Ryota Murata vs Rob Brant
Murata (14-1, 11 KO) won gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, and should be undefeated as a pro, if not for a flat-out robbery against Hassan N’dam, which he avenged in a rematch by kicking N’dam’s ass and stopping him after seven rounds.
The 32-year-old Japanese star has a potential big fight on his hands if he wins this one, as Tom Loeffler and Bob Arum have both talked about the idea of Murata facing Gennady Golovkin. Murata has the WBA’s secondary “world” title at 160, which could in theory force a fight with WBA “super world” champion Canelo Alvarez, which is the biggest thing GGG wants going forward.
Murata’s a good fighter, good skills and good power, doesn’t beat himself, and has been able to run through the opposition thus far, more or less. Golovkin would obviously be another story.
But so might Brant (23-1, 16 KO), a 28-year-old Minnesotan who was on the rise in the division before taking a gamble, entering the World Boxing Super Series at 168 pounds last year, and losing in the first round to Juergen Braehmer.
I like what I hear from Brant about that fight — he’s not making excuses and he’s accepted the loss, saying he’ll learn from it and be a better fighter, that he wasn’t as good as he could have been and that he won’t make that mistake again.
Here he is a year later with a big chance to interrupt big plans. Can he make this one count, or will we see him again a bit in over his head at a higher level?
Matchup Grade: B-. My feeling is Murata’s the better fighter. Brant’s here because he’s a mandatory challenger, which is what it is. He’s a talented fighter, but Murata’s proven it against N’dam, who was a top 10-ish middleweight when they fought, and Brant really hasn’t proven it above club or “club-plus” level fights. It’s a big gap between Murata and the likes of Alexis Hloros or Decarlo Perez. But it’s not a bad matchup, and it could be setting up a big early 2019 fight.
Maxim Dadashev vs Antonio DeMarco
Here’s a nice little crossroads fight between an unbeaten prospect and a former world titleholder, one still dangerous enough to be a threat.
Dadashev (11-0, 10 KO) has been good as a pro so far, but although he got the stoppage last time out against Darleys Perez, he didn’t exactly dominate, and that’s worth remembering. He was up 87-84 on two cards and down 86-85 on the third before getting the stoppage in the 10th and final round against another former titleholder in Perez. At 28, Dadashev is getting to the point where it’s time to get serious, and he is.
Like Perez, DeMarco (33-6-1, 24 KO) is not a natural junior welterweight, but he can fight in this division. We haven’t seen the 32-year-old Mexican veteran in a year, but last we saw him he was wiping out highly regarded prospect Eddie Ramirez in just 1:56. That was DeMarco’s second straight win after three losses in a row.
Matchup Grade: B. Fine matchmaking. Obviously Top Rank are confident that Dadashev is ready for this and that it’s a good style matchup, or they wouldn’t be risking it, but matchmakers get things wrong sometimes, too. DeMarco can fight, we’ve seen that for years, and although he’s not the most consistent guy, he’s coming off a matchup similar to this one where he trucked a young guy. Dadashev is a bigger puncher than Ramirez, but if DeMarco comes out aggressive and can push him back early, it could be a really interesting fight.