By Patrick Johnston
LONDON (Reuters) - Japan's Ryota Murata denied Brazil a first Olympic boxing gold medal on Saturday when he fought smart to win his country's first in the ring for 48 years by beating middleweight Esquiva Falcao Florentino.
Falcao, whose brother Yamaguchi won bronze in the light-heavyweights, appeared to serve notice to the rest of the middleweight division when he demolished Britain's Anthony Ogogo in the semi-final.
However university worker Murata, a silver medallist at last year's world amateur championships, gave the aggressive Falcao a lesson in how to score points, defending expertly and catching the Brazilian each time he came in close to win 14-13.
"I'm really happy but the result was really out of my control. All I could do was pray to God," Murata, who easily beat Falcao in the semi-finals of the world championships, told reporters.
"I work at a university and all my focus was on the boxing, so now I can concentrate on paying back all the teachers, students and families."
The 26-year-old Japanese countered superbly in the first round to open up a two point lead and although Falcao cut that back to a single point after the second round thanks to a couple of big lefts, Murata refused to panic.
When Falcao received a warning in the final round his fate was sealed and the Brazilian, whose first name Esquiva means "dodge" in English, nodded in agreement as the judges gave the bout to Murata by just a point.
Falcao, who flirted with a life of street crime before his father Touro Moreno, a big name in Brazilian boxing, intervened, remembered his humble roots after achieving South America's largest and most populous country's best boxing result.
"I'm very happy. I wanted a lot to achieve this moment. It's the most important day of my career," said the 22-year-old Brazilian, who wants to fight in his home Games in Rio de Janiero in four years time along with a third Falcao brother, Estiva.
"It is very important for my family, I come from a humble family and this is very important for all of them. There will be a huge celebration for me when I get back to Brazil."
Japan's last gold in the boxing ring was won by Takao Sakurai at his home 1964 Games in Tokyo while Brazil's only previous boxing medal before the three won in London came in the 1968 Games.
Ogogo and his fellow losing semi-finalist Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan joined Murata and Falcao on the podium to accept their bronze medals.