One of the biggest boxing shocks this year saw Panama's Jezreel Corrales (20-1-0-1, 8) travel to Tokyo and blitz long reigning WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-1-1, 20) in just 2 rounds. The result put a genuine shockwave through Japanese boxing and, amazingly, saw fans are call those in the venue liars as the bout wasn't broadcast live on TV and though people at the venue were originally on the wind up. It seems to think, but there were people suggesting that those in attendance were trying to make people tune in to the delayed broadcast.
In their first fight Corrales seemed to shock Uchiyama from the opening round. He was too quick, too sharp, and unexpectedly heavy handed. Although Uchiyama saw out the opening round it was clear he was uncomfortable and in round 2 he stopped following 3 knockdowns in the round. It was a genuine jaw dropped, and even those people who tipped Corrales hasn't expected such a result, especially given that Corrales was pegged as a defensive genius and not a power puncher.
On December 31st the two men face off again with Corrales looking to prove the first fight wasn't a fluke, and that he really does have Uchiyama's number whilst Uchiyama is looking to roll back the clock and put on a performance to remember, despite being 37 years old and a 11 year veteran of professional boxing.
When Uchiyama was at his best he was a vicious fighter with a thunderous right hand, a rigth hand that earned him the nickname “KO Dynamite”, he was accurate, defensively sound and a brilliant reader of range and tempo, knowing when to let his hands go and when to step back from his foe. As he's gotten older however he has slowed significantly, and he wasn't never lightning quick to begin with. As he's slowed he has become more defensively liable and can be caught by quick fighters.
During his 6 year run as champion Uchiyama recorded 11 defenses and beat the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez, Daiki Kaneko and Jomthong Chuwatana. At times he looked less than great, such as again Kaneko, other times however he looked incredible and combined his boxing ability and thunderous power with a real mean streak that saw him looking like he was out to hurt opponents. Sadly as he's gotten older some of that meanness has worn off and niggling injuries have taken a toll on his body and effectiveness in the ring. That was certainly seen against Corrales in their first bout, when a slow looking Uchiyama looked unsure of himself from part way through the opening round until the end.
Known as “El Invisible” Corrales has a reputation as being a defensively clever boxer who was hard to tag and was never in the same place for long. Offensively he wasn't seen as anything exception and in all honesty very little on his record stood out prior to him facing Uchiyama. In many wins his only real wins of note had come against Rene Alvarado, Walter Estrada and Juan Antonio Rodriguez. Interestingly however he had stopped his 5 opponents previous to facing Uchiyama and seemingly had changed styles into one that was sitting on his punches more than he had early in his career. Those KO's have seen him turn his record from 13-1 (2) to 20-1-0-1 (8), with 5 stoppages in his last 7 wins.
Against Uchiyama we saw Corrales not only look destructive but also intelligently wild. His shots came from unusual angles, he switched a bit, squared up a bit too much but knew that he had his man hurt and that the shots thrown from all over the place were landing and hurting a man who looked lost. The accuracy might not have been great but the speed and power were impressive and prevented Uchiyama from ever recovering or resettling to the task at hand.
It's easy to think that Corrales' first win was a fluke. It's easy to say that Uchiyama had an off night, wasn't his usual self and wasn't expecting what he got from Corrales. The truth however is that Uchiyama is no longer a man in his prime, he's a long way removed from his best and age defeats all men, as we saw recently with Bernard Hopkins. That's likely to be the case again here, and we suspect that great Uchiyama will retire following the bout. He may still have a surprise “last” performance in the tank, as we recently saw from Hozumi Hasegawa against Hugo Ruiz, but we would be genuinely surprised to see that happen here against Corrales, who simply looks like a man who is a stylistic nightmare for the popular Japanese puncher.
The Super Featherweight division is one of the most entertaining, despite the fact that it's been a criminally over-looked and often ignored one in the west. Of course the division has had some highlight fight in the west recently, such as the brilliant Takashi Miura Vs Francisco Vargas fight and the two Roman Martinez Vs Orlando Salido bouts. Sadly those great wars haven't seen fight fans really get behind the division despite the depth currently competing at 130lbs.
This coming Wednesday we see the top fight in the division in action, WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama's (24-0-1, 20) [内山 高志] defending his title against the WBA's “interim” champion Jezreel Corrales (19-1-0-1, 7). For Uchiyama it's his 12th defense of the title, and sees him take a huge step towards the Japanese title defense record, of 13 defenses by Yoko Gushiken, and setting a Super Featherweight world record, whilst giving Corrales a chance to make a big statement about himself on the world stage.
Of the two fighters it's Corrales who is the less known and the clear under-dog, however the Panamanian is a confident fighter who will feel he is ready for this opportunity having managed to pick up number of solid victories at home. Those solid victories have included decision wins against Rene Alvarado and Irving Berry as well as stoppages over Walter Estrada and Juan Antonio Rodriguez. They might not be top tier wins, but they do suggest that Corrales is a capable fighter who can hold his own on the fringes of world class, at the very least.
In the ring Corrales looks not only a confident fighter, but also a very good one with a lot of technical ability, sharp offensive and very impressive defense. That defense is based on a shoulder roll with his speed and reactions helping him turn offense into defense and from the footage available he does, sort of, look like a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their is a very educated boxing brain in his head and whilst he's certainly no banger it's become clear that he can hurt fighters with his accurate and quick shots. Notably he has also been seen to be a switch hitter and appears to be a fighter who is extremely comfortable in the ring.
When it comes to Uchiyama the 36 year old champion has been one of the shining stars of Japanese boxing and one of the few constants in the Super Featherweight division over the last 6 years. He was a former top Japanese amateur who turned professional and raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title in his 8th bout and the WBA title in his 14th. Whilst he was fast tracked he has also scored notable wins stopping the likes of Nedal Hussein, Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Jomthong Chuwatana, essentially ending Chuwatana's prime as a fighter.
In the ring Uchiyama can look a little bit basic, he's not flashy or anything like that. What he is however is excellently well school, technically he's fantastic and uses a brilliant jab to set off almost all of his attacks. He's gifted with some of the heaviest handed, pound for pound, in the sport and every shot he lands takes a toll on an opponent, with many being beaten down as fights go on. When he feels like he's in with a good opponent we see the best from Uchiyama, who has amazingly fought much of his career with serious injuries which have reportedly been sorted in recent years, suggesting that at 36 we're only just starting to see Uchiyama at his best physically.
Coming in to this one we're expecting to see Uchiyama given a genuine stylistic test. Corrales has the style to really frustrate the champion with his brilliant defense and speed. Despite being a frustrating opponent we do suspect that Uchiyama will mark out his territory with the jab, and eventually grind down Corrales, for a late stoppage. However we do imagine that Corrales will come again in the future and could turn out to be a very good win on reflection for Uchiyama.
If Uchiyama is, as we suspect, successful then he'll be looking to make a US debut later in the year whilst also tying Gushiken's record. Hopefully that would see him finally receiving the international plaudits that he has, so far, lacked.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.