This evening in Wales fight fans saw Japan's Sho Ishida (24-1, 13) [石田 匠] look to create history as he attempted to become the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title in Europe. He was facing the WBA Super Flyweight champion Khalid Yafai (23-0, 14), and entered as the mandatory challenger in what looked like a genuinely interesting contest.
The fight started really slowly as both men spent time trying to figure out what the other brought to the table. There was jabs from both but little more in the first 2 rounds as neither man wanted to take too many risks, instead playing a frustrating game that seemed to almost kill any hope of another Super Flyweight thriller.
In round 3 it seemed like we were on the very of a fight breaking out as Ishida upped the ante and began to go to the body of Yafai. That seemed to force Yafai into holding a bit more and firing back whilst out of range, often hitting the air with what looked like shots that were being thrown with bad intent. It became almost a pattern of Yafai throwing huge hooks whilst miles out of range, and only getting away with them due to Ishida being too passive to try and make Yafai pay for themselves.
The tempo dropped again in round 4, killing off the action that we'd seen in round 3, though Yafai did manage to pick up the pace late and took the round as a result, despite eating some solid jabs. Ishida managed to pick up the pace again in round 5, arguably his best round, as he upped his work rate and really began to settle in what was one of the bouts more fan friendly rounds, with both men landing some clean shots. It was clear that Ishida was finding his groove and Yafai didn't like it, so Yafai came out for round 6 with more energy and seemed to put Ishida into his box for a few rounds.
Yafai's momentum grew as he established a lead, left Ishida's nose bleeding though never seemed to hurt Ishida who seemed to come back strong in the championship rounds, looking to use what was left his energy. That lead to an entertaining round 12, with Ishida clearly having the better off it, but it was far too little too late for the challenger, who had far too much to do.
At the end there was no complaints with the scorecards, which read 118-110 and 116-112, twice, to Yafai.
After the bout Yafai seemed to suggest that he had hurt his hands during the fight, and given the lack of action that may have explained the lacklustre contest, though the reality is that Yafai showed that he was well below the top tier of the Super Flyweight division. The likes of Naoya Inoue, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman Gonzalez would all be far too much for Yafai on this performance.
As for Ishida he was too timid and too passive through out. He had some really good moments, though seemed unwilling to gamble too much, and let the scores slip away from him too early. He proved he could compete in, and around, world class, though needs more bouts at this type of level to really help his development. Too many fights against limited Thai's hurt his chances here, but he will almost certainly get more chances, and hopefully will try and grasp the next one with both hands.
Earlier this year we saw Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) over-come Ganigan Lopez to become the WBC Light Flyweight champion, taking the title with a razor thin decision. Today the unbeaten Japanese youngster returned to the rign to make his first defense of the title, in a match up against former champion Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17).
The bout, which wasn't televised, saw Guevara make a really good start and he was making the most of hs experience early on, to take a lead after 4 rounds, leading 40-36 and 39-37, twice, when the scores were publically announced. Ken Shiro had had moments during those early rounds, but it was clear that Guevara had the much better success.
Knowing he was behind Ken Shiro attempted to change the tempo of the bout, and pressed the action more, attacking the body and cutting the eye of Guevara as he looked to turn the fight around. The cut to Guevara seemed to change the fight and left the Mexican with a bloodied face.
By the time the scores were announced for a secpnd time the judging had changed notably. Rather than the judges allbeing in favour of Guevara they were now split, with one judge having the bout 78-74 to Guevara, one having Ken Shiro in the lead 77-75 and the third having it 76-76, meaning it was all to play for in the final 4 rounds.
The final 4 rounds saw both men really going for it, Ken Shiro to edge them, using a great body attack and making the most of his size and energy, but he got tagged several times by the swollen challenger. The action of Ken Shiro had been cheered loudly and was likely helping the Japanese fighter convince the judges he was doing so much more than the challenger. The cheers for the Japanese warrior seemed to spur him on, and he did enough to claim to claim a majority decision, with scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 114-114.
After the bout it was revealed that Ken Shiro's next defense will see him fight in a rematch against Lopez, giving the former champion an opportunity to reclaim the title that Ken Shiro took from him this past May.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier this year we saw Ryota Murata (13-1, 10) suffer his first loss, losing a very controversial split decision to French-Cameroonian Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-3, 21) for the WBA Middleweight title. That loss took away Murata's unbeaten record but was so controversial that the WBA ordered an immediate rematch, which took place earlier today in Tokyo.
The fight started closely, with Murata employing a style based around methodical and consistent pressure whilst N'Dam moved and threw combinations. It was a round that could have gone either way, with Murata being the more effective, and the heavier handed, but N'Dam did seem to be out-landing Murata with his flurries, which whilst mostly blocked did have shots getting through. The second round was much like the first, though Murata did manage to have more and more success, landing several shots late in the round, including a left to the body and a huge right hand up top to take it.
In round 3 Murata seemed to step it up slightly and landed more frequently with his heavier blows. There was some flashy work from N'Dam but the body shots and straight right hands from Murata were chipping away at N'Dam's resolve, with the body shots particularly taking a toll on the champion's gas tank. To neutralise N'Dam's holding Murata used his physicality to lean and push N'Dam around, further draining the champion who's footwork had began to slow.
Murata seemed to grow and grow through the bout and in round 4 the body shots of the Japanese really began to land at will along with a number of huge right hands. He wasn't ultra active but was consistent and methodical with his work being incredibly effective, whilst N'Dam seemed to be wasting energy just trying to get Murata's respect. The pressure was amped up again in round 5 and the round could have been scored a 10-8 with Murata simply bullying N'Dam as the wheels began to come off the champion who was beginning to be force fed right hands. To his credit N'Dam showed his toughess and always tried to fight back, but was wobbled several times as Murata turned the screw, one right hand at a time.
The screws tightened further in round and N'Dam started to become more and more desperate as the shots began to buckle his knees. For a man who had been down numerous times in the past it was staggering to see N'Dam remain upright, but he was taking a beating and it was clear that he wouldn't see the final bell unless something changed. There was simply nothing N'Dam could do to get space, time or respect of Murata, who marched forward and did as he pleased whilst N'Dam began to show visible signs of tiring.
With N'Dam looking like a man falling apart Murata only had to keep doing what he was doing, chipping away at N'Dam and breaking him down. That's exactly what he spent round 7 doing, landing some lovely short burst up stairs and down stairs, and landing his right hand consistently onto the had of N'Dam who was wobbled. Even the jab of Murata's was thrown with bad intent and forced N'Dam on to the back foot.
The corner of N'Dam seemed to realise their man was too deep after round 7 and retired their man, who really had taken a lot of punishment, and was taking more round by round. The body shots had taken his snap away and the head shots were all shaking N'Dam, who's toughness was tested to the extreme. The corner, knowing their man had taken enough made the right call, well aware it was only going to get worse.
For N'Dam it ends his short reign, which really never should have been, and saw him suffer his first stoppage loss. For Murata, who was very emotional after the win, the victory sees him become only the second Japanese fighter to claim a world title at 160lbs, even in this overly diluted era, and helps set up potential super fights with Billy Joe Saunders, David Lemieux, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and even Gennady Golovkin. It might not erase the “1” from his record, but it will go some way to easing the pain of the injustice of the decision in the first bout.
Japanese sensation Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) made a statement earlier this year when he stopped Juan Hernandez to claim the WBC Flyweight title. Today he managed to establish his reign a little bit more as he recorded his first defense, and stopped French challenger Thomas Masson (17-4-1, 5), who had never previously been stopped.
When the men were in the ring Higa looked really short compared to the challenger, and it was clear that Masson's gameplan was to keep it long and make Higa work especially hard to get inside. Sadly for the challenger the gameplan never really worked and Higa was finding it far too easy to get inside the Frenchman. To his credit Masson did show a tight defense, but shots form Higa, which were through in combinations up close, still sneaked through and did their work on the body and head of Masson.
Round by round Higa pressed more, and got more and more success, with each round taking it's toll on the challenger who showed nice touches in rounds 2 and 3, neither of which he won, butsimply lacked the fire power to get Higa's respect or the movement to avoid Higa's pressure. It didn't matter what Masson did, he still couldn't find much breathing space or avoid the champion for long enough to really regroup.
After 4 rounds the open scoring was 40-36, twice, and 39-37, with one judge some how managing to find a round to give to Masson. Sadly for Masson things only got worse and in round 5 Higa not only continued his pressure but also landed two huge counters, both of which rocked Masson's legs and seemed to be the start of the end for the Frenchman.
In round 6 Masson took an absolute pounding. Hige upped the ante, pressing more than he had earlier in the fight, and it was arguably a10-8 round with Masson being backed up from around the ring and needing to eat flurry after flurry of shots. Where as he was blocking most shots earlier on he was beginning to eat these clean and was paying the price as the power of Higa was taking it's toll. It looked like a stoppage was coming at a number of points during the round,but Masson's toughness kept him in there to the bell.
The assault from Higa continued in round 7 before Masson took a knee, it seemed a bizarre as it had come a while after he had last taken a shot, but it made sense when Masson's face was shown to TV camera's and he had bloody around his eye. A doctor's inspection followed and after a few moments the bout was waved off, with Masson's eye being the cause of the TKO.
Next for Higa is likely to be either Andrew Selby or Muhammad Waseem in the near year, though the reality is that neither man would be given much of a chance as Higa seeks a Japanese record tying 15th successive stoppage. For Masson the bout showed the difference between European class, which he is a 2-time champion at, and world class. He had moments, but they were few and far between and he could never get Higa's respect, something a fighter will need to beat him.
The Bantamweight division is current a mess thanks the WBC's slow decision to tidy up their title situation, as well as the WBA's multiple title situation. Today however we saw the weight class get tidied up a little bit as WBA “super” champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18) [Жанат Ескендирулы Жакиянов] took on IBF champion Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9) in a unification bout, that helped take one of the titles from the confusing mix of belts.
The fight started in a very messy fashion with Zhakiyanov pressing the action and Burnett trying to fight off the back foot. It was a round full of holding, wrestling and grappling, though there was moments where the fighters did separate and Burnett landed some lovely eye catching shots which were the cleanest blows of the round.
The close, messy, action continued through much of the fight, with rounds 2, 3, 4 and 5 all pretty much identical to each other. They all saw Zhakiyanov pressing the action and the two fighters trading blows between in some messy yet exciting action that seemed to show Burnett was able to fight Zhakiyanov's fight and have success with it, there was however little to separate the men and neither looked capable of hurting the other.
In round 6 we saw a slight change as Burnett looked to have injured his shoulder at one point, before gritting his teeth and resuming the contest, with Zhakiyanov all over him. It was one of the best rounds for the Kazakh, despite some spirited efforts from Burnett late on, and it looked like the momentum was starting to swing n favour of Zhakiyanov. Sadly for the Kazakh the injury to Burnett wasn't as bad as it first seemed and he looked to be just fine over rounds 7 and 8.
Amazingly in round 9 Burnett changed his tactics, got on to his toes and really managed to make life easy for himself as he established some distance and boxed his fight, for the first time in the fight. It was a style that he likely would have wanted to use from the start of the fight, but couldn't due to Zhakiyanov's pressure, but was now able too with the Kazakh slowing down. It was a tactic Burnett used through rounds 10 and 11 to clearly put himself in charge of the bout, before going toe-to-toe in a thrilling 12th round. It was a perfect finish to the fight which had been incredibly tough for the fighters.
At the end of 12 rounds it seemed like a close, but clear, win for Burnett, though the judges didn't even seem to see the bout as competitive scoring it 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 for Burnett, making it look relatively one sided when it really hadn't been.
With the IBF and WBA titles now around his waist the future looks really interesting for Burnett, and he does have a lot going for him, but this was a draining war and he will be looking to avoid those in the future if he's going to have a lengthy reign. For Zhakiyanov the loss ends his reign, but he certainly didn't shame himself, and he should remain in the title mix going forward.
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.