Coming in to the bout Nishida was the "regular" champion but had been out of the ring for around 11 months following an injury he suffered preparing for a bout in September whilst Ebisu was the interim champion, having won the belt whilst Nishida was recovering. With both men looking to prove they were the champion, and they were the better man it was clear that this bout had potential to be very special.
The first round started fast, with Nishida looking to get up close and Ebisu looking to use his jab to maintain the distance. It was a round that two judges gave to Ebisu, but one that saw Nishida look like a fighter in there to prove a point. It was the need to prove a point that helped spur on Nishida who went on to win the next 3 rounds and put Ebisu under the intense pressure that Nishida is known for.
Ebisu seemed to realise he was needing to change things and in round 5 he upped the ante, putting his foot on the gas and moved up a gear. It was a round that was easy to score for him and helpd close the gap on the scores, which were announced after 5 rounds favoured ebisu 48-47, twice, and 49-46.
Knowing he was behind Ebisu would have loved to have built on his success from round 5 but he began to look tired and Nishida seemed to feel it as he pressed the bigger puncher backwards. Ebisu wasn't going to fold though and fought back bravely in round 7 as both men began to show signs of tiredness. Despite the arm weariness Nishida took rounds 8 and 9 essentially forcing Ebisu to go all out in the final round. Ebisu, knowing he had to score a KO to win, really did go for it, but Nishida refused to go down and gritted his teeth whilst battling to the bell.
At the final bell all 3 judges had the same winner, with Nishida favoured by all 3. However all 3 judges had marginally difference scores with Nishida winning 96-94, 97-94 and 97-93.
The bout lived up to the expectation and saw the titles being unified in a genuinely brilliant battle. After the bout both men were looked battered and bruised but their no disputing the winner and it's clear that the Middleweight division in Japan is an interesting one right now, with both Nishida possibly set for bouts against Shoma Fukumoto and Koki Tyson later in the year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)