WHO knows what would have happened had they fought anywhere else, but Tokyo’s Ryota Murata showed that venues can make a big difference. Having dropped his WBA middleweight title to Rob Brant in Las Vegas last October, Murata, a mainstream star in Japan, reclaimed his crown on home turf in the most devastating performance of his career.

Naoki Fukuda

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist was so overpowering in halting Brant, 28, at 2-34 of the second round that when we look back on his career we might conclude that he never lost the title in the first place, but had merely loaned it out.

The only question that remained is why, given Murata’s popularity, was the match held in the Edion Arena (Teiken Promotions) with a seating capacity of only approximately 6,500? But millions watched on television and doubtless came away wondering how Murata could have lost to Dallas’ Brant in the first place.

Murata was beaten decisively on points the last time they met. Brant tried to remind him of that at the opening bell by coming out quickly and attacking. For the first two minutes Brant did well, but then it started to turn as Murata moved relentlessly forward and with heavy blows over and under. The only one whose confidence was now in doubt was Brant, who could not stop the freight train in front of him.

In the second round a volley of blows topped off by a left dropped Brant on his back, feet rising into the air. He scampered to his feet, but Murata was way too strong, landing heavy blows over and under. Unable to escape the onslaught, Brant tried leaning on Murata instead of clinching, as he should have.

Referee Luis Pabon was in a difficult situation. Brant was being pounded, but blocking enough punches so that the need for a stoppage was not clear cut. However, Murata, 33, was firing away and there was only so long that the third man could allow it to continue. Pabon finally had seen enough. Brant feebly complained – more a face-saving gesture than one of being upset.

Naoki Fukuda

Brant will doubtless ask for a rubber match being that the score is 1-1, but Murata’s dominance was such that there would be no interest. In a division that boasts the names of Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade and Jermall Charlo, Murata now fits in nicely.

Because of the inordinate amount of world titles doled out by the sanctioning bodies, some champions, especially those in the lower weight classes, tend to slip under the radar, none more so than Kyoto, Japan’s Ken Shiro, who holds the WBC’s light-flyweight title. Shiro, making his sixth defence, impressively stopped Jonathan Taconing at 1-00 of the fourth round.

Taconing, 32 and from the Philippines, is a one-time title challenger. He took the fight to the classy Japanese boxer from the start and had some success landing looping blows to the head and body.  Shiro, 27, moved in and out, jabbing, and gradually taking control.

A clash of heads in the third round left Taconing with a bad gash on the lower forehead, but it became irrelevant in the following round when Taconing was caught with a short right while throwing a wide left.

Shiro’s punch landed flush, while Taconing’s harmlessly grazed the champion’s head. Taconing’s momentum then carried him forward as he crashed face first on the canvas. Taconing got up quickly but his eyes were glazed. When he turned away from referee Frank Garza it was stopped.

In a big upset, Satoshi Shimizu, who had won all eight of his previous contests inside the distance, was stopped in the sixth round of a 12 by the Philippines’ Joe Noynay.

Shimizu won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, being defeated by eventual gold medalist Luke Campbell. He was never in this fight save for a brief rally at the end of the third. Otherwise it was a shocking beatdown.

A discouraged Shimizu pulled himself out in the sixth, turning his back on Noynay and surrendering. Referee Yuji Fukuchi was a little slow to react, enabling Noynay to land a few additional blows on his defenceless opponent before it was stopped. Noynay spent considerable time consoling Shimizu afterward, perhaps regretting the last few punches he had thrown.

THE VERDICT: Murata can feature in some intriguing matches in the talent-packed 160lbs division.

RESULTS BOX: Ryota Murata (159 1/2 lbs), 15-2 (12), w rsf 2 Rob Brant (159lbs), 25-2 (17); Ken Shiro(108lbs), 16-0 (9), w rsf 4 Jonathan Taconing (108lbs), 28-4-1 (22); Joe Noynay (130lbs), 18-2-1 (7), w rsf 6 Satoshi Shimizu (130lbs), 8-1 (8)