We've often mentioned that 3-weight world champions from Japan were rare. There has only ever been two, Koki Kameda and Kazuto Ioka. We have however seen numerous fighters fall short in attempts to win a third divisional title, fighters like the great Hozumi Hasegawa and Hioki Ioka, Kazuto's uncle. Another who has fallen short is Takahiro Ao (27-4-1, 12) who unfortunately failed in his attempt to claim the WBO Lightweight title this past Friday night.
Ao was hoping to add the title to previous reigns as WBC champion at Featherweight and Super Featherweight. Unfortunately for him he came up against a bigger, stronger, tougher and more powerful Mexican, by the name of Raymundo Beltran (30-7-1, 18).
From the moment the men stood close it was clear that Ao was the smaller man, it was no surprise however as Beltran had actually failed to make weight for the bout, weighting ½lb above the Lightweight limit. Knowing he was the smaller man Ao knew that he would have to use his speed and trickery to have any chance of winning and, for the first 90 seconds, he managed to have some success with his southpaw straight left hands. Sadly that was about it for him as Beltran found his range and managed to pressurise Ao late in the opening round. The pressure from Beltran forced Ao to respond and the two swung wildly at each other for a few moments before the bell.
The second round saw Beltran starting the way he had ended the opening round and almost immediately he dropped Ao with a monster of a right hand on the chin. Ao went down hard. The Japanese fighter showed his courage by getting up at the count of 8 but never managed to land another shot of note as Beltran rushed in for the kill, rocking Ao time after time before the referee mercifully saved the over-matched Japanese fighter.
With Beltran missing the weight the title will remain vacant until later in the year with Britian's unbeaten Terry Flanagan expected to fight for it. For Ao it's back to Japan title-less and considering the future. He came up against a really big fighter here and he may well try again at a Lightweight title, though we suspect his next move isn't going to be rushed. He's only 31, so time is on his side, but he'll likely have to drop back down to 130lbs if he's hoping to fight at world level again. If he stays at Lightweight then his future is probably going to be at the OPBF level, though there is no saying he'd even be able to claim the Oriental title at the weight.
For Beltran the weight issue has robbed him of the title, though he's only really got himself to blame for coming in over weight. He said, after the fight, that he was going to try and remain at 135lbs though we do wonder whether he'd more effective at 140lbs, despite the fact the division is a tough one right now.
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.