The talented Japanese fighter was up against the naturally smaller Vergil Puton (15-7, 7), in what looked like an intelligent but calculated step up in class for the unbeaten Teiken gym prospect. The reality however is that almost back-fired.
The scorecards told one story. They told the story of a dominant performance from Masaki, who won the bout 79-73, twice, and 79-74, the reality however is that Masaki got tested and got tested hard.
From the opening round Puton brought the action. applying constant pressure on Masaki who was forced to cover up, pick his counter shots and really think about what he was doing against the smaller but more experienced man. The action suited Puton who looked to try and take away the speed, size and natural boxing advantages of Masaki it seemed enough to win the visitor the opening round. Puton's pressure continued in round 2 though this time Masaki showed some of his class and actually dropped the visitor with a hard counter shot. To his credit Puton was immediately back up, with the knockdown being a true "flash knockdown". Although only a momentary knocjkdown it did enough to get Masaki a 10-8 round and to have him establish a lead.
In round 3 and 4 we again saw Puton putting on the pressure but Masaki was slowly finding his feet and finding holes for more counters, particularly to the body of the challenger who was being forced to take full blooded counters to the gut. This lead to a really exciting 4th round and it seemed like MAsaki was starting to go through the gears, something that seemed to happen again at the start of round 5.
Although Masaki was turning it up, Puton was equal to much of it and fired back regularly, rather than wilting under the fire power of Masaki. This lead to some great exchanges though did leave Puton with a bloodied nose after round 6 and looking like a man running out of steam, in both rounds 6 and 7. By then Masaki had got control of the bout, but wasn't an easy bout.
If Masaki thought he was going to cruise to victory he had another thing coming with Puton again bringing the fight in round 8 and forcing Masaki to fight back. Puton though seemed to quickly tire and the final minute was almost all Masaki with the local fighter cracking Puton with some sickening body blows. Puton did well to survive but it was clear that 8 rounds was about all he was going to handle, especially given the pace he had forced on the fight.
Whilst it sounds like we're being critical the truth is that Masaki seemed to only show glimpses of what he is capable of, and whilst getting rounds under his belt, especially at this stage of his career, is a good idea it's a real shame that he didn't also show just how good he really is. Puton's performance was fantastic, and he will get more big bouts, but we feel Masaki certainly left a lot in his locker when he could have shown so much more.