Earlier today Japanese fans got a rare all Japanese world title bout for the WBA Light Flyweight title. The bout resulted in defending champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) [田口良一] recording the 4th defense of his belt as he took a wide, but fun to watch, decision over former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki (24-2-3, 15) [宮崎 亮].
The bout, the main event of the Watanabe promoted show in Tokyo, had been highly anticipated inside of Japan
The fight started cautiously with both men looking to establish their jab, that was of course a style better suited to the much taller Taguchi who quickly found a right for his jab and looked to follow with straights. Miyazaki, to his credit, got through with some jabs of his own and used his guard well. The fight quickly began to warm up and in round both managed to find success with their power hand, but it was clear that Taguchi's shots had more sting on them and that he was in control of the action.
Taguchi's control over the bout tightened in rounds 3 and 4 and although Miyazaki was finding success he always seemed to be a step behind the champion who was starting to force the issue more frequently. There were some good counters from Miyazaki but they never seemed to really trouble the champion who usually had the last word in an exchange.
In round 5 the crowd picked up, chanting the names of the men, whilst the pace raised slightly. The two men continued to fight at mid range, taking their turns to try and open up the other's guard and unload more telling shots. The pace increased again in round 6 as they began to close the gap and lets shots go up close, with Taguchi's right uppercut being particularly effective and causing Miyazaki to come off second best.
The success of round 6 saw Taguchi continue to push the action as Miyazaki began to look like a man needing time to think of a back up plan. Whilst Miyazaki was thinking Taguchi was working landing the straight right and left hooks on the challenger. Miyazaki tried to turned things around in round 8 and had his moments but couldn't avoid the uppercuts coming back as he unleashed his own shots in an action packed round. Miyazaki tried to again cut the distance in the following round but took some spiteful body shots and got tagged hard around the right eye as Taguchi resumed control of the fight.
Going in to the later rounds it was clear that Miyazaki had a lot of rounds to make up whilst Taguchi could cruise to his 4th defense. Despite being able to cruise Taguchi stayed sharp and continued to try and control the pace, and landed plenty of solid hooks. In credit to Miyazaki however he wasn't willing to just give up and landed a nasty right hand hand at the end of round 10. Unfortunately for the challenger the shot came too late to allow him to build on it and in round 11 it seemed his right eye was bothering him.
Despite being well behind and in discomfort from his eye Miyazaki gave his all in round 12, knowing it was now or never. It was however a case of needing a KO that he was never to going to get against someone as tough and resilient as Taguchi.
At the end of 12 rounds everyone knew Taguchi had retained and the scorecards agreed with scores of 116-112,117-111 and 119-109 in favour of the defending champion.
Taguchi will likely return at the end of the year in the next defense of his title, and he's stated he wants to face a top fighter next. Although Miyazaki was a mandatory he had, in fairness, done very little to deserve the mandatory position. As a result we could see Taguchi in an interesting bout before the year is over. Sadly though Watanabe may look to protect him given that he's their only current world champion.
For Miyazaki the result probably shows that he's not a world class Light Flyweight, however bouts with more stylistically well matched fighters, for example Akira Yaegashi, would certainly make for a competitive bout than this one, with Taguchi seemingly too big and too good for the Ioka man.
The second WBA Super Flyweight reign of popular Japanese veteran Kohei Kono (32-9-1, 13) [河野 公平], a fighter from the Watanabe Gym, ended earlier today as he was out pointed by Panamanian Luis “El Nica” Concepcion (35-4, 24), who entered the bout as the interim champion and unified his title with regular belt that Kono was attempting to defend for the 4th time.
Early on Concepcion's movement and skill prevented Kono from landing much clean with the “Tough Boy" struggling with the distance and tempo as the slower Japanese fighter who fought on the retreat through the opening rounds as Concepcion backed him up at will. Despite the good start for Concepcion's we then saw Kono's fighters mentality kicked in round 4 as we started to get the fight many had been expecting and saw the two exchanging blows. It was during the exchanges that Concepcion's power began to take hold and he forced Kono to back off after taking more solid shots.
Having felt the Panamanian's power Kono changed tactic and began to look for counter shots, knowing that his Plan A wasn't a smart one. Those counters were well timed but Concepcion didn't seem too bothered by them with the visitor adapting and changing the pace of the fight, holding when he needed to and disrupting Kono's assault's when the Japanese fighter started to grow in confidence and come forward himself.
Despite Concepcion looking in control at times Kono did break through in round 9 with a solid right hand and it seemed that, for the first time, he had Concepcion in trouble. Concepcion however rode out the storm and got back to the smart work he had been doing earlier in the bout. Going into round 10 it was clear that Kono had a lot of work to do though unfortunately he was unable to turn things around, despite having success with his right hand through the 10th.
Kono again had success in round 11, as Concepcion seemed to slow further, but was unable to finish off his foe who again used his abilities to thwart Kono's charge, with a nasty headbutt causing visible damage. That charge of Kono's was further slowed in round 12 when he took a painful low blow. The pain was clear but so was Kono's desire and he continued to try to turn the bout around, but it was far too little too late.
At the final bell there was no surprise over who had won with Concepcion a well deserving winner with scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113, with the final card a bit too close in our eyes.
Sadly for Watanabe that's their second champion to lose their title this year, with Takashi Uchiyama losing the WBA Super Featherweight "Super" title to Concepcion's countryman Jezreel Corrales in a genuine upset. Watanabe may be able to secure two rematch for New Year's Eve, however it's clear both Kono and Uchiyama are coming to the end of their careers and it would be no shock to see both hang them up in the very near future. If they do it'll be a horrible time for those in charge of the Watanabe gym, who have also seen veteran Akio Shibata retire this year and it could be that the elder statesmen of the gym all vanish in the space of a year.
For Concepcion the bout opens up a lot of doors in Asia with fighters like Takuma Inoue and Sho Ishida both possibly encouraging their teams to offer the new champion a December bout in Japan for solid money and a potential rematch with Kono also plausible. After today's bout we wouldn't be surprised if Japanese fans wanted to see more of Concepcion.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
1Boxing, at it's best, is an incredible sport, a sport that has drama, excitement and a human tale. Sadly at it's worst it's a mess that is decided by something that feels unsatisfactory. Be that a poor decision from judges that appear to have not been watching the action or by an injury caused by an unintentional incident in the ring.
Sadly today we had one of those unintentional incidents curtailing what had looked like a brilliant WBO Minimumweight title bout between teenager Riku Kano (10-2-1, 5) and war torn veteran Katusnari Takayamo (31-8-0-1, 12). Not only did the incident curtail the bout but it left a disappointing taste in the mouth of all involved, including the winner, who was distraught at the conclusion of the action.
The bout started well with an intriguing first round that began as a feeling out round but heated up well with both men managing to get into their groove in the late stages. When the fighters were in full swing Kano was finding a home for his eye catching left hand whilst Takayama was looking to turn the fight into a brawl, knowing that the style would favour him and his style.
Having warmed up Takayama began to run through the gears in round 2 as he put Kano under pressure. The youngster coped well, landing a number of eye catching counters, but was certainly under pressure with Takayama ending the round well with his movement and aggression befotre throwing his hands up to the crowd to celebrate.
Sadly that previously mentioned injury occurred early in round 3 when a clash of heads left Takayama with a nasty cut over the left eye. The eye, which had been cut several times during the course of Takayama's long and thrilling career, didn't look like it was an immediately bad cute but it was in some well known scar tissue of Takayama's and was a clear target for Kano's straight.
The cut forced a sense of urgency in Takayama who went all out to try and defeat Kano, speeding up the pressure and forcing Kano on to the back foot. The counters were still coming from the youngster but they were fewer than they had been earlier in the fight whilst Takayama was clearly upping the ante. Kano tried to do what he could to slow Takayama, both fighting back and holding, but the veteran wasn't to be denied the round making sure to end it really well.
Takayama's high pressure and output continued in to round 4 as the veteran looked to take a march on the score-cards. The cut, didn't seem like it would be immediately fight ending but it was certainly getting worse and with Takayama's style it seemed like a ticking time bomb, especially given that the bout would need 4 completed rounds to get a result. Despite the cut Takayama was now bullying Kano around the ring and landed a brilliant right hand near the bell putting the youngster fully on the back foot and into the defensive.
Takayama's relentless assault continued to begin round 5 before he got on his toes and showed a spring in his step, almost taunting the youngster. That dancing however didn't last long as a left hand from Kano got through. The left hand should have been a moment of notable success for Kano however Takayama took the shot and quickly cornered Takayama unloading a ferocious assault. Kano saw out the attack and thwarted Takayama's offensive foray. Takayama's offensive foray was followed by another and it was obvious that the veteran was piling up the rounds with his work rate.
Round 6 started much like the others, with Takayama on the front foot. Kano however seemed to have his successes in the opening 30 seconds with Takayama walking on to shots as Kano used clever movement to open up some space. That space was quickly taken away from the youngster with Takayama putting his foot on to the gas. Sadly however the time-bomb on Takayama's face was going off and blood oozed down his face forcing the referee to take him over to the doctor who took a few moments before ending the bout.
With the bout over Takayama was in tears, looking like a man who had lost everything. He seemed to feel that he had been stopped due to the cut, almost as if he didn't realise the stoppage was caused by a clash of heads and not a punch. The tears, which contained a lot of blood, showed what the bout had meant to him and it looked almost like he was ready to walk away from the sport. Although Takayama was confused on the ending the referee wasn't, telling the judges to “score the round”, making it clear that the fight ending cut was from the clash of heads in round 3.
After a few moments wait we finally saw the cards being read with Takayama's arm being raised, giving him the beginning of another title reign, his 5 if you include his reign as the WBC “interim” champion. For Kano however it was heart break, his plan of taking the old man down late had been destroyed by the cut and the way it had inspired the warrior spirit in the veteran.
The loss sees Kano missing out on the Japanese record of the youngest world champion, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him coming again, potentially in a rematch later this year. His goal of breaking the 29 year record of Hiroki Ioka may have failed but this isn't the last we'll see of the Taisei fighter who still has a long and successful future ahead.
For those interested in the particular,s the cards read 59-59, 59-56 and 58-56 all to Takayama.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The Minimumweight division is without a clear #1 however Thailand's Wanheng Menayothin (43-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] strengthened his claim to be the best in the division today as he over-came mandatory challenger Saul Juarez (23-5-1, 12) to retain the WBC title.
The bout was Wanheng's 5th defense of the title and was by far the toughest with the Mexican having the skills to ask questions of any one in the division. Those skills were on show particularly in the early rounds with very little to separate the men during the first 4 rounds. The first two were very quiet with a chess match mentality from both but the bout built to an exciting 4th round with the men engaging in a high skilled war that saw both men prove their offensive capabilities.
After 4 rounds the scorecards read 38-38, 38-38 and 39-38, with the WBC open scoring being in effect. The card were spot on with very, very little to split the men and no real argument if a round had been scored 10-10, like one was on one of the cards.
Wanheng managed to establish a lead in the middle sector of the fight as he neutralise much of Juarez's work with his defense and sharp counter skills. Juarez had his jab countered by straight right hands and much of his other work was blocked with Wanheng establishing himself as the boss in the ring. By round 8 there was no doubting the man in the lead, but the question was “how clearly was he winning?”
On the open scoring the judges had it 78-74, 78-75 and 77-75 for the Thai. Giving him the bout by 4, 3 and 2 points going into the final part of the bout.
Knowing he was behind Juarez tried to turn the bout around but Wanheng seemed to do enough in rounds 9 and 10 to move further ahead, putting himself out of reach of Juarez on the cards, barring a knockdown. With that lead stretched the Thai then cruised through the final 2 rounds, doing little more than he had to whilst Juarez looked to turn it on and take the fight to the champion, in what proved to be a futile effort.
With the result all but known going to the final bell Juarez seemed happy that he'd done enough against a genuine top contender, whilst Juarez seemed to know that defeat was heading his way, as was confirmed when the cards were read out loud confirming that Wanheng had indeed retained his title.
On paper the bout will be close, with cards ranging from 115-113 to 116-112, but in reality Wanheng eased off giving the final 2 rounds away and could have really made that wider if he'd wished. That has lead to criticism of the open scoring, which didn't really help this bout, but the right man won and it was a genuinely engaging bout for the most part, with rounds 4, 5 and 8 being particularly good rounds. The fight saw both show off good defense early on, it saw Wanheng show off his offensive capability through the middle and saw Juarez go all out late in the contest.
Sadly with the division lacking in terms of depth right now we're not expecting to see Wanheng in with anyone too tasty next time out, though we wouldn't be shocked to see him in the ring again before the year is over as he continues one of the sports active longest unbeaten runs.
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.