The history of boxing has seen it all, turn arounds, comebacks, feel good stories and shocks. In fact we saw all of those earlier today when the scary looking but genuinely affable Lucas Browne (24-0, 21) scored one of the early shocks of the year, and stopped Uzbek Ruslan Chagaev (34-3-1, 21) to claim the WBA “regular” Heavyweight title.
Chagaev, the only Asian Heavyweight champion in history, was heavily favoured to record the second defense of the title but instead found himself being the latest victim of the Australian who had put in real work to prepare for his opportunity. That preparation was shown at the weigh in, when Browne came in at a career low, whilst Chagaev came in close to a career high.
Not only was Browne in great shape but he was also looking like a man with a clever game plan and began the bout boxing on the back foot, making the most of his reach advantage and easing himself in to the contest. The opening couple of rounds acted as a chance for Browne to relax and get his feet set for the bout, and although the pace was slow it was certainly not a problem for either man. Whilst Browne acquitted himself well, Chagaev was landing the better punches however they weren't having much effect and he wasn't able to slow the challenger's movement.
In rounds 3 and 4 the pace changed with Browne stepping up the pace and forcing Chagaev to take shots, particularly uppercutts and body shots. Again Chagaev was landing the better blows but Browne was starting to out work the champion and the intelligence of Browne was showing through as he went around the guard several times.
The higher tempo continued in to round 5 as both landed some of their best shots up to that point. Both managed to have some success with their jabs, but it was the counter straights that seemed to be the more telling, with Chagaev getting some very solid lefts through the guard, whilst Brown managed to lands his own thudding right hands.
Chagaev's power hadn't had too much effect in the first 5 rounds, though changed in round 6 with the defending champion upping the pace and landing some very solid left hands as Browne began to look like a man who was tiring. With Brown'e defense falling apart Chagaev managed to find a left that clean and dropped Browne who seemed wobbly when he got to his feet. With Browne clearly not recovered Chagaev went on the attack and wobbled Browne again whilst trying to force a stoppage. The round, which seemed to go on for a much longer period than it should have, ended with Chagaev landing a combination after the bell and it looked like the end was nigh for Browne.
The minute rest between rounds 6 and 7 seemed to be enough for Browne to recover his senses and he came out with bad intentions, letting his hands go early with some savage uppercutts. The uppercutts seemed to get Chagaev's respect, and forced the champion to think twice about what he was doing. It was a great change in tactic from Browne who seemed to realise that he needed to gamble. It did however almost back fire with Chagaev stiffening the legs and hurting Browne late in the round. Well we say late in the round, the bell actually went with 42 seconds left and may well have saved Browne from being stopped late in the round whilst blood was dripping down his face from a number of cuts that had begin to form.
Browne again showed his great recuperative powers at the start of round 8 as he landed some solid right hands. The round however was a mostly quiet round with both looking happy to catch their breath after what had been a couple of very intense rounds. The intensity was again relatively low ion rounds 9 for the most part, but both had their moments, with Chagaev landing a fantastic uppercutt and Browne landing some solid right hands. There was however a feeling that both were visibly tiring.
After the two slow rounds the action picked up in round 10 with Browne landing some clubbing rights early on whilst Chagaev managed to land a very clean left. It seemed like the left was going to be the start of something from Chagaev but the the champion couldn't follow up at all and it took some time before he landed another shot of note. Sadly for Chagaev the next left he threw with bad intentions was countered with a wonderful right hand from Browne which dropped Chagaev hard. The Uzbek took his time to recover his feet but eventually got up, looking lost and confused. Browne charged in looking for the finish and unloaded shot, after shot, after shot on a bewildered Chagaev who was, eventually, saved by the referee.
For the 37 year old Chagaev this is almost certainly the end. There was some magic in what he did at times, but he looked like a fighter who had little stamina, little intensity and couldn't keep an assault going. The once very talented fighter now looks like a man who is likely to retire. For Browne however the “Cinderella Man” story is complete and the 36 year old, who turned professional at 29, now has a great chance to cash in on his career.
Dramatic fights are why we all watch boxing, and that's exactly what fans who tuned into NTV today got as we were treat to an intriguing WBC Bantamweight title fight between Shinsuke Yamanaka (25-0-2, 17) [山中 慎介] and Venezuelan challenger Liborio Solis (23-4-1, 10).
Solis, fighting in Japan for the third time, had talked the big talk before the fight. He had spoken about Yamanaka having a glass jaw and about how he was going to stop the champion, who was seeking his 10th defense of the title.
The talk of Solis wasn't backed up in the opening round as the visitor showed a lot of respect for Yamanaka and threw very little. The best punches of the round were both left hands from the champion and in all honesty the round wasn't a great opener. The pace however did pick up and in the opening stages of round Solis was down, although it looked like a slip-come-push the referee ruled it a legitimate knockdown. It secured Yamanaka a 10-8 round but seemed to fire up solis who let rip with some solid right hands and got into Yamanaka's face.
Although the “knockdown” in round 2 was a messy one there no doubting either of the knockdowns in round 3, with them both being scored by Solis who found a home for his powerful right hand. The first knockdown was a hard one with Yamanaka put onto the seat of his pants and when he recovered Solis smelled blood, forcing the second knockdown soon afterwards. It was a nightmare round for Yamanaka and one that gave credence to Solis's “glass jaw” comments. It has also secured the challenger a 10-7 round and evened up the cards.
Sadly for the challenger he was was unable to replicate his success in round 4 with a recovered Yamanaka showing respect to his rival and not choosing to slug it out. Instead Yamanaka boxed and move, finding opportunities to let his shots go and get out of range before the counters came back at him. It was a much needed comeback round and one that left him 37-36 up on all 3 of the cards, which were announced after the round.
Yamanaka's tactic of using speed and movement continued to be success in round 5 with Solis often throwing shots at the air from outside of range, whilst Yamanaka was connecting with consistent left hands. It wasn't until round 6 that Solis could mount any series assault, but even that was blunted by Yamanaka who countered well and did enough, especially late in the round, to claim it.
Although Yamanaka had waited late to win round 6 he started round 7 with bad intentions and cracked the challenger in the mid-section with a number of very solid left hands. It seemed to lead to the challenger slowing down with his dangerous right hands looking much less potent than they had in round 3. He was still looking to land them, but they were far less frequent than they had been earlier in the bout.
Solis, know he was slipping further behind, came out for round 8 swinging and he quickly looked to land bombs. They were however misfired and rarely came close to the champion who landed the best punch of the round then thwarted many of Solis' attacks by clinching. It seemed as if the fight was starting to wane on a bit, with both men showing a lot of respect to the other and neither really letting combinations go. Sadly for Solis inactivity wasn't an option and the open scoring had him 77-72 behind after 8 rounds.
The 9th saw another dubious call in favour of Yamanaka who was adjudged to have dropped Solis, though it hardly seemed a knockdown and another messy bundling over of the Venezuelan. The knockdown seem to get in cruise control somewhat and the round was a poor one with a lot of holding. It seemed the champion knew the bout was safe on the cards and he didn't need to take any risks, especially given the scare in round 3.
Despite the relatively dull 9th round Yamanaka did come out firing in round 10 and the pace suddenly warmed up with both landing solid bombs on each other. It was the best round for a while with Solis landing several hard right hands whilst Yamanaka's left hand was, as ever, consistently landing. The round seemed to set the stage for a couple of great championship rounds, though the reality was that those final two rounds intrigued more than excited, with the most memorable moment of round 11 being when the two men almost spilled through the ropes.
In round 12 it seemed that Yamanaka was looking for a finish, and opened up a very nasty cut on Solis's nose, but the challenger didn't seem to care about the cut and the two finished the round slugging it out. Solis knew he'd need a knockout, in fact he knew that after round 9, and his failure to get it essentially sealed his fate.
After the final bell the fighters embraced though both knew who the winner was, with the cards all reading 117-107 to Yamanaka.
There is now talk about Yamanaka unifying with IBF champion Lee Haskins, though we suspect he'll actually return to the ring in Summer for a rematch with either Suriyan Sor Rungvisai or Anselmo Moreno, in what will be a mandatory title defense for the hard hitting southpaw.
Whilst looking back the third round was a major scare for the champion the fact he had had to dig deep early on and recovered in the way he did was impressive and he deserves full credit for that. For Solis his effort, especially early, was commendable but in the end he did look like a man relying on landing a big right hand, with out setting it up properly. Had the challenger shown more nous there is a good chance this would have been much close than the cards suggest.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
At the end of 2015 Japanese boxing looked like it was going to rule the Light Flyweight division for the foreseeable future. They had 3 of the world champions and a number of rising youngsters, such as Ken Shiro as well as the promise of Kosei Tanaka moving up in weight. Sadly for Japanese fans 2016 hasn't started the way they'd have hoped with the popular Yu Kimura (18-3-1, 3) [木村 悠] losing the WBC title in his first defense.
The Teiken fighter, who claimed the belt with a big upset last year over Pedro Guevara, was matched hard for a first defense, taking on former challenger Ganigan Lopez (27-6, 17).
The first round was a slow one, with both men looking to find their range and although it did catch fire late on it didn't seem likely to set the tone for the fight. For Kimura however it was a good one, with the champion finding a home for his straight right hand, which looked very crisp.
Kimura's crisp right hand was also a key shot in rounds 2 and 3 which were both competitive and fought at mid range. It seemed the range was ideal for Kimura who was having notable success with the right hand, however Lopez was giving as good as he got and looked to have the significant edge in power, which was allowing him to walk through Kimura's best shots.
In round 4 the fight changed with Lopez adapting his style and moving more, picking his moments more carefully and unloading very smart combinations. He was simply out boxing and out working Kimura who struggled to answer anything during the round, a very 1-sided round.
Given the competitive nature of rounds 2 and 3 we thought the cards would be close, though the judges cards were all 39-37 in favour of the challenger when they were read publicly before the start of round 5.
Sadly for Kimura that was as close as he came to retaining his title with Lopez building on his success from round 4. He continued to box, move and pick his spots for combinations, coming in to the pocket at will where Kimura's lack of power really made life easy for the challenger. Kimura, to his credit, took the best shots that Guevara was throwing, but failed to match his work rate.
By round 8, when the cards were publicly announced again, reading 79-73, twice, and 77-75, it seemed like there was very little chance for Kimura, who was showing a bruise under his right eye and a marking on his nose. The shots of Lopez had began to take their toll and although tough Kimura was showing the scars of war.
Lopez continued to dictate the tempo and action of the fight through round 9 and 10 as he further increased his lead and although Kimura tried to fight back hard in round 11 the champion was in a hole he simply couldn't climb out of. His lack of power was allowing Lopez to take shots with no risk of being stopped, and Lopez's own shots were forcing Kimura to think twice about doing anything too risk.
By the final round Lopez seemed to know he had it in the bag and was happy to spoil, run and hold between his combinations as he cruised the round and cruised his way to his first world title. Although dominant one judge managed to score the bout with the cards reading 118-110、119-109 and amazingly 114-114.
This week is a good one for Asian boxing fans with the Orient playing host to a trio of world title fights. They began earlier today with a WBC Minimweight title fighter between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and Japanese challenger Go Odaira [大平 剛]. The bout, a relatively low key world title bout for those outside of the East was Odaira's second shot at a world title and was Wanheng's fourth defense of the title that he won in late 2014, when he stopped Oswaldo Novoa.
On paper it was a mismatch, with the champion boasting an impressive 40-0 (15) record coming in to the bout against Odaira's 12-4-3 (1) record however Odaira's team been planning for this challenge for several months and seemed confident of scoring the shock win.
The preparation of the challenger was obvious in the first round as the visitor fought to orders, using a lot of movement to try and get in and out. The output from the challenger was relatively low compared to the division's usual high intensity, but it was significantly more than we saw from Wanheng who applied very conservative pressure. Although Wanheng was very limited with his output the locals cheered every shot and he did land the best punch of the round, a straight right hand late on. It wasn't enough to steal the round, but it was clear that the power and physical strength both lay with the champion.
The second round was much like the first, with Wanheng doing very little other than applying intense and educated pressure on to the Japanese challenger. Odaira was the man letting his hands go, in short bursts, and then trying to get away. It was intelligent from Odaira but as the round came to a close you could almost see Wanheng shifting up a gear, which is exactly what he did in round 3.
Odaira's early success was essentially wiped out in round 3 as Wanheng went on to the offensive and a sweeping right hand caught the challenger, who was dropped. Odaira got up from the knockdown but it seemed to further spur on the champion who could almost smell a win. Wanheng continued to bully the challenger, who did well with his movement to see out the storm without taking too much punishment.
By round things weren't looking good at all for Odaira who simply couldn't create the distance he needed and was on the receiving end of more solid shots. The only thing really keeping Odaira fight was his movement, which was helping him get off the ropes, but his output was dropping and he was forced to taste the under-rated power of Wanheng, who almost scored a second knockdown late in the round, rocking the challenger with a right hand.
Although we had given Odaira the first 2 rounds the judges disagreed, and when the open scoring was shown after 4 rounds the judges all had Wanheng in a comfortable lead, with scores of 40-35, 39-36 and 39-36, again.
Odaira's discomfort from round 4 was made worse in round 5 as his counter shots simply bounced off Wanheng who was in seek and destroy mode. It didn't take long for Wanheng to corner his foe, and this time Odaira's fancy footwork wasn't able to come to his help, instead he was forced to take a series of hard right hands. Those shots bent him over and seemed to have him read to go before a final shot, albeit to the back of his head, sent him down. Immediately the referee waved the bout off.
Although the finishing blow was a foul it did seem like one caused by Odaira bending over and the Japanese fighter didn't complain about the stoppage, instead he congratulated the champion, now 41-0 (16), who looks set to defend against Saul Juarez in the summer.
For the challenger, now 12-5-3 (1) this was a second loss in a world tile fight and it seems unlikely he'll get another given he's 31 and has 2 stoppage losses in his last 3 bouts.
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.