Ryota Murata's first middleweight world title defense was announced on Monday but there are bigger plans for him should he emerge victorious.
Murata will defend his secondary 160-pound belt against Emanuele Felice Blandamura on April 15 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan, Murata co-promoter Teiken Promotions announced at a news conference on Monday in Tokyo.
Murata (13-1, 10 KOs), a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and a major star in Japan, claimed the secondary belt -- to unified world champion Gennady Golovkin's top title - in Tokyo on Oct. 22 when he stopped Hassan N'Dam in the seventh round. That fight was a rematch from earlier in 2017 of N'Dam's highly controversial split decision win over Murata to claim the vacant belt.
Should Murata, 32, win -- and he will be a significant favorite -- the plan is for him to come to the United States to make his second title defense in the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN card, probably on July 14 in Las Vegas, where he would face Esquiva Falcao in a rematch of Murata's close victory in the 2012 Olympic gold medal match.
First up for Murata, however, is Blandamura (27-2, 5 KOs), 38, of Italy, who recently vacated the European middleweight title after winning a unanimous decision against Alessandro Goddi in a June 17 title defense.
"I'll devote all of myself to the first defense and concentrate on this fight," Murata said, not wanting to get too far ahead of himself.
Blandamura's only two losses came in fights for the vacant European title, an eighth-round knockout to Michel Soro (later avenged) in 2015 and an eighth-round knockout to Billy Joe Saunders, who would go on to win a world title, in 2014.
"Today is the happiest day of my life. I'm happy to fight Murata for the world championship," Blandamura said.
As part of its long-term deal with Top Rank, plans are in the works for Murata-Blandamura to air live on an ESPN network. The fight will take place in the early morning United States time. ESPN also televised the rematch with N'Dam live as well.
Falcao also has to come through his tuneup fight unscathed to make the July title bout a reality. Falcao (19-0, 13 KOs), 28, is scheduled to face Salim Larbi (20-8-2, 7 KOs), 32, of France, on March 10 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in a 10-rounder. The bout will take place on the undercard of the ESPN card headlined by featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez defending against Scott Quigg.
"If all goes well with their upcoming fights we've discussed a July date between the Olympians, probably in Las Vegas," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN. "Murata against Falcao is a fight with great international flavor. There are a lot of Japanese in Brazil and both fighters are known in each other's country, but we want to do it here (in the United States) because we want to build Murata and Falcao in the United States. The winner of that fight comes out pretty big."
Murata has boxed twice in the United States, both times in Las Vegas, on the undercard of major fights, the Terence Crawford-Viktor Postol junior welterweight world title unification bout in July 2016 and the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Brandon Rios welterweight title fight in November 2015.
Falcao, a southpaw, has fought all of his fights in the United States except for one in Macau, China, in his third pro fight in 2014.