcame a slow start to seemingly capture a middleweight strap with a decision over Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. However, the judges favored N’Dam controversially. Daigo Higa dropped Mexico’s Juan Hernandez six times throughout the six rounds contested to claim a flyweight belt. Ken Shiro outpointed Ganigan Lopez in a memorable twelve round war at junior flyweight.


In the main event, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, 33, got off to a great start as he boxed smoothly for three rounds while his Japanese challenger Ryota Murata studied him with little hand movement. In retrospect, this scrutiny in the ring will haunt Murata for some time. Murata’s punches were slow and mechanically and rarely found their mark. He failed to cut off the ring on his fleet-footed foe and was down three points early on the SecondsOut card. In round four, Murata let his hands go and found instant success. A right hand stung N’Dam early and a follow-up punch of the same variety put him to the canvas. N’Dam rose with a foggy head and was nearly dropped again after he walked away from Murata thinking the round was over.


Round five provided fans with the best two-way action of the morning as both fighters fought for the next three minutes, earnestly vying for the lion’s share of the points that round. Both surprised the other with right hands. N’Dam fought perhaps too wildly, but he kept the round close. Murata was clearly in deep and being tested, but he responded well. Although his face showed much abrasion by the sixth, he was now winning rounds against a foe who was not folding under his power. However, in the seventh N’Dam did something we rarely have seen him do and that was retreat. N’Dam opted to keep the distance for three minutes and gave the Japanese challenger the round without much resistance. The move proved wise as N’Dam was able to recharge and outbox Murata in the eighth by staying busier with his hands. After eight rounds, Secondsout saw the bout even at 76-76.


From round nine on, Murata, 31, controlled the fight. He stalked N’Dam more effectively and moved his opponent with single shots. Murata kept the pace where he felt comfortable and stalled any N’Dam momentum with a well-timed right hand or hooks to the body, which he began to throw with greater frequency. N’Dam looked to be wilting in the tenth, but called upon some of his typical spirit in the last thirty seconds to make the round memorable, but Murata had already outworked him for two and a half minutes. Murata remained busier of the final two frames and swept the final four rounds on SecondsOut’s scorecard to claim victory 116-112.


The judges had other feelings about the action and awarded the decision to N’Dam by split scores of 116-111, 115-112, and 110-117. N’Dam claimed full title recognition at middleweight and upped his dossier to 36-2-0 (21). Murata fell to 12-1-0 (9).


In the chief supporting bout, Juan Hernandez boxed well in the first round, leading the on-charging Higa into his uppercut while proving the quicker of foot. Higa, 21, fenced with his jab to apply constant pressure. Hernandez started the second frame well, landing with a pair of overhand rights. The Japanese boxer landed with a huge left hook in round two and took the momentum by scoring a knockdown. Hernandez rose to box well, but the statement of the round came from Higa. Higa stalked too eagerly in the third and was outboxed from the outside by the Mexican. Hernandez began attacking the body trying to slow his foe down for the later rounds. This continued through round four as the Hernandez showed poise and the ability to stick with his plan, landing some clean shots, but not phasing the Japanese challenger. Higa landed the left hook again, but Hernandez took it better. The Japanese tank wasted no time in round five and dropped Hernandez with an even better left hook. Hernandez rose gamely and even did the better work for the remainder of the round, but Higa’s power was established. Hernandez bled from the nose for the remaining time in the round. Round six would prove disastrous for Hernandez as the Japanese flyweight jumped on him with left hooks and a surprise body attack. Hernandez, 30, would hit the canvas under the pressure of the soon to be champion, but rose for more action three times. Hernandez even landed some well-timed uppercuts even though he was clearly finished. After the fourth knockdown, Hernandez was kept down by the referee and Higa was officially a champion at 112.


Higa remained perfect at 13-0-0 (13), climbing from sixth to third in SecondsOut flyweight rankings. Hernandez crashed to 34-3-0 (25) and fell from third to sixth at flyweight. After failing to make weight, it is easy to imagine Hernandez returning to the super flyweight division.


On the undercard, Ken Shiro, 25, dethroned Ganigan Lopez by twelve round majority decision in a wild contest. Lopez lost his 108-pound title by scores of 114-114 and 115-113 twice, but fought vigorously until the final bell. Lopez, 35, fell to 28-7-0 (17). Shiro raised his ledger to 10-0-0 (5) with the finest victory of his young career.

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