To end a super busy weekend of fights attention turned to the Portopia Hotel in Kobe as Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) [小西伶弥] challenged hard hitting IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30).
The bout, which had no live TV coverage, promised a lot. Whilst the TV coverage lacked it was streamed via the team of Konishi's and proved to be a genuinely compelling contest, from start to end, with Alvarado's power punching going up against Konishi's physical strength and toughness. It wasn't the all out war we were expecting, but it sure was an engaging, and thrilling contest.
From the opening round it was clear neither man was there just to pick up a pay cheque, with Konishi pressing forward, trying to smother the power of Alvarado, whilst the Champion found room to get his shots off. Konishi, to his credit, got plenty off himself in the early stages, often forcing Alvarado backwards and unleashing flurries of shots to head and body, but it was the blows of Alvarado that caught the eye, especially his uppercuts as Konish came in with his head down.
Konishi's best moments came in the middle rounds, as he landed most of his best work, stopped Alvarado from creating the space here needed to get full extension on his shots. By smothering Alvarado's power shots and pushing him backwards Konishi had real success, and left the Nicaraguan looking a little bit like a bully. It did however come at a cost, and the energy that Konishi had to use, and the shots he took in return for his success, were apparent in the later rounds.
The final third of the bout was Alvarado's best. Konishi had slowed, his work rate had dropped, and his ability to cut the distance effectively was waning. This allowed Alvarado the space he needed to land his thunderous power shots, and in rounds 10 and 11 he hurt Konishi, who was left wobbling and looking ready to go. Unfortunately for the Nicaraguan the bell came to give Konishi both times, but it was clear that Konishi was relying on his toughness by then, and his chance to turn things round had all but gone.
The brave and determined challenger managed to put up a really spirited effort in round 12, despite losing the round. It was clear he knew he'd lost but he'd put up a great effort against one of the hardest hitting champions in the sport.
After 12 rounds the judges had the bout a clear win for the Nicaraguan, with scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 116-112.
In a sign of real class Alvarado stayed with fans on his way backstage, bumping fists with the locals, taking pictures with kids and really spending a lot of time with those who had been cheering on Konishi. The fans however had clearly been won over by the champion, and it was great to see from both sides.
Sadly for Konishi this is the second time he has lost in a world title bout, and it might just be that whilst he is very good, and very strong, he isn't quite good enough to win a world title.
Fighters will, one day, learn not to disrespect Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) [井上 尚弥]. He hands out beatings when disrespect, as Jamie McDonnell found out last year, and as Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) found out just moments ago.
The two men, meeting in the WBSS semi final, had entered as unbeaten champions, with Inoue as the WBA "regular" champion and Rodriguez as the IBF champion. It was supposed to be Inoue's biggest test, his toughest fight and a real chance for him to answer questions, questions that fans who hadn't followed him from the start of career still had. It was however another procession from the Monster, just like his previous two bouts at Bantamweight, against Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano. An execution that was likely as quick as it was due to the over-confidence of Rodriguez and his team, who had pushed Inoue's trainer and father Shingo at the media work out in the week.
The first round started well for Rodriguez who landed a good right hand in the opening seconds, before Inoue settled behind his jab, and managed to take the round thanks to a steady stream of jabs left hooks. Inoue landed a couple of right hands during the round but didn't seem to budge Rodriguez who applied pressure, and had one or two moments of his own, but was out landed over all.
Having got a read on his man early in round 2 Inoue began to turn up the hear and let his shots go with the free flowing aggression we've seen of him since early in early in his career. A big body shot hurt Rodriguez who was then given a huge head shot, then a left hook moments later dropped Rodriguez. To his credit Rodriguez got up, but was down again from a sickening body shot. That could have ended the fight but he returned to his feet, narrowly beating the count, before being dropped again. That was it. After just 79 seconds of round 2 Rodriguez, supposedly Inoue's stiffest test to date, was dispatched.
This was the 6th time in a row that Inoue had stopped someone who had never been stopped, including not only McDonnell and Payano but also the teak tough Kohei Kono, a former 2-time world champion. It was also his third second round stoppage following wins against Omar Andres Narvaez and Warlito Parrenas.
More notable for Japanese boxing it is the first time, in history, a Japanese fighter has won a world title fight in Europe, ending a 51 year, 20 fight losing run in the continent.
As for the future this win books Inoue a showdown later in the year with Filipino legend Nonito Donaire, in the WBSS final. That should be a huge fight for Asia, and arguably the most notable opponent that Inoue will have faced so far, certainly the most dangerous. Donaire might be on the slide but he is certainly a lot more proven that Rodriguez and Payano.
The Flyweight division has given us some amazing bouts in recent years, such as 2018's war between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura, and today we got another, as Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] battled tooth and nail with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) in a sure fire FOTY contender, up there with another of the amazing bouts we've seen in 2019 so far.
The bout started with Kuroda looking to use his slight reach advantage but it wasn't long until Mthalane got up close and drew Kuroda into a fire fight, with both unload a high volume of shots on the inside. It was a great back and forth with both landing their share of solid clean shots. Of the two Mthalane seemed to be the smart man, landing cleaner and defending better, but Kuroda was landing more shots, going to the body excellently.
Through the first 4 rounds there was almost nothing to split the two men. It could have been 4-0 either way with no complaints. Sadly for Kuroda he began to show some signs of tiring in the middle rounds, Mthalane on the other hand remained consistent with his work, cutting the left eye of Kuroda in the process. Kuroda would battle hard, and have a huge burst at the end of the round trying to steal it but it was too little too late. The same again applied in round 6, with Mthalane out working Kuroda through much of the round, before the challenger rallied at the end, with a huge onslaught that was driven by both the crowd and Kuroda's will to win.
In round 7 Kuroda began to show real swelling around his face, and was slowing. He was now picking moments to fire off, rather than trying to to press. He still had his moments, but he was taking more than he was giving, and was struggling to fight hard for 3 minutes. That continued to be the case in round 8, a round that Kuroda managed to land a lot of body shots in, but at the expense of taking a lot of head shots, as he face continued swelling. That was followed by a massive round 9 from Mthalane, who seemed to sense that he could get a stoppage, something that seemed plausible given the state of Kuroda's right eye, which was completely swollen shut by the end of the round.
By now Kuroda was fighting on will power and determination alone. His face swollen, his gas tank emptying and the momentum clearly behind Mthalane. He refused to sit back though and and pressed Mthalane through the round, taking punishment for his desire to be a world champion, landing shots but taking better ones in return. It was a brave and hungry effort, but one that saw him taking so much in return. By now it was becoming clear he would need a KO, and he was aware of it.
In the 11th round Kuroda managed to get his second wind, at least early in the round, but Mthalane soaked it all up and had a huge 2 minutes of the round, pushing Kuroda's determination to near breaking point. Kuroda looked done, completely blind in his right from swelling and like the referee might step in to save him from further punishment. It was a huge Mthalane round, until the dying seconds when, for the first time, he seemed to really hurt Mthalane, forcing the champion into survival mode for the final few seconds of the round.
Given he had hurt his man late in round 11 it seemed clear that Kuroda was going to give all he could in round 12, and he started out hot. Mthalane saw it coming however and boxed, using his foot work, his movement, timing and ring ring craft to see out the pressure before landing some glorious combinations late. Kuroda's desperation left him open and Mthalane was making him pay lighting up his face as we went to the bell.
After 12 rounds it seemed we had a close but clear winner. The first half of the fight had been wonderfully contested, and Kuroda had played his part in the latter stages with his incredible toughness, but there was only one man who looked like getting the win. The judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it, with Mthalane getting the unanimous decision, 116-112, twice, and 117-111.
There was no denying Mthalane was the better fighter, the worthy winner and a true warrior. His future is likely going to be a unification bout, potentially with WBC champion Charlie Edwards or WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, if Tanaka's team can lure him to Japan. For Kuroda a long, long rest will be needed. His face really was a swollen, damaged mess. Hopefully this isn't the end for him, but if it is, we can safely safe that the Last Samurai really did go out on his sword in a true FOTY contender.
After a disappointing performance last time out IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) knew he had to shine earlier today when he faced mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) [船井 龍一] from Japan.
Although it was a mandatory it did seem like Ancajas had the perfect foil to look good against, with Funai being a slow and basic come forward fighter with a very straight up style. Whilst Funai does have a potent right hand, that was pretty much the only threat Ancajas had to think about entering the bout.
Ancajas looked sharp from the off, much sharper than he had Alejandro Santiago Barrios last September, and quickly found a home for his straight left hand. He looked relaxed, quick and at ease. Funai on the other hand looked slow, tense and although he had a high guard it was being split time and time again by Ancajas. Funai's lack of speed was apparently early on though his style of slowly trudging forward made life incredibly easy for Ancajas.
In round 2 Ancajas began to move up a gear and he began to stand his ground more, lending cleanly and even allowing Funai to trade with him at times, especially at the end of round 3. He was so calm and in control that he was making Funai miss and counter up close. It was really clear that the two guys didn't belong in the ring together.
Having controlled the first 3 rounds without getting beyond second gear Ancajas began to put on a show in round 4, really moving through the gears and battering Funai. The round was as one sided as you could get, with Funai's only success being the fact that he remained on his feet, though he did that was a mystery. Ancajas was landing clean straight left hands, combinations, right hooks, uppercuts and just battering the challenger. It wouldn't have been a surprise to see the referee wave off the contest, and some referees would have done just that, but some how Funai managed to make it to the end of the round.
The damage that Ancajas gave Funai in round 4 forced the referee to have the doctor inspect Funai at the start of round 5. That round was a more cautious one from Funai, who backed off, tried to recover and didn't really do much other than clear his head. That was easier said than done though, with Ancajas continuing to beat him through the round. Although Funai was less willing to walk into the punches of Ancajas he was still on the receiving end of a lot of clean shots.
Round 6, much like round 4, was a one sided one where Ancajas increased his output and went to town on Funai, especially in the last minute. Funai's toughness was again his most impressive trait, but he was giving very little challenge to Ancajas.
At the end of round 6 the referee seemed to request Funai's pull their man from the bout. They didn't so the doctor did, stopping the bout at the very start of round 7.
For Funai this is a huge disappointment and it will almost certainly be his only shot at a world title. As for Ancajas this was perfect. This was the performance he needed, this was what he and his team would have been praying for. It was a sensational outing, beating Funai in an eye catching, fan friendly manner. It was similar in some ways to his first mandatory, against Teiru Kinoshita, where he again showcased what he could do.
Where Ancajas goes next is unclear, but if he can't secure a really big bout it would make sense to get in with another slower come forward fighter, where he can again shine by simply using his speed and skills. If he can't land a big bout for his next defense it would make sense to have him again in with an opponent that makes him look a million dollars. He's in an awkward position, as the only top Super Flyweight signed with ESPN, but there are fan friendly options out there for him.
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.