Last year Japanese boxing had some genuinely great stories, such as that of Sho Kimura, who came out of nowhere to claim the WBO Flyweight title by stopping Zou Shiming. Another was 22 year old Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5), who claimed the WBO Minimunweight title with a very hard fought win over Tatsuya Fukuhara to put his name on the map.
Although he won the title last year Yamanaka was still somewhat of an unknown, and lacked the wider attention that many other Japanese world champions were getting. Today however he made a statement, and opened the eyes of many as he dominated the very solid Moises Calleros (28-8-1, 16), and forced the Mexican to retire after round 8.
Yamanaka looked sharp as a tack from the opening round. He was quick, smart and beating Calleros to the punch. Not only was he landing his own shots regularly but he wasn't taking much return fire, with Calleros looking slow, clumsy and awkward.
The success of Yamanaka continued from round 1, to round 2 and then grow round after round. He not only showed he could box and move, as he began to show incredible variation in his work. Standing his ground and countering, slipping shots just outside the pocket, and pressing Calleros who seemed to begin questioning himself very early on.
By round 4 it looked like Yamanaka's only problem's could be that he might slow down, or that he could be caught by a single bit shot. But he looked so relaxed, so calm and so confident that neither of those things looked likely. Instead he seemed to to just build on what he was doing, landing some more telling right hands up top, nasty uppercuts and hurtful body blows. There no answer from Calleros who was looking a like a fighter who simply hadn't got a game plan for Yamanaka or his movement.
Going into round 8 the bout looked a foregone conclusion, but given Calleros' toughness and Yamanaka's relative lack of power it looked like we'd be going the distance. Surprisingly however Yamanaka hurt Calleros, and then went on the hunt, picking the challenger apart with accurate and hard shots. Calleros looked like a spent fighter, out of ideas and out of energy and both fighters knew it. Yamanaka went for the finish but couldn't find it in the ring. It wasn't to matter however as Calleros retired in his corner following the round.
With the win Yamanaka legitimised his reign almost instantly, and whilst he is the newest of the world champions at 105lbs he looks to be the most pure boxer at the top of the division and could be the divisional dark horse given how sensational he looked here.
The Light Flyweight division is probably the most over-looked in the sport today, but has been consistently delivering over the last few years. Today it delivered again with messy, wild, intense and thoroughly compelling war for the WBA “regular” title.
The bout in question saw former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5) battle against hard hitting Venezuelan Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) in what was a massively entertaining contest.
The bout started with Canizales looking the boss, and enjoying a very good first round before Konishi's pressure and work rate came in to play and he appeared to take round 2. The most decisive round of the fight was the third, and it was a huge one for Canizales, as he dropped the Japanese man with a right hand, and came close to forcing a stoppage as he landed right hand after right hand. Konish seemed to have no way of dealing with the power or physicality of Canizales and the bout was looking unlikely to go long given how damaged Konishi looked.
Surprisingly Konishi didn't just make his way through round 4, but actually won the round as his pressure and work rate made Canizales look uncomfortable. The body work from the Japanese man appeared to have an effect with Canizales almost running away at times and looking negative, uncomfortable and some how like the weaker puncher. Through the middle rounds Konishi continued to build on his success, snowballing his offense through the middle rounds as he made up for the torrid round 3 and looked to be on his way to taking a decision, with Canizales looking tired and worn out.
In round 8 Canizales began to find his rhythm again, it wasn't as aggressive as he'd been in round 3 but with Konishi beginning to slow Canizales managed to catch the eye of the judges again and land solid single shots. Konishi, to his credit, refused to back off, but he seemed unable to get as close as he had from rounds 4 to 7, and Canizales was able to get his crisper work off.
After a few, very close, rounds, the bout was hanging by a thread as we entered the championship rounds. This is where the bout changed, rather than Konishi being on the front foot and chasing Canizales the two men began to spend large swathes of time in center ring, brawling in a phone booth. The action wasn't the prettiest but it was incredible, with both just taking it in turns to let their shots go, and both connected. It looked, in some ways, as if Canizales knew he had to change how he was fighting and it made for 2 amazing rounds to end the fight.
Given the good start for Canizales, the mid fight surge from Konishi and the competitive latter stages the decision was always going to be a tight one, though it did feel like Konishi had done just enough with his work rate and pressure. Sadly it wasn't to be with the judges all scoring the close bout to Canizales, with scores of 114-113, 115-112 and 116-111. The closest of those cards could well have been right, though a score of 116-111 for Canizales does perhaps need to be questioned, as it didn't seem particularly accurate.
The win for Canizales will likely set up a Japan return and potential rematch with Ryoichi Taguchi, with who he has previously drawn against. For Konishi another world title fight is likely around the corner, and he showed that he belonged at this level.
Late last year we saw Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets (13-1, 10) claim the IBF Light Welterweight title as he out pointed Akihiro Kondo a tough and gruelling fight. In his first defense, this past Saturday night, Lipinets battled multi-weight champion Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30), and this time Lipinet's would be unable to come out on top, losing a very tough and damaging fight.
Garcia looked incredible to begin the bout, winning the first two rounds and looking close to untouchable as he controlled the distance, landed some massive right hands and looked amazingly crisp. In round 3 however the fight took a swing towards Lipinets, who busted Garcia's nose and began to make adjustments to avoid some of the right hands Garcia was landing. It wasn't enough to win the round, but it was making life tougher for Garcia.
In the middle rounds Lipinets began to find more and more success, having success with his own jab, and tagging the body of Garcia, who seemed to become a little bit hesitant and held back slightly. It allowed Lipinets to make the middle rounds a little bit more competitive, and at one point it began to look like Garcia was going to be worn down and forced to fight Lipinet's fight.
The success of Lipinets was forgotten somewhat in round 7 when Garcia dropped him with a monstrous hook. The heart Lipinets showed to get to his feet was impressive, and but from there on it seemed like Garcia had a second wind, and a new found belief as he went on to clearly win the following few rounds. At times Lipinets did will to trap Garcia on the ropes, but struggled to do anything with him on them, and despite having moments, he never managed to grab he bout by the scruff off the neck.
The final round came around and it was clear Lipinets had to go big, and to his credit he tried, especially early on and very late, and at one point he did have Garcia in some trouble. Sadly for him however Garcia saw off the storm and landed his own eye catching shots to finish strongly against the tough and offensive Kazakh.
Despite the effort from the Kazakh he had clear lost, the judges saw it a clear win for Garcia with scores of 116-111, and 117-110, twice to become a 4 weight champion and score his latest big win. He not only won, with some ease, but showed his power carries up to Light Welterweight, all the way from Featherweight, and that he is a man who still has a lot left to give the sport, at whatever weight he'll be continuing his career at.
For Lipinets this loss is a serious setback, and despite the loss he will remain a top Light Welterweight, but will also be on that many other contenders will look to avoid give his toughness, desire and power.
The Minimumweight division has often been downplayed by Western fight fans due to a lack of depth, as well as the size of the fighters plying their trade down at the 105lb limit. We do however live in a bit of a divisional golden age with a number of top fighters, not just the champions, and currently the top contenders are generally very good fighters, with the division have talented contenders from both Asia and Latin America,
That mixture of good champions and good contenders was seen again earlier today as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (17-0, 7) retained his title with an expectedly tough bout against Filipino challenger Toto Landero (10-2-2, 2), with Landero proving he was world class through out the bout. That's despite the fact the challenger entered as a bit of an unknown, with his most notable results being a stoppage loss at domestic level to Joey Canoy and his most notable wins coming against Vic Saludar and Rolly Sumalpong.
The challenger started fantastically, moving well,picking his spots and landing some eye catching combinations which took advantage of Knockout's less that great defense. The champion came foreward a lot, but looked and sluggish in the early moments as Landero rose to the occassion and put on a show case of his ability. The good start from the Filipino came to an end in round 3, as Knockout upped the pressure and showed why he's a world champion. It was however a bit of a blip as Landero got back to work and reeled off not only a comeback round, but several of them as he kept his nose in front, and put Knockout in a hole that he was going to have to fight his way out of.
Knowing he was behind as we entered the second half of the fight Knockout upped his pace, really hammering some heavy shots at Landero in the clinche and slowing his man with solid body blows. It began a surge from the champion, which was particularly impressive in round 9 as it looked like he was beginning to dismantle the challenger, who had to show incredible heart to see off the charge.
As it looked like Knockout was heading towards a late stoppage the challenger not only gritted his teeth and saw out the storm, but had his second wind, landing some smart counters, and made Knockout look very crude at times, as the champion's relative lack of pace showed. The desire from the champion to make a statement wasn't there and instead Landero finished the bout looking the stronger man, and making a solid claim to have won the fight. Sadly however it wasn't to be, as the judges gave the decision to the Thai, with 1 judge only giving Landero a single round.
The story out of Thailand is that Knockout will now face Xiong Zhao Zhong in his next defense, which was reportedly signed before this bout took place, and it may well have been on the Thai's mind through out this bout. For Landero there will be not only disappointment at not winning, but also some anger at the score cards, which we understand were much wider than the action in the ring suggested. Thankfully for the Filipino he is still very young, and given this performance cements himself as a top contender who will remain in the mix for another title fight down the line.
On Saturday night we saw WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11) being asked questions he'd never been asked before, though he came up with answers for ever everything as he successfully defended his title against Cuban Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14).
The fight started cautiously, with both men showing a lot of respect to each other and not taking too many early risks. It was high quality action with Bivol being the more accurate and smart fighter whilst Barrera looked the busier man. The second round saw Bivol suffer a cut, around his right eye from a clash of heads, and for the first time in his career he was suffering some adversity. Despite the cut he really didn't look too bothered by the facial damage and picked up the pressure in the rounds to come, using his under-rated footwork to control the tempo, it was a reserved style, but a very effective one from Bivol.
Barrera, to his credit, was always trying to answer and often pressed the action, though lacked the accuracy to have the success he needed to really back up Bivol, who always looked amazingly composed. Not only was Bivol composed but he was consistently landing his shots, including regular single hard blows, and combinations that were damaging due to their accuracy.
Barrera's toughness was impressive but he was wasting down from the shots, and seemed to have the fight beaten out of him at times, before his heart forced him to fight back. It was the same heart and desire that has made Barrera one of the most fan friendly Cubans in the sport, but also one that has caused him to take a lot of punishment through his recent bouts.
In round 12 Bivol upped the pace, as if he had been holding something in reserve and landed a brutal combination, punctuated by a hard right hand that sent Barrera down hard. The Cuban, even with all his heart and bravery, didn't stand a chance and failed to recover to his feet in time to beat the count. Instead the Cuban suffered his first stoppage loss, whilst Bivol scored the statement win he, and his team would have dreams of.
The future for Bivol is really exciting, and he may well be the most rounded Light Heavyweight on the planet. Though after the fight he admitted he had improvements to make, and will be looking at the what has caused him to get cut, and for the lumps to form on his head. For Barrera this is probably the start of the end, and he may not have too much left in his body after this loss, and his recent bouts.
In boxing it's hard to think of a persona non-gratis, but that certainly seems to describe former WBC Bantamweight champion Luis Nery (26-0, 20) in regards to Japan. Last year he defeated Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19) [山中慎介] to claim the WBC Bantamweight title, but would fail a drugs tests. A rematch was planned for the title, though yesterday Nery came in massively over-weight and even with a 2 hour grace period still couldn't make the Bantamweight limit causing him to be stripped of the title on the scales.
Despite failing to make weight the rematch went ahead today, and unfortunately for Yamanaka he was stopped again. This time in 2 rounds in what looks likely to be his final bout.
The Japanese fighter looked good, for the first minute, as he landed several body shots but as soon as Nery landed anything it seemed like Yamanaka was troubled, his punch resistance seemingly gone. A jab sent Yamanaka's knees to jelly and he was dropped, though it was incorrectly ruled a slip. Not long after that he was down, and it ruled a knockdown.
Yamanaka saw out the first round but Nery smelled blood. Yamanaka was down again very early in round 2. When he got up his looked all wrong with his balance gone. He was down again moments later, before a third knockdown of the round saw the referee stop the bout.
Given how easily he went down, and his age, this is almost certainly it for Yamanaka who had a great career before the first bout with Nery. He managed to record 12 defense and will go down as one of Japan's greatest world champions. Sadly though his career will be finished with back to back losses, both in tainted bouts.
For Nery it's hard to know what's next. His failed drug's test and inability to make weight has seriously tainted his two best wins. He's a very good fighter, but we really don't know how good he actually is. Had he not failed a drugs test or failed to make weight he would likely be regarded as one of the top Bantamweights on the planet. Now however he looks like someone who can't score a world class win cleanly. He looks like a fighter who needs unfair advantages and will likely have that sort of reputation going forward. He may well struggle to get big fights after the weight fiasco and will almost certainly have to be fighting at 122lbs, if not 126lbs going forward, where his natural size will be less effective.
It's a real shame to see Yamanaka bow out on back-to-back losses to someone who has essentially cheated in both fights but it's really time he walked away and spent time with his kids, his family and looked for future ventures, including potentially become a gym owner or a trainer.
It's worth noting that the title will remain vacant, and could well be on the line for a bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana and Emmanuel Rodriguez, who had previously been ordered to fight in an eliminator.
Last year we saw the IBF Super Bantamweight end up in the hands of Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2, 16) [岩佐 亮佑], following his sensational performance against Yukinori Oguni. Today he made his first defense of the title, taking on little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-3-1, 8), and taking a wide decision over the gutsy visitor.
Sadly for Iwasa the performance was far from the quality that he showed against Oguni, and was more of a disappointing outing, despite retaining his title with relative ease.
The bout started with Iwasa seemingly fighting well within himself, he was controlling the distance and tempo of the bout at range, finding a home for his powerful left hand and looking very relaxed. A little bit too relaxed at times and it seemed like he really should have been looking to move through the gears, the fans something to remember and continue to show what he can do in the ring.
After 3 rounds Iwasa looked in total control, though Saulong did manage to have some moments in round 4, as he began to utilise a tactic that Richard Pumicpic had also used against Iwasa. That was to cut the distance, swarm Iwasa and force him to fight up close, something Iwasa doesn't ever look comfortable doing. It was however a tactic that Saulong didn't manage to have much consistency with an Iwasa resumed total control the following round.
It wasn't until round 9 that you could make any sort of a case for Saulong to have won another round, as he upped the pace, showed a real lack of respect to Iwasa at last and applied the pressure. The challenger built on that success in the following round and had his best round as he seemed to feel some new found confidence. That confidence was however crushed in round 11 as Saulong was staggered, hurt and rocked back into his shell with Iwasa coming close to scoring a knockdown. It was the only real time that Saulong was hurt and the only time that Iwasa ever looked like he was hunting a stoppage.
To his credit Saulong saw out the storm and came back at Iwasa in the final round, but took some big shots to end the bout with Iwasa never looking in trouble.
It was gutsy effort at times from the challenger, but he really wasn't competitive, and that was reflective on the score cards which read 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 for Iwasa. The champion retained his title, but lost some of his shine with was a very forgettable win for the hard hitting southpaw,
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.