Warrior code: Emanuele Blandamura interview
Ahead of his bout against WBA champion Ryota Murata in which he attempts to become the third Italian boxer to win a middleweight world title, Emanuele Blandamura speaks to Luca Rosi and tells him, "I won’t let this opportunity slip away"...
It’s been over 30 years since Sumbu Kalambay beat Iran Barkley (Livorno, 1987) and 50 years since Nino Benvenuti overcame Emile Griffith at Madison Square Garden (1967). Emanuele Blandamura is looking to follow in the footsteps of these two greats to become the third Italian world middleweight titlist as he prepares to do battle with Ryota Murata in Tokyo on 15 April 2018.
Speaking to Boxing Monthly, the fighter from Rome is feeling relaxed and ready for his biggest challenge. “I’m aware of the history and what a win would mean not only for me but for boxing in Italy. I’m going into the fight full of confidence, my training camp has gone really well – me and my team have left no stone unturned to ensure that I go into the fight with the best possible chance of success. I’ve worked very hard with my long-term trainer Eugenio Agnuzzi at the Pro Fighting gym in Rome and also with my strength and conditioning coach, Marco Rustichelli.”
It’s the chance of a lifetime for the Italian, who faces a stern test, 6,000 miles from home, in the Land of the Rising Sun. “I know what I’m up against fighting Ryota Murata in his backyard. I have maximum respect for him, he’s a former Olympic middleweight gold medallist [London 2012] and he has all the qualities to be a great fighter. But I’ve got those attributes too. I don’t underestimate him just as I don’t overestimate him. He’s made a name for himself in his home country as an elite sportsman and so have I in Italy. The only judge of our capabilities is the ring and I will use all my experience [Murata has only gone the distance once in 14 fights] and technical know-how to get the better of him on the day.”
The contest takes place in the 17,000 capacity Yokohama Arena in Tokyo [which was modelled on the most iconic fight venue of all, New York’s Madison Square Garden]. “I’m looking forward to the trip and learning about another country. I’m really excited to be fighting in such a historic venue, where so many big fights have been held. The atmosphere won’t faze me at all as I feel at home in the ring wherever it may be. I have many fans in Japan too so the reality is that it will feel like home from home. We leave for Tokyo ten days before the fight [5 April] to factor in jetlag and to give me time to acclimatise. The travel party will consist of my promoter Salvatore Cherchi, my manager Christian Cherchi, Agnuzzi and Rustichelli, plus Federico Giorgi who will also be in my corner.”
The 38-year-old finally became the first Italian to win the coveted European middleweight title since Cristian Sanavia in 2001. He is unbeaten now in almost three years. “The split decision win over Matteo Signani [Blandamura subsequently defended his European title once – a unanimous points win against another fellow Italian, Alessandro Goddi] served as a springboard to this world title shot and gave me a big boost and a renewed desire. It was very tough physically and psychologically as I had lost to him in the amateurs. Matteo is a very tough, come forward fighter, it’s easy to get drawn into a scrap with him so a very different style to me.”
Blandamura first tasted defeat in Manchester against the current WBO middleweight champion. He recalled, “I went through a very tough phase in my career after my losses to Michel Soro [Teatro Principe, Milan, 2015] and then Billy Joe Saunders [Manchester Arena, 2014]. I wasn’t ready to become European champion at the time. When I faced Billy Joe, I was unbeaten in 22 fights so I went into the fight thinking that I had the tools to win. I knew that he was a talented boxer and southpaws are always tricky. Despite the TKO loss in the eighth, I feel as though I put in an excellent performance. It was very close on the scorecards and I was having my best spell in the fight at the point of the stoppage. The fight taught me that you must stay focused for every second, every minute of every round, never lower your guard and that you can lose at any given moment.”
And what has he made of the Hatfield man’s rise to the top? “Billy Joe is a very good technician with excellent timing – a complete fighter. I wasn’t surprised by the Lemieux result. If you let him do his thing, he does it very well. And even if he were to fight someone of the calibre of a Golovkin, he’d definitely have a chance of winning – anything can happen. He deserves what he’s achieved and I wish him all the best. Maybe one day we can get it on again and who knows this time the result could be different. Until the TKO, it was a very evenly balanced fight between us.”
Blandamura, who turned pro at the relatively late age of 27 in 2007 [he had his first amateur fight at 19] was raised by his grandparents in Rome. Told in the first person by Blandamura, his story has been turned into a book, written in collaboration with acclaimed Italian boxing journalist and author, Dario Torromeo. The book, called ‘Che LOTTA è La VITA’ or ‘What a struggle life is’ comes out in May 2018. It chronicles a turbulent youth, the obstacles Blandamura had to overcome and the influence of his beloved late grandfather, Felice – the man who helped him turn his life around.
The Udine born fighter knows that he will have to summon up the all the fighting spirit of his ring name and the Native American tribe he so admires for his date with destiny. “I fell in love with the Sioux having read many books about them. I really relate to their respect of life, their strong sense of community and ethics as well as their desire to fight when they’re attacked. They consider the war paint and symbols they use when they go into battle as being a good omen and they want to look their best when they go into battle. It’s an incredible way of looking at life and how to confront death. I’d like to think I bring that same mentality into the ring. On 15 April, you’ll see a new Emanuele Blandamura – I won’t let this opportunity slip away.”
Hoka hey …