Japanese boxing is certainly going through some changes in recent times with a number of it's “senior” fighters suffering recent losses, and a further number announcing their retirement recently. One of the remaining stalwarts of the Japanese scene is current IBF Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (23-5, 12) [八重樫 東], who looks to make the first of his title on May 8th, as he faces under-rated Mexican challenger Martin Tecuapetla (13-6-3, 10).
Aged 33 Yaegashi probably hasn't got left in his career, and given the wars he's been in it's a surprise he's still a world class fighter now. He's one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in 3 weight classes, and he's not done it the easy way either. His first world title was won in 2011, when he out lasted Ponrsawan Porpramook in an incredible war, in 2013 he claimed the WBC Flyweight title, beating Linear champion Toshiyuki Igarashi, and last year he out pointed the heavy handed Javier Mendoza for the IBF Light Flyweight title.
Whilst Yaegashi always beaten reigning champions for the titles he's won, he's also faced a relative who's who of the lighter weights. Included in those opponents are Eagle Den Junlaphan, Edgar Sosa, Roman Gonzalez, Pedro Guevara and Kazuto Ioka, in what was a unification bout at Minimumweight back in 2012. That level of competition has seen Yaegashi become a fan favourite with the hardcore fight fans, whilst his style, which is an action based one that screams “warrior”, has seen him further endear himself to fans both nationally and internationally.
In the ring Yaegashi is often seen as a “hit and be hit” type of fighter. He has got under-rated defense, sharp speed and intelligent movement, but all to often those traits go out of the window as he instead looks to engage in an all our war, a battle of attrition and a high drama contest. It can be frustrating to see him ignore some of his boxing skills, but it's his willingness to have a fight that has made him so popular and we suspect has helped him remain a top fighter, despite suffering several high profile loses.
At 26 years old the challenger knows that time is on his side in regards to what he can achieve during his career, he will also know however that he is much younger than the champion and will be wanting to use that youth to his advantage here. Although less well known than the champion he has mixed with good quality opposition including Saul Juarez, Jose Argumedo, Oscar Blanquet, Milan Melindo and Gilberto Parra. He has typically lost at the higher levels, but he is certainly a very capable fighter and has shown signs of getting better as he's getting older.
In the ring Tecuapetla is a steady but aggressive fighter. Technically he's flawed, a little and a little open, but he comes forward, throws from unusual angles and really does take a lot to force him backwards. Whilst he is aggressive, and a solid puncher, he can be out boxed and a careful counter-puncher can give him fits as, possibly, could someone who gets in his face and can take his power.
In his highest profile bout to date the Mexican was narrowly out pointed by Milan Melindo. That was Tecuapetla's first bout outside of Mexico and whilst he did lose that bout he did give Melindo real issues and proved that he could box as well as fight and it was the boxing that actually gave the very talented Melindo troubles.
For Tecuapetla the bout is a step up, it's only his second bout away from home and it's his first at genuine world level. It's a really a leap up in class, however it's potentially a great opportunity for him to make a name for himself in front of an audience of several million fight fans. The reality however is that his open style is likely to give Yaegashi a lot of opportunities to counter him and as a result we suspect that Yaegashi will take a decision. The one risk for the Japanese warrior will be facial damage, and he will have to hope that his face doesn't suffer too much from his now trademark swelling. If he can avoid that, and more precisely avoid being stopped due to the swelling, he should retain his title with a decision in a very fun to watch contest.
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.