Ryota Murata wraps up 2019 in style, taking out Steven Butler in Japan.
In the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN+ from Japan, Murata dropped Butler in the fifth round, forcing the referee to stop the fight immediately, giving Murata his first WBA "Regular" middleweight title defense this year.
Murata had a simple, yet effective, gameplan to constantly use his right hand to systematically break down Butler throughout the fight. It all started with an overhand right that bruised Butler's face in the first round. From that point onwards, Murata's right hand found a home landing on Butler's face and body, nearly staggering Butler in the fourth round. Murata then attacked Butler with a flurry of punches that sent him to the canvas, ending the fight.
This was Murata's second straight win ever since he lost the WBA title to Rob Brant in October 2018. Murata would then win back the title earlier this year in Japan with a second-round TKO victory over Brant.
The fight headlined a quartet of fights that featured multiple world title bouts and the return of Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez. The co-main event saw Moruti Mthalane retain his IBF flyweight title with a ninth-round stoppage win over Akira Yaegashi. The fight was an enthralling back-and-forth bout that initially saw Yaegashi jab in the early going and then move all over the ring. Mthalane would eventually cut off the ring and hurt Yaegashi with a left hand to the body in the eighth round. Mthalane landed another left hand in the ninth round to hurt Yaegashi followed by a flurry of punches that forced the referee to stop the fight.
Gonzalez, a four-division titleholder, returned to the ring for the first time since September 2018 and shook off the ring rust in impressive fashion. Gonzalez quickly broke Diomel Diocos down with body combinations and stopped him late in the second round to pick up his second victory after losing consecutive WBC super flyweight title fights against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
The opening bout of the Top Rank on ESPN+ stream saw WBC light flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji defeat Randy Petalcorin by fourth-round TKO. Teraji scored three knockdowns in the third round before stopping him in the fourth to retain his title for the seventh time.
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