Jeff Horn could be headed to Japan to face WBA ‘regular’ middleweight titleholder Ryota Murata if he gets past Michael Zerafa in Bendigo, Australia this weekend.
The former WBO welterweight champion will make his debut as a fully-fledged middleweight at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night when he takes on the well-credentialled Zerafa.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum confirmed the Murata fight would take place on December 23 but warned Horn he will need to defeat Zerafa first.
“If he wins on the 31st, everything is arranged for him to go to fight Murata,” Arum told the Weekend Australian. “I came to terms with (Horn’s promoter) Dean (Lonergan) and I have talked to (Horn’s trainer) Glenn Rushton. That fight will take place right before Christmas.
“If he loses the fight against Zerafa, unfortunately he can’t be used. So hopefully he comes through. Dean says that he is confident that Horn will win the fight and then he gets a shot at the middleweight title.
“I think that Horn will do well with Murata. Whether he beats him or not I don’t know. Horn has a real come-at-you style and takes a real good punch. If you take a good punch against Murata, you can perhaps outlast him. It is a really tough fight but I think he has a chance to win.”
The 33-year-old Murata is an Olympic gold medallist with a record of 15-2 with 12 knockouts. He has never been stopped and reversed his two losses to Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and Rob Brant in immediate rematches.
Horn, 31, won the WBO 157-pound title in an upset against Manny Pacquiao two years ago. He lost the belt in his second defence to multi-divisional champion Terence Crawford in the US last June and has fought just once since, a 96-second blowout of a past his prime Anthony Mundine in November.