Hosono, who won the title last year stopping Yuki Ogata, was defending the belt for the 4th time and was expected to easily over-come Watanabe, who was better known for his bloody loss to Jaesung Lee in Korea than anything else. Instead however Hosono was given a real scare.
It was Watanabe who started well and seemed to take the initiative early on using his movement and boxing to over-come the slow start of Hosono. By round 3 Hosono was, finally, starting to get into range and make some inroads with his pressure, but he was in a hole at that point due to the boxing and movement of his challenger who had seemingly scouted his more established opponent.
The great start for Watanabe saw him race out to a lead on 2 of the 3 official cards at the end of round 5, with the judges favouring him with scores of 49-47 and 48-47, whilst the dissenting judge has Hosono by 48-47.
Thankfully for the champion the second half od the fight was his. He managed to have the motor running through round 6 as his pressure began to take it's toll on the gutsy challenger. Watanabe wasn't to just fold however and round 7 saw the challenger land one of his best shots to hurt Hosono who really had to go to the well in the final 3 rounds to just, and we mean just, edge out a victory with card of 97-94, 96-95 and 95-95.
Whilst Watanabe gave a great account of himself, there are some questions as to whether Hosono was rushed back in to the ring and it was only about 8 weeks ago that he last defended his title, winning a 10 round bout with Tatsuya Otsubo. It's now hoped that he will be part of the December 29th Ohashi card, though given this performance he probably needs a rest before returning. It is however clear that Hosono wants another world title fight and may see activity as his key to getting one.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)