It didn't always look like Yaegashi was actually going to get the job done here as the exciting Japanese fighter did seem to start slowly and certainly lost the opening round to Zaleta who looked surprisingly better than expected in the opening round and managed to huse his reach to land some smart straight shots.
Although Yaegashi did look to be in a tough fight in the opening round he did manage to find a home for his over-hand right in the second round. It seemed that he was the first to change tactics and the shot continued to land through round 3. In round 4 however it Zaleta who was making changes to his game trying to line up his powerful straight right hand.
The open scoring of the WBC seemed to struggle to spit the two men after 4 rounds with 2 of the judges having the bout even and the other judge having Zaleta up 39-37. Not just was it close on the ards but worryingly Yaegashi's eyes were beginning to swell up. As anyone who has seen Yaegashi before knows his eyes swell up quickly and badly and it's always a worry that they will cause him to be stopped one of these days.
Yaegashi acted positively to the scorecards and seemed to do what the open scoring expected of him as he put his foot on the gas and went on the offensive, cutting the distance and applying very educated pressure. It was obvious that Yaegashi had so much more in the locker than he had shown in the first 4 stanzas whilst Zaleta seemed to be struggling to hold off the Japanese fighter. Zaleta's struggles to keep Yaegashi away resulted in a fantastic 6th round that saw both men spending time trading shots in eye catching moments of action. It was the sort of action that makes us love watch Yaegashi.
Although the 6th was highlighted by the back and forth trading the key work was really Yaegashi's body shot which Zaleta had absolutely no answer for.
Round 7 again saw the champion bring the pressure and it seemed clear that the pressure of Yaegashi was really taking it's toll on the challenger who was quickly becoming gun shy and trying to avoid a fight. Yaegashi refused to let Zaleta though and kept coming forward, eventually getting a chance to make Zaleta pay for his negativity in the final 20 seconds or so of the round.
After again being forced on the back foot for the first half of round 8 Zaleta seems to regain his confidence. It was as if he clicked and realised he had to fight back or Yaegashi would simply grind him down. The bravery of Zaleta gave us the bouts most fun round to watch though it did appear that Zaleta was beginning to fight out of desperation and this was almost suiting Yaegashi who appeared happy for a tear with the naturally longer Zaleta.
The hard work of Yaegashi's in the middle section of the bout had seen the Japanese fighter rewarded on the open scoring with cards which read 77-75, 77-76 and 76-76. We had felt that Yaegashi, despite his early struggles, had clearly taken over the bout but the judges felt that is had been competitive. In round 9 however the bout was taken out of the hands of the judges as Yaegashi dropped Zaleta hard. The Mexican recovered to his feet but was viewed as being in no fit state to recover by referee Ian John Lewis. It was an easy call for the referee as Zaleta walked aimlessly away from the referee and left little option for the official.
After the fight Yaegashi and Gonzalez shared a little back and forth in the ring to help build up the anticipation of their fight which is expected in the summer. Although the two men are seemingly set to fight each other they amazingly respectful to each other. Hopefully that respect will be put on ice when they fight and, with the style of the two men, they will hopefully put on a thriller when they meet.
(Poster courtesy of Ohashi Gym)