Japanese middleweight star Ryota Murata closed a successful bounce-back year with a fifth round TKO victory over Canada’s Steven Butler today in Yokohama, retaining his secondary WBA “world” title with the win.
Butler (28-2-1, 24 KO) was very game and had a solid approach early, looking to batter the body of the 33-year-old Murata (16-2, 13 KO), but Murata stayed patient and consistent, and found a repeated home for his right hand on Butler’s face.
Butler, 24, was taking a big step up in competition here. This was just his second fight outside of Canada, and when we saw him in the US earlier this year, he struggled to a 10-round split decision win over Vitalii Kopylenko on a Thursday night Golden Boy card from Las Vegas. All of that made Murata a clear favorite here, and the 2012 Olympic gold medalist did not disappoint.
Butler gave the effort, but was simply outgunned by Murata’s power. Murata dropped Butler late in the fifth round, having done increasing damage in every round beforehand, and referee Rafael Ramos rightly waved it off. Butler wasn’t getting up, and even if he had he probably wasn’t going to be in any shape to continue from that point.
Murata remains a solid top 10 guy at 160 pounds, with possible 2020 fights coming against Rob Brant and Esquiva Falcao, if he stays within the Top Rank stable. Brant beat Murata in Oct. 2018, a real upset, before dropping this belt back to him on July 12 in Osaka. Brant had a rematch clause for that fight and has said he will exercise it, but he’s currently on the shelf with an injury. Falcao was the Brazilian across the ring from Murata in the 2012 Olympic middleweight gold medal match, losing on a score of 14-13. There’s been talk of them rematching as pros for a while now. Falcao is currently set to return on Feb. 1 in China.