The title had been vacated earlier this year by Yoshitaka Kato, who officially vacated to focus on getting himself a world title bout, though many had assumed he had given up the title to allow stablemate Sugizaki to fight for the title. Sadly however Sugizaki's chin couldn't hold up to the power of the lanky Tokunaga.
The fight started in a very competitive manner with Tokunaga trying to use his reach advantage to keep Sugizaki at range however the shorter man managed to have real success of his own with with left hook. The competitiveness was shown when the open scoring was announced after 5 rounds, with the bout perfectly poised with the cards reading 48-47, 48-47 and 47-48, putting Sugizaki in a narrow lead and on course to win a split decision.
Unfortunately for Sugizaki it seems the open scoring did him more harm than good and Tokunaga swiftly moved up a gear, taking the fight to the short man who was beginning to look tired after the 7th round and starting to look like a man who was being beaten up. Tokunaga wouldn't release his growing grip on the bout and in round 8 went on the offensive again this time dropping Sugizaki who then stopped standing after a follow up attack.
The win for Tokunaga has has completed a remarkable career turn around following opening round defeats to Yuki Miyoshi, in 2010, and Ronald Pontillas, in 2012, and this was his 7th win since the loss to Pontillas. For Sugizaki this loss ended a 4 fight winning streak though, more tellingly, it was his 6th stoppage loss and continues the worries about his durability.
After the fight it was strongly indicated that Tokunaga's first defense would come against Yuhei Suzuki (16-4, 12) later in the year.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)