Some fighters are must watch fighters who really do provide amazing entertainment and action every time they are in the ring. One such fighter is Kosei Tanaka (18-0, 7) [田中恒成] who again delivered a FOTY contender, as he recorded his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title and defeated former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一].
The bout, as we've come to expect of Tanaka fights, started fast and it never really slowed down. The opening round wasn't a typical opening round, instead it was an action war, fought at a frightening tempo, more a typical round 4 or 5, when both men have settled. Both unloaded shots with Tanaka having the edge in speed and power and Taguchi landing some very solid looking right hands. The second was all Tanaka, it was a clear demonstration of his gameplan, overwhelming Taguchi with combinations, getting in and out, and finding ways to connect to the head and body of Taguchi. Taguchi had moments but they were easily out numbered by those of Tanaka.
Round 3 saw Tanaka being wobbled but he seemed to out land Taguchi by some margin, especially with heavy shots, and although Taguchi never looked hurt, it was clear the blows were taking a toll on him and that he was slowing down. The proved to be the case in every round afterwards, with Tanaka finding it easier and easier to out work Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi never gave up, but through rounds 6, 7 and 8, he took a real pound as Tanaka tightened his grip on the bout and seemed to begin looking to break down the challenger. Taguchi seemed to realise and in round 9 he began to really make things messy with clinching and spoiling, slowing the pace of the fight. It was an effective tactic in some ways, though didn't win him rounds.
As we headed into the championship rounds it was clear Tanaka was in the lead. He could have cruised his way over the line. Instead he seemed to want to put on a show, and did so, especially in round 12. The round saw Tanaka go all out, looking for a stoppage. Taguchi, to his credit, held, spoiled, fought and survived the onslaught, to make it to the final bell, in what was really a moral victory. He had looked, for several rounds, like a man who was on the verge of being stopped.
After 12 rounds the judges turned in score cards of 119-109, and 117-111, twice, to give Tanaka a clear decision victory. For him the future is incredibly bright and there was talk earlier in the weak about a move up to Super Flyweight in 2020. For Taguchi however the end seems nigh, and it's really hard to see how he becomes a world champion again.
On Saturday night we had a WBA Light Heavyweight title bout, that saw defending champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] successfully defend his title against heavy handed American challenger Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20). On paper this looked like it could have been a potentially tricky assignment for Bivol, but he managed to really just neutralise the dangerous challenger in what was a clear but unexciting win for Bivol.
Smith showed ambition from the off, and came forward, trying to set the pace but quickly found Bivol's footwork and movement to be too much. Bivol would land, get out of range and watch Smith miss. For the first 3 rounds it was clear that Bivol was too good, too sharp and too smart for Smith who had been made to look second best through the early stages.
Thankfully for Smith he did change things in round 4, when he began to let his hands go a bit more, and up the intensity. It worked and Smith would land one of his more notable shots, seemingly shaking Bivol for a moment with a right hand. The danger of Smith loomed but Bivol was too smart through the middle rounds to really come face to face with the danger. In fact the only real damage in the middle rounds was in round 7 when Smith's knees buckled big time from a huge left hand of Bivol's, though to his credit Smith withstood the follow up attack.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Smith was needing to land something huge, and he actually managed that, right on the bell to end round 10, when he sent Bivol stumbling to his corner. It was too late in the round to follow up on, but did show that the power was there for the American. The shot seemed to leave an effect on Bivol who was less with it in round 11, but never looked in any trouble as he continued to control the bout late on.
In the end there was no questions about the judges scorecards, with the judges turning in scores of 119-109, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Bivol. It was a clear win for the champion, but a bit of a dull one, and it does seem like Bivol is becoming less and less interesting, a real shame. There is however a feeling that he will be heading down in weight and it may be that facing smaller men than Smith will allow Bivol to put on more entertaining performances than this.
The first world title fight on Japanese soil in 2019 took place earlier today at the Korakuen Hall as the WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) faced off against Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆]. As expected the fight was a hotly contested and fierce one, with both men landing big shots through out, despite being well contested, it ended in a rather clear win for Saludar who seemed to have that extra experience and know how.
Reports from ringside stated that both men looked to land their back hand early on, with Saludar looking to land right hands and Taniguchi looking for left hands. It was Saludar who seemed to get better of those early exchanges before he managed to create distance began to fight well at mid-range, something that Taniguchi couldn't match him at. Fighting at range and grabbing the bout by the neck was smart, given the huge reach advantage that Saludar had.
Taniguchi began to cut the distance in round 5 and had notable success in the middle rounds, clearly taking round 7 and seemingly doing enough to take round 8 as well.
Whilst Taniguchi had been turning the momentum in his favour his sustained success were short lived and it wasn't long until Saludar would take control again, taking the final rounds as his more proven stamina, and ring craft proving to be the difference.
By the end of the bout that no real doubt over who had won, with Japanese fans ringside all suggesting their man hadn't done enough, and that proved to be the case with the judges scoring the bout to Saludar with scores of 118-110, 117-111, twice.
The win sees Saludar scoring his first defense, and building on his great win from last year over Ryuya Yamanaka. For Taniguchi however this is a third loss, a third decision loss, and he really will need to work incredibly hard to earn another world title fight following this defeat.
Over the last few year's fans around the world of boxing have been talking about Naoya Inoue, the Monster, the destroyer of the lower weights. Today fans around the globe were introduced to another Inoue, the tough and gutsy Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) [井上 岳志] who challenged WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (32-0, 26), and gave the Mexican a much, much tougher bout than expected.
Before the fight Munguia was widely available as a 1/50 favourite. He was 1/8 to win by stoppage. It was seen by many as a foregone conclusion, that the new Mexican star would destroy the little known Japanese fighter. Most of that was down to the fact fans didn't know of Inoue, the man who had unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles in a huge 2017, and the fact that Munguia had impressed in recent bouts.
Inoue had been confident all week, he hadn't travelled to be a showcase for Munguia, but instead to become the next champion from the Land of the Rising Sun. That showed through fight week. He was there to win.
From the opening bell we learned that Inoue wasn't just talk, as he quickly took the fight to Munguia, pressing the much bigger Mexican fighter, getting in his face and fighting to his gameplan. The plan, as Inoue had told the Japanese media, was to press his head on Munguia's chest and work on the inside. And that's what he did, swarming over Munguia from the opening moments. The Mexican seemed surprised and although he landed some big shots of his own it was clear that we weren't seeing the marauding, destructive Munguia.
The first few rounds were really interesting. Inoue refused to let Munguia have much room to work. When the champion did get room he looked good, landing good shots, but he rarely maintained a gap, with Inoue cleverly rushing in, pushing Munguia back and seemingly exposing how bad Munguia is on the back foot. The problem however was that Inoue lacked the power to ever hurt Munguia, and even lacked in terms of accuracy, but he was certainly giving thew champion a lot to think about.
In round 3 a "Mehico" chant emerged, it was clear that the fans were well behind the champion, though Inoue continued to press the fight, and it seemed like Munguia was more and more focused on boxing an American style. Using his feet, creating space, and working off the jab at range. It wasn't what anyone was really used to seeing from the champion, who typically had an aggressive style. The clean blows were starting to come more frequently from Munguia, though he was still finding himself backded up and handcuffed by the pressure through the rounds. To his credit, when he did create space he was working well, and when he was on the ropes he was mostly defending well, but it did seem like he was needing to work harder than anticipated for his success.
Round 5 was where Munguia began to have more success. He began to let more shots go, trying to get Inoue's respect. There was some good hooks from Munguia in this round and a fantastic right late on, though he still struggled to get Inoue to back off. It was clear that either, Inoue was insanely tough or Munguia's much vaunted power wasn't as potent as previous thought.
Through the middle rounds Munguia began to box smarter. He was moving, a lot, wasting movement at times, but blunting the pressure of Inoue, making room for shots and digging in good body shots. He was also picking up his work rate on the inside, as he began to tighten his grip a bit. He was still being pushed about, but boxed well off the back foot, and began to have big finishes to rounds. That was especially clear in rounds 8, 9 and 10, all of which seemed to see Munguia letting big shots go late, to leave a lasting memory in the eyes of the judges.
Despite essentially stealing round 10, which had been a strong Inoue round until the final 30 seconds, and hurting the challenger Munguia again found himself under pressure from Inoue in round 11 as the challenger showed himself to be fearless. The champion seemed to want to make a statement however, and landed some of his best shots in the final round, Inoue did take one incredibly cleanly, taking a rare moment to compose himself before coming forward as the two unloaded big shots to finish.
The bout seemed like a clear, but close, Munguia win. The champion had been the better boxer, the more accurate and the bigger puncher. He had clearly been out worked in some rounds, especially early on, and hadn't looked like the star in the making that he has looked in other recent recent fights. It was however surprising, and disappointing, to hear the score cards read out as 120-108, twice, and 119-109. Those didn't reflect the bout at all and looked pre-filled. The bout was competitive, there was clear rounds that Inoue won early on, so to get only 1 round, from 1 judge, is mystifying.
Thankfully, for Inoue and his career, his performance here will clearly have won him some new fans. He may have lost, but certainly improved his profile with a very gutsy and impressive performance. As fir Munguia, it seems like this performance may well see him and his team not rush into a fight with Jarrett Hurd, who would likely be an even bigger nightmare than Inoue was.
Hopefully the challenger gets another big fight in the near future following this performance.
Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
To end the a busy Saturday of boxing we saw WBA "regular" Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) easily defend the title for the first time, as he defeated American Adrien Broner (33-4-1-1, 24) in a lopsided decision.
From the opening round Pacquiao looked the sharper, quicker, more intense fighter. Despite that he did only look a shadow of the fighter he once was. There was very little output from Broner, who did his usual thing of throwing little and tried to look flashy with what he did throw. The difference in activity and output saw Pacquiao taking the first 3 rounds, with his jab being the key to his success.
Broner would show glimpses of what he can do in round 4, landing a number of good right hands, countering well and showing that he could time Pacquiao. It was a round that really showed what the American was capable of, though was a short lived and brief show of what he could do. In round 5 Pacquiao settled himself again, and by the end of the round Broner was looking like a clown as he missed with some wild shots at the bell.
Despite landing body shots through the first 5 round, the number of them picked up in round 6 as Pacquiao began to really bang the body of Broner. The American had done well in avoiding left hands up top, but struggled to avoid them to the body in what was the start of really clear Pacquiao dominance. The Filipino would hurt Broner in round 7, with a left hand, and show glimpses of his incredible combinations as he tried to take the American out soon afterwards. Broner, managed to hold, spoil and survive, but was clearly feeling the shots.
Body shots continued to land from Pacquiao in round 8, though it was in round 9, when Pacquiao landed a brilliant left hand. Once again Broner's toughness and defenses saw survive the storm, but it was clear he had been hurt, again.
As the fight went into the championship rounds it was clear Broner needed to find something else. In fairness to him he did have a good 10th round, making things more competitive as he began to box off his jab and landed one or two eye catching right hands. It was one of his most productive rounds, and arguably one of the few you could give to him.
Despite being competitive in round 10 Broner essentially did nothing in the final 2 rounds, once again going back into a defensive shell and trying to avoid a fight, rather than do what was needed to turn things around.
By the final bell there was no real question as to who won, despite Broner celebrating and being caught on camera stating that he had out boxed Pacquiao, and the judges cards were never in question. All 3 scored the bout to Pacquiao, with scores of 117-111 and 116-112, twice. The only thing surprising about the scores were how close they were, and it seemed like the judges gave Broner a sympathy round or 2.
After the bout Pacquiao stated he'd like to face Mayweather, if Mayweather is returning to boxing. That bout has been rumoured for a while and would be a smart decision for both men, as it would be a financially lucrative contest that would keep both men away from the young lions in the division. Talking about those young lions, none of them would be worried what either Pacquiao or Broner has to offer, and in fairness there is clearly bigger fish out there bigger fish to fry for the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
Just moments ago fight fans around the globe saw Irish-Australian TJ Doheny (21-0, 15) score his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, as he stopped over-matched Japanese challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-4-1, 6) in the 11th round.
Takahashi, a huge under-dog, looked outclassed from the opening moments as Doheny landed sharp shots, moved around the ring well, and found a home for his southpaw left hand, to both head and body. Takahashi was coming forward but his limitations were clear and he was always struggling to get close, never mind actually landing anything of note.
In round 2 the fighters clashed heads, with both being cut on the bridge of the nose, despite the cuts Doheny continued to control the action, dropping Takahashi the following round.
As the fight went on Doheny seemed to slow down a touch, picking his shots a little bit more whilst Takahashi began to ramp up his pressure. That pressure wasn't completely effective, due to Takahashi's technical flaws, inaccuracy, poor footwork and limited technique, but he did have moments and was forcing Doheny to fight at a higher pace than he would have wanted.
The second half of the fight saw Takahashi's pressure become more and more intense, and he arguably took a round or two as Doheny seemed to take his foot off the gas just a touch. It was never as if Takahashi was coming close to winning the fight, but just doing enough to perhaps sneak a round or two.
Sadly for Takahashi Doheny began to move back through the gears as we went into the late rounds, landing some sickening body shots. Those shots began to take a toll and although Takahashi continued to come forward he did look like he has visibly slowed a touch.
In round 11 Doheny managed to rock Takahashi and a follow up forced the referee to step in. It was a strange stoppage, but one that not many will really complain too much with given the noncompetitive nature of the fight. Doheny was in a huge lead going into the round, and there seemed to be no chance of Takahashi landing anything big enough to turn things around, so the stoppage certainly didn't feel like it was robbing the fans, or challenger of anything.
Following the win Doheny was joined in the ring by WBA champion Danny Roman, and they spoke about a unification bout. That's looking likely to take place later this year, though it's possible that both may have to fight a mandatory defense before a unification bout.
For Takahashi this was his biggest fight by far, and it's fair to say whilst he came up short he did put up a brave and gritty effort. He'll be unlikely to get another fight at this level, but he will fit well in the mix at Oriental level when he gets back in the ring.
The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
The second, of 3, world title fights in Macau today saw IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) battle against little known Japanese challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) [坂本真宏]
On paper this was a mismatch, a 2-time world champion, with notable wins against the likes of Muhammad Waseem, John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete against a man who is best known for losing to a then little known Sho Kimura. It was however a bout that turned out to be a very, very entertaining contest with Sakamoto showing no quit and a lot of ambition.
From the first round it was clear that Sakamoto saw this as his chance to perform on the big stage, even though the bout was only shown in a few countries, not including Japan. He bit down hard on his gum shield and look to land combinations against the crisp punching and defensively sound Mthalane. We, as many, didn't really expect the Mechnical Engineering student to fight with such tenacity, but he did. Sadly for Sakamoto the clean shots from Mthalane were taking a toll.
Through the first 6 round Sakamoto really did much, much better than expected. He was clearly losing, and taking a fair bit of damage thanks to the clean, crisp, accurate shots of Mthalane, but he wasn't giving up. He was taking the fight to the champion and fighting on the inside, looking to wear Mthalane down with flurries.
Sadly for Sakamoto his effort, and the lack of pay off from the effort, took a lot out of him and he was looking exhausted at the end of round 6, with his face reddening and his right eye swelling shut. That eye would and his exhaustion would bee a major issues, with Mthalane landing more and more shots as the rounds went on.
Eventually, with their man a long way behind on the score cards, his face a swollen mess and his energy tank running on empty Sakamoto's corner pulled him out of the bout at the end of round 10.
For such an unknown, and we're not joking when we say that, Sakamoto put up a very brave performance in a bout that even those in Japan gave him little chance of winning. For Mthalane the win was expected, he was given a surprising tough work out here, and will now be looking towards a mandatory defense against another Japanese fight, Masayuki Kuroda in Spring.
The Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting right now and today we saw interesting changing of the guard as the WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title was ripped from the hands of South African Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10) by Japanese sensation Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], who became the first man to score a stoppage over Budler.
From the opening round Kyoguchi pressured the champion. That pressure wasn't successful early on, with Budler countering well, and making Kyoguchi pay for his technical mistakes. It was however pressure that began to pay off as early as round 2, when Kyoguchi began to land on the body of the champion with regularity. That regularity seemed to take a toll on, even if Budler was himself landing plenty of solid blows of his own.
In round 3 Kyoguchi continued to find the body of Budler, and also found success with more and more headshots, Budler seemed to have felt the power of Kyoguchi and was less willing to take risks, but used his speed, reach and footwork well to fight at range, a range heeded to be out. Sadly for Budler round 4 was his last with any notable success, as he seemed to grit his teeth, sadly the body shots seemed to take away some of his movement and he was being given more and more punishment, being stung notably in the later stages of round 5. From then on it was essentially more and more dominant from Kyoguchi.
The shots from Budler sounded like they were slapping blows, rather than real punches, whilst Kyoguchi was digging in his shots, really trying to hurt the champion. Something he did visibly in round 7, to both head and body. The consistency of Kyoguchi's work seemed to be slowly beating the fight out of Budler who was taking an increasing amount of head shots as the bout went on, especially uppercuts to the head. Budler's legs were still their but they were no longer getting him out of danger.
By the end of round 9 it seemed less a case of whether Kyoguchi would win, and more a question of whether he would stop Budler, who had been beaten up, battered and taken a lot of punishment. That question was answered at the end of round 10, a round that had seen Budler really dig into his reserve of toughness. That toughness was too much, and he was pulled from the bout between rounds 10 and 11, with his corner deciding enough was enough.
Despite a competitive start Budler began to look like an old fighter by the middle rounds, a combination of the body shots from Kyoguchi and his long career. When that happened Kyoguchi just broke his man, round by round.
For Kyoguchi this wasn't an amazing performance, it was a solid one though, but it was a fantastic result as he became the first man to stop the South African veteran, and a 2-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! A potential unification fight with Kenshiro looks on the cards and would be a massive fight for Japanese boxing. This also saw him gain revenge for stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi, from whom Budler took the title from earlier this year.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.