Japanese national hero Ryota Murata avenged a one-sided loss and regained his secondary middleweight world title with an explosive second-round knockout of Rob Brant on Friday at Edion Arena, in Osaka, Japan, in a fight streamed on ESPN+ in the United States.
Murata dropped Brant midway through the second round and continued to unload an avalanche of punches against him until referee Luis Pabon was forced to step in and wave off the bout at 2 minutes, 34 seconds.
The victory sent the pro-Murata crowd into celebration and completed an impressive rebound for Murata, who had considered retirement after his last fight.
That is when Murata traveled to Las Vegas in October to defend the same 160-pound belt against then-mandatory challenger Brant. But Brant put on a supreme performance that included throwing 1,262 punches -- the second-most ever recorded by CompuBox in a middleweight fight -- to win handily on the scorecards: 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110.
It was such a one-sided fight that Murata at first declined his contractual option for an immediate rematch and considered retirement while Brant defended the title in February.
But Murata had a change of heart, and they worked out a new deal that sent Brant to Japan to meet him again.
The fight could not have gone more differently than the first encounter. Although Brant was once again extremely aggressive from the opening bell, Murata answered him punch for punch in a blazing, all-action first round in which each man landed many punches.
In the second round, however, Murata hurt Brant early with a right hand and continued to catch with the same punch, although it was a left hand that connected to the chin to drop Brant midway through the round. Brant (25-2, 17 KOs), 28, a Saint Paul, Minnesota, native who lives in Dallas, went sprawling onto his back but got to his feet quickly. However, he was hurt, and Murata was all over him.
Murata (15-2, 12 KOs), 33, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and one of the most popular athletes in Japan, pounded Brant with blows from all angles to the head and body, and Pabon was looking closely, about to jump in to stop the fight at any moment. Finally, when Murata crushed Brant with a right hand to the jaw that sent him into the ropes, Pabon intervened. Murata's punch output was impressive. While Brant landed 42 of 143 shots (29%), Murata landed 98 of 211 (46%) in less than two full rounds of action.
Of Murata's 98 connects, an astonishing 95 were power shots (meaning anything other than a jab). He landed 64 of them in a near-historic second round. That is the second-most power punches landed in a single middleweight round in CompuBox's 34 years of tracking fights.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who was ringside, said he believed Murata was ready for a much bigger fight.
"Murata looked amazing. He's ready for Canelo," Arum said of unified middleweight champion, Canelo Alvarez, boxing's biggest star.
Shiro stops Taconing
In the co-feature, junior flyweight world titlist Ken Shiro retained his belt for the sixth time with a dominating fourth-round knockout of Jonathan Taconing.
The faster, more powerful Shiro (16-0, 8 KOs), 27, of Japan, known as the "Amazing Boy," landed punches almost at will against a stationary Taconing (28-4-1, 22 KOs), a 32-year-old southpaw from the Philippines.
In the third round, an accidental head butt opened a bad vertical cut over Taconing's right eye. Taconing was fading fast in the fourth round when Shiro landed a quick right and a short left hand on the chin that dropped him. Taconing got up quickly, but he was in bad shape and unsteady, and referee Frank Garza waved off the fight at 1 minute.
Taconing was getting his second shot at a world title. In July 2016, he traveled to Mexico and lost a unanimous decision challenging then-junior flyweight titlist Ganigan Lopez, who lost the 108-pound belt to Shiro in his next fight.