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Context: in the manga リクドウ, the boxer that will win the Level A Tournament will get the chance to challenge the Japanese champion. Some journalists are interviewing the champion about this and one asks him if he is keeping an eye on one of the participants:

Journalist: 注目―――又は警戒しているボクサーはいますか?

Champion: …俺のキャリアの中で今のライト級は… 黄金期と言える程選手が揃っていると思います  むしろトーナメント勢の連中に同情しますねェ…

I know that 同情する means "to sympathize with, to feel bad for", but considering the context, I am a bit confused. Does he mean that he feels sorry for them because fighting in such a golden era will be hard for them?

What confuses me even more, is that むしろ. Does it express a contrast to what he has said before?

Here you can see the whole page. Thank you for your help!

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I think your observation is correct. The champion is feeling bad for the トーナメント勢の連中 because they have to defeat too many rivals before they can challenge him. And yes, むしろ is rather. He said it because the golden era is a good thing for many people but it's not really a good thing for the players themselves.

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