The middleweight world title rematch between Hassan N’Dam and Ryota Murata, whose first fight generated a storm of controversy, will air live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes on Sunday (ESPN2, ESPN 3, 7:15 a.m. ET) thanks to the long-term deal recently made between Top Rank and ESPN.
On May 20 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, N’Dam claimed a split decision against Murata to win a vacant secondary 160-pound world title.
The result was extraordinarily controversial, with virtually everyone believing Murata (12-1, 9 KOs) deserved a clear decision. One judge, American Raul Caiz Sr., gave him the fight 117-110. But the two other judges — Gustavo Padilla (116-111) and Hubert Earle (115-112) — scored the bout for N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs).
The day after the fight, WBA president Gilberto Mendoza, whose organization sanctioned the match, apologized for the scoring to Murata, his team and to all Japanese fans. The organization then ordered an immediate rematch.
Padilla, of Panama, and Canada’s Earle, were suspended for six months.
Murata, 31, a 2012 Japanese Olympic gold medalist who is co-promoted by Top Rank, appeared to dominate N’Dam, 33, of France. Murata dropped him with a right hand late in the fourth round and manhandled him throughout the bout.
Although Top Rank’s cards air on ESPN in prime time, its multiyear deal with the network has other components such as streaming undercard fights, rights to Top Rank’s extensive library and the ability to put on other fights that Top Rank is involved with.
“This opportunity arose since we work with ESPN and we work with Teiken co-promoting Murata, and we hope to bring him back to fight more in the United States,” Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. “This fight is not in prime time. It’s at an unusual time [because of the time difference between Japan and the United States], but he’s an Olympic gold medalist who has massive popularity in Japan.
“On a global level, he is very relevant in the world of boxing and we felt it was important to make the commitment to him and our co-promoter to expose him the United States.”