Horikawa, the nearly man of Japanese boxing, had gone 0-7 in title bouts prior to today, including a 0-3 run in Japanese title fights, coming up short against world class fighters like Ryuji Hara, Yu Kimura and the genuinely fantastic Akira Yaegashi. Despite that record the veteran never gave up on his dream of being a champion and today that dream came true as he stopped former world title challenger and former OPBF champion Shin Ono (18-7-2, 2) in 7 rounds.
On paper we had this one down as an "exciting distance fight" and in fact in our preview of the contest we had suggest that it was going to be a "very competitive 10 round battle between two very well matched veterans". In the end however it wasn't even that competitive with Horikawa setting out with bad intentions.
From the opening round Horikawa forced the pace, bringing a lot of pressure. Ono's footwork made things tough the opening round but Horikawa wasn't to be denies and continued to press forward having real success in round as he began to make Ono feel incredibly uncomfortable. Ono tried to counter and move but his lack of power seemed to make life easy for Horikawa who walked through the counters to try and land his heavier shots, and it was those shots that caught the judges attention with Horikawa having a 49-46, 49-46 and 49-47 lead on the judges cards after 5 rounds.
Although in control at the mid-way point Horikawa wasn't going to rely on his lead and instead he continued to build on his momentum, pressing harder in round 6. That brought more success for Horikawa who dropped Ono and almost had him gone with a follow up attack as he smelled blood. Ono, to his credit, saw out the tumultuous round but had taken a serious amount of damage, both physically and mentally.
In round 7 Horikawa continued the assault and eventually forced the referee to save Ono after 93 seconds of the round.
Whilst some may want to put the dampeners on the story by pointing out that Horikawa won a vacant title, given up by Yu Kimura so that Kimura could focus on world aspirations, or that he will now have the sensational Ken Shiro on his tail, but the truth is that this is Horikawa's day and after his up-and-down career he deserves his moment in the sun. It was a great win and great way for him to finally "win the big one".
For Ono the future is uncertain and we wouldn't be shocked by his career winding down rather soon.