The second, of 3, world title fights in Macau today saw IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) battle against little known Japanese challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) [坂本真宏]
On paper this was a mismatch, a 2-time world champion, with notable wins against the likes of Muhammad Waseem, John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete against a man who is best known for losing to a then little known Sho Kimura. It was however a bout that turned out to be a very, very entertaining contest with Sakamoto showing no quit and a lot of ambition.
From the first round it was clear that Sakamoto saw this as his chance to perform on the big stage, even though the bout was only shown in a few countries, not including Japan. He bit down hard on his gum shield and look to land combinations against the crisp punching and defensively sound Mthalane. We, as many, didn't really expect the Mechnical Engineering student to fight with such tenacity, but he did. Sadly for Sakamoto the clean shots from Mthalane were taking a toll.
Through the first 6 round Sakamoto really did much, much better than expected. He was clearly losing, and taking a fair bit of damage thanks to the clean, crisp, accurate shots of Mthalane, but he wasn't giving up. He was taking the fight to the champion and fighting on the inside, looking to wear Mthalane down with flurries.
Sadly for Sakamoto his effort, and the lack of pay off from the effort, took a lot out of him and he was looking exhausted at the end of round 6, with his face reddening and his right eye swelling shut. That eye would and his exhaustion would bee a major issues, with Mthalane landing more and more shots as the rounds went on.
Eventually, with their man a long way behind on the score cards, his face a swollen mess and his energy tank running on empty Sakamoto's corner pulled him out of the bout at the end of round 10.
For such an unknown, and we're not joking when we say that, Sakamoto put up a very brave performance in a bout that even those in Japan gave him little chance of winning. For Mthalane the win was expected, he was given a surprising tough work out here, and will now be looking towards a mandatory defense against another Japanese fight, Masayuki Kuroda in Spring.
Having spent the last 2 weeks in none stop talks with a CBC representative to get a legal feed to the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka we went into Monday with real fear. What if the bout we had done so much to hype failed to deliver, what if the stream failed, what if it ended inside a round or two, or ended because of a technical decision.
Thankfully our fears were averted and instead we got a genuine contender for fight of the year, and a fight that reminds us how special all-Japanese world title fights are. In fact it reminds us that sometimes the bouts we are most looking forward to really can deliver and that fighters don't always “just want to win”, sometimes they want to win in a fashion that lasts long in the memory.
Coming in to the bout we had Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] as the defending WBO Flyweight champion faced off with mandatory challenger Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成]. The champion was seeking his third defense, following a title win last year against Zou Shiming and succesful defenses against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Zou Shiming. Tanaka on the other hand was looking for his place in history, as only the second man to claim world titles in 3 weight classes in just 12 fights, following Vasyl Lomachenko.
As we've become accustomed to with Japanese fights there was no feeling out round. There was no gradual build up to a crescendo. Instead the two men started fast, with the opening round playing out as the first of 12 action packed rounds of brutality. The naturally stronger Kimura applied the pressure straight away and forced Tanaka to box and move, through Tanaka regularly stood his ground anded traded blows, relying on his speed and reactions to out land Kimura. The champion was hurt in round 2 from a huge counter left hook from Tanaka, which lead to Tanaka going for the finish, though Kimura was no where hurt enough and he began to fire back as Tanaka realised it was too soon. Kimura was hurt again in round 3 from a right hand, but held his own for much of the round.
Kimura began to build some momentum of his own in round 4 and in round 5 he began to grind down Tanaka, who was taking a lot of hard shots, despite having moments of his own. Kimura, who is typically a fighter who gets stronger the longer bouts go, seemed to be dragging Tanaka into his fight with body shots and his pressure taking a toll.
That sustained success from Kimura didn't last too long with Tanaka turning it back on it round 6, as he began to try and turn the fight back in his direction. That was partly because Tanaka changed his game plan and started to use more movement. Whilst Kimura was strong and aggressive he was being made to chase shadows at times and at one point Tanaka looked Lomachenko-esque switching from side to side on Kimura who was unable to respond.
Kimura's pressure began to amp up again in round 8, especially late in the round as he tried to put the pain on Tanaka, but again Tanaka's movement saved him from too much harm, despite a real desire being shown from the champion. In round 9 it seemed Tanaka again took control as he began walking down Kimura, a tactic that was unexpected but seemed to work as Kimura's right eye began to close rapidly. The champion was soon fighting one eyes, and on the back foot. Despite being defensively tight Kimura was eating shots on a regular basis with Tanaka pushing him backwards.
Tanaka looked like he was in the lead, but was wanting to leave an impression in the final rounds as he hunted a stoppage. It wasn't a smart move and instead it left the door open to Kimura who gritted his teeth and had real success late on, leaving Tanaka's face swollen and bruised. The tactics of Tanaka late were impressive, backing up Kimura, but were unnecessary and Tanaka kept getting caught by the heavier shots of Kimura.
At the end the bout seemed to be very competitive at times, with both men having a few clear rounds. Both men had been to hell and back, both were swollen messes, both had taken serious punishment. To us it seemed like Tanaka had won a clear, but competitive fight, but the judges seemed to have it very close with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112, giving Tanaka the majority decision.
With the win Tanaka joins the growing list of Japanese 3 weight champions, having achieved that feat quicker than any other Japanese fighter in history. Also we believe he's become the youngest 2 weight champion in history. For Kimura the loss ends his Cinderella man run of results, though given this performance and his growing popularity in China and Japan we suspect we'll see him return to title level in the not so distant future.
We'd like to send a massive thank you to the people at CBC for helping us get an official feed and thanks to the two men in the ring for a FOTY contender. It's just a shame it wasn't shown live across Japan, and won't be aired in much of Japan until the middle of the week.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier this month fight fans in Japan got a minor upset, with Filipino Vic Saludar defeating Ryuya Yamanaka for the WBO Minimumweight title. Today Vic's brother Froilan Saludar (28-3-1, 19) attempted to double the family's haul of world titles as he travelled to China and faced off with WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) [木村翔], who was looking to secure his second defense of the belt.
The fight started excellently for Saludar as he boxed off the back foot, neutralising the pressure of Kimura and landing the cleaner, better and more accurate shots. To his credit Kimura took the shots well but it was clearly a round for the challenger. Saludar also seemed to shine in round 2 as he picked off Kimura's pressure, countered excellently and showed off the boxing skills that had seen earn so much hype early in his career.
The fight began to turn in round 3 when Kimura upped the pressure, moving through the gears and and trapping Saludar on the ropes, where he went to work big time. The Filipino had no answer with Kimura showing he had the ability to cut the ring off as and when he wished.
Saludar tried to return the favour in round 4, when he trapped Kimura, but was unable to get the champion's respect and the round finished with Kimura back on top. The pressure of Kimura was beginning to be cranked up and he was forcing Saludar to move move more, use his legs more and wear himself out. That was compounded by the clean body shots that Kimura was landing, with those shots taking the legs from the challenger in round 5. Without his movement Saludar was a sitting duck and was dropped with a shot to the mid-section in round 5 as he began to wear down under the now relentless pressure of Kimura.
The champion seemed confident that Saludar hadn't recovered as we began round 5 and he jumped on the challenger, unloading shots from the off. Saludar began to fight fire with fire and traded blows in what was a wild fire fight, but unfortunately for Saludar he was now running on fumes and a second knock down saw Saludar take the 10 count.
With two defenses now under his belt Kimura is now set to return to make a mandatory title defense against former WBO Minimumweight and Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka, in what is expected to be a thrilling all Japanese world title fight as we head towards the end of 2018.
A huge Sunday of fights kicked off earlier today with an IBF Flyweight title fight, that saw Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) being crowned as the new champion as he narrowly out-pointed Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) in a pulsating and action packed bout.
The contest started well Mthalane who brought the pressure early on and forced Waseem to fight his fight, with the two men trading blows at close range. Waseem tried to keep up with the veteran but Mthalane was finding gaps and landing the cleaner shots through the first 3 rounds as he got off to a perfect start.
Knowing he was behind Waseem changed his game plan, moving more, finding angles and stopping Mthalane from dictating the tempo and distance of the contest. It lead to round 4 being very close before Waseem clearly took the following two rounds, showing his boxing skills as well as his ability to stand and fight. The change in tactics showed that Waseem could make life easy for himself, but by round 7 it seemed like Mthalane was getting a read on the movement of Mthalane and he was starting to counter more and cut the distance, as he had earlier in the bout.
Mthalane would continue to be consistent with his work, there wasn't anything different from him but we was landing consistently, finding a home for his left jab, his left hook and his right hand. Waseem, who seemed to land to the body much more than the South African, wasn't quite getting the snap on his shots to do damage the damage that he was wanting to do.
The two continued to trade a lot of leather through to the championship rounds before we saw Waseem land his best shot, dropping Mthalane in round 11 with a dynamite left hand that dropped the South African. Sadly for Waseem there wasn't enough time left to jump on Mthalane who beat the count.
Having dropped Mthalane in round 11 it seemed like Waseem was going to jump on the South African in the final round.. Instead it seemed that Mthalane was even to it in what was a sensational round of back and forth action, which saw both men looking hurt. Waseem had been hurt in the middle of the round, but came back strong and had a swollen Mthalane badly hurt at the very end of the fight.
Given the close and competitive nature of the fight a decision could have gone either way as we went to the cards. The scores of 114-113, twice, and 116-110 could, conceivably, had gone to either man but unfortunately for Waseem went to Mthalane, who is now a 2-time champion.
For Waseem there will be serious questions asked. Why did he pick up the pace so late? Why did he drop the angles that he used in the middle rounds? Why didn't he pick up the tempo a little earlier? Despite those questions he impressed, he went 12 rounds with one of the most under-rated fighters in the sport and ran Mthalane razor close. There is a real chance that, given a second world title fight, Waseem will come on top with the experience from this loss.
Earlier today attention turned to Ukraine to watch WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (17-0, 12) record his first defense, as he scored an 8th round TKO win over mandatory challenger Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (50-4, 35), in what was a very one sided bout.
The opening round saw the Ukrainian looking much bigger than the challenger, thoiugh he didn't rely in his physicality, instead choosing to box and move. The Thai looked to cut the distance when he could, but he was always too slow and Dalakian caught him on the way in and got out before Yodmongkol had a chance to return fire.
In the first few rounds Dalakian looked more and more in control, with Yodmongkol bringing the pressure but really not doing so in an effective manner. Instead he was essentially trudging towards the champion and being tagged up close. It was progressively more and more one sided, though Dalakian really didn't look like he was looking to finish it too early. Instead the champion wanted to put on a show for the fans, showing his skills, as well as his power and aggression.
The aggression cranked up significantly in round, when the champion dropped the Thai with a brutal uppercut in the opening seconds. The champion really went hunting a finish there and then and unloaded through out the round with a massive and prolonged assault. It was a testament to Yodmongkol's toughness that he saw out the round, but it was thoroughly one sided.
It seemed as if the champion had perhaps punched himself out as he seemed to take round 6 off, and even then the Thai couldn't cut the distance to have any real success of his own. Instead Dalakian took the round off, and still won it, thanks in part to a late flurry. The following round saw Dalakian again showing signs of taking his foot off the gas, but once again the Thai couldn't do anything of any note to make the Azeri-born-Ukrainian pay. Instead the champion unloaded on the bell, likely trying to steal the round, yet managed to drop the Thai for the second time.
Going in to round 8 it seemed like the challenger was there on borrowed time, and it looked like Dalakian had fully recovered from his huge effort in round 5. One again the Thai was dropped, and although he showed a lot of courage to get back to his feet, the referee really could have stopped the bout there and then. Instead the fight was allowed to go on, and a Dalakian follow up forced the referee to stop the bout and save the Thai.
For Dalakian the bout was a perfect home coming defense, and a great way to legitimise his reign whilst Yodmongkol's status as a top contender is clearly over. How he got a mandatory title shot is a bit of a mystery and given his performance here, it's hard to imagine him getting another shot at a world title any time soon.
On Saturday the WBC stripped hard hitting Japanese fighter Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) [比嘉 大吾] of their Flyweight title, after he failed to make the 112lb limit. Today he suffered further as he suffered his first loss, and saw his perfect stoppage run come to an end at the hands of talented Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales (27-3, 18). Not only did Higa lose his first bout, but for the first time he looked like a fighter who was mentally broken, as well as physically exhausted, and left many questioning why and his team even went ahead with this fight.
In the build up Higa had looked horrific. He had looked drained and beaten at the medical checks on on Thursday, looked equally as deflated at the signing ceremony on Friday and had failed to make the limit on Friday. Even this morning, at a special same day weigh in, he looked less than his usual confident self.
From the first round he looked slow, and like he was questioning himself in the ring. His usual intensity wasn't there, his aggression was lacking and his pressure fighting, a trademark of his, was totally absent. Rosales, like a professional, used his advantages from the off and stuck to his game plan. He out boxed Higa early on, moved well and made the most of his jab. It was a gameplan that liked like it was drilled into him before the fight, and was something that had been tailored to make the most of his height and reach advantages.
As the fight went on Higa had some moments, particularly to the body, but even on the inside he seemed to be losing the mini-skirmishes the two fighters were having as Rosales matched him, backed him off and forced Higa to think twice. It was clear that the same day weigh in had taken something from the Japanese fighter, and his usually all out attack was absent.
It wasn't until round 5, with Higa well behind, that the fight really turned into an inside battle. Sadly for Higa he couldn't maintain any real output for long and it was often Rosales landing the better shots, connecting cleanly to his body and snapping his head back with shots up top. It was the style of fight Higa would have dreamed of having, but he looked like he was only half the fighter he usually was. Even then a fully fit Higa would have struggled with Rosales, who had clearly prepared himself to start on the outside before going inside and standing toe-to-toe.
After a few rounds of toe-to-toe action it seemed like Higa was becoming incredibly desperate. His power was lacking, his combinations looked forced and Rosales was taking everything and returning it with serious interest.
After 8 rounds the judges score cards were announced. One judge had given Higa a single round, another judge had given managed to give him 3 whilst the third judge, inexplicably, had the bout even. Despite the close nature, on paper, of those cards Higa's team knew he was a spent force and in round 9 finally pulled their man out mid-round.
Despite stopping the bout before their man had gotten seriously hurt there needs to be serious questions as to why SGS even allowed this bout to go ahead. Higa had defended his title just over 2 months ago, although it was a quick blow out the turn around seemed too quick and given how Higa had previously struggled to make weight they really needed a much longer camp, especially for someone as talented as Rosales. Not only that but they should have really pulled him at the start of this week, he looked mentally broken at the medical and never looked like he had rebuilt his confidence coming into this bout. It's easy to say in hindsight that getting into the ring was the wrong decision, but it wasn't a smart choice. In fact it was a further hit for the SGS gym following Yoshimitsu Kimura's loss in mid week against Richard Pumicpic for a regional title.
Hopefully there will be sense in Higa's team and he will make a move up in weight, he shouldn't have been in the ring today and if he tries to remain at Flyweight his career is going to be a very short one.
For Rosales this is a huge win and a very well deserved one. Higa's issues in camp can't take away from Rosales who did his job, was professional through out and fought to his gameplan. He was, as he usually is, very impressive and well deserving of his win. He'll likely have a target on his back from WBC #1 ranked contender Andrew Selby, who beat him recently, but this title win may well be what he needs to boost his confidence to the next level, and perhaps even avenge the loss to Selby.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
The “Superfly” shows are giving fighters from the lower weights a chance to shine on HBO and an international stage that typically they won't have been showcased on. One such fighter shining on “Superfly 2” was IBF Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23), who scored his first defense of the IBF Flyweight title whilst stopping Argentinian veteran Juan Carlos Reveco (39-4, 19), who was making his US debut.
The fight started very competitively, with both men seemingly mirroring each other at times. They looked amazingly well matched and every bit of success one man had seemed to be matched by the other only seconds later. It was high tempo, thoughtful yet brilliant boxing from the off by two high level and respectful practitioner's. Although competitive it seemed like Nietes was slightly sharper, finding the holes a tiny bit more successfully than his foe.
Through the first 4 rounds there was little really to separate them. Nietes probably impressed the judges slightly more, but there fight was so closely contested that from one angle there is a good chance that Reveco was leading.
Despite being a brilliantly fought boxing bout the crowd were growing restless, booing the action and showing a bit of disappointment. It was as if they were expecting a war but were getting a boxing contest.
The boos grew louder in round 5, though it seemed like Nietes was beginning to figure out his man, and in round 6 he began to really up the pace. It was a sign of how good Nietes is as he increased his out put and movement, and began punching between the shots of Reveco, rather than waiting to return fire. It was a wonderful change and gained almost immediate results as he cut the eye of Reveco and badly staggered him right on the bell. The shot, which seemed to land behind the ear, sent Reveco stumbling as he tried to find his corner and the doctor took a look at him. Had the same shot landed just 15 seconds earlier there is a good chance that Reveco would have been stopped before the round was over.
Knowing he had hurt his man in round 6 Nietes went hunting in round 7 and really took it to the Argentinian. Within seconds of the round starting he was caught by a right hand and dropped hard. He got up at 5 but failed to listen to the referee's instructions and the referee, after a few seconds, waved the bout off.
For 5 rounds this was ultra-close and a great example of high quality boxing. From round 6 however Nietes upped the pace and Reveco simply couldn't stay with him. It was a statement win, though said a lot about where both men are. Reveco was once a top fighter, but this is his 3rd loss in 7 fights, and his second stoppage loss in 5. He's not the fighter he once was. Although older Nietes is still the fresher man, having mostly avoided wars, and will likely have another few fights at the top. The Filipino is a technical boxing wizard at times, though at the age of 35, in fact he turns 36 in May, he is old for a Flyweight and may not have that much longer left at the top himself.
In 2017 we saw Kazuto Ioka firstly vacate the WBA Flyweight title and then retire all together. Today we finally saw that title find a new owner as Artem Dalakian (16-0, 11) out pointed Filipino-American veteran Brian Viloria (38-6-0-2, 23) in a real break out win to put himself on the boxing map.
The fight started well for Dalakian who looked the younger, fresher and hungrier fighter in the early going. He used his physical advantages well to box at range, and his faster feet allowed him to control the pace and distance of the fight, whilst Viloria looked to walk him down, though was far to slow for the most part to cut the distance. After the first few rounds it began to look like Viloria only had one chance to win, and that was landing a hayemaker to stop the Azeri-born Ukrainian.
Sadly for Viloria he seemed unable to pull the trigger, even when Dalakian was there to be hit. The unbeaten man, mostly fighting with his hands down, did give Viloria chances, but there was veyer few times that he managed to land anything of note. In fact the only real time that Dalakian was in any danger was in round 7, when Viloria landed a brutal right hand that visible shook Dalakian. To his credit the Ukrainian fighter held, spoiled and got through the round, though he deserves to be applauded for not going down from the best punch of the fight.
Dalakian was back in control the following round, though deducted a point in round 9 for pushing down on the head of Viloria, which he had been warned about several times. The original warning seemed to give Viloria the idea of trying to get a point taken from Dalakian by leading with his head, and the referee bought it, though it was only a small respite for Viloria who clearly lost the round and was well behind by that point.
The next real talking point came in round 11, when an accidental elbow caught Viloria in the center of his forehead, and left him with a real bleeder. It wasn't long until Viloria's face was a crimson mask, and Dalakian was hunting a stoppage. It was great round for Dalakian, even if the cut was caused by an accident. The Filipino's chin impressed however and he managed to see out the final couple of rounds.
Despite lasting the distance Viloria was clearly beaten, with all 3 judges scoring it 118-109 in favour of Dalakian. For Viloria the bout really seemed to show how far gone he is, and it's probably time he retires. For Dalakian however the win sets up some interesting fights, including a possible unification with WBC champion Daigo Higa.
One of the often used excuses for fans not watching the lower weights is the lack of power that the fighters have. Those likely haven't seen the terrific WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15) [比嘉 大吾], who made his second defense earlier today and continued his perfect stoppage run, recording a Japanese record equalling 15th straight stoppage.
The champion, defending his title in a home-coming defense in Okinawa, was up against former WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14) in what looked like an interesting match up on paper. Fuentes was an experienced challenger, who was world class, and had simply out grown the lower weights. He had significant reach and height advantages over Higa and looked less like a fighter moving up in class than the champion he towered over.
Whilst interesting on paper it really wasn't that competitive in the ring. Fuentes looked to start aggressively, and actually backed Higa up very early on, landing a looping right hand in the opening seconds. It was however one of the very moments of success for Fuentes, who also managed to back Higa on to the ropes though was punished for doing so.
Higa's power was shown in a jab that pushed Fuentes back. Moments after being backed up himself he landed another jab that saw Fuentes's legs betray him and a follow up saw him landing some monstrous bombs on to Fuentes, who's chin some how held up to some massive shots. Higa would then go to the body and Fuentes' ribs felt the punishment, with the Mexican dropping to the canvas in agony. He tried to beat the count but was counted out rising to his feet as Higa cemented his name in Japanese boxing history.
The brilliant youngster not only tied the long standing Japanese KO record of Tsuyoshi Hamada, at 15 KO's, but he also became the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Okinawa, and managed to bring world title fights back to the area after more than 30 years away. In fact the last time there was a world title defense in Okinawa it was Higa's very own mentor Yoko Gushiken, who lost the WBA Light Flyweight title to Pedro Flores back in 1981!
Next time out Higa will be looking to set a new Japanese record with 16 straight stoppages, and after today's performance there will be very few Flyweights who will feel comfortable in getting in the ring with him.
Earlier this year Japan's Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) [木村翔] scored one of the upsets of the year, as he stopped Zou Shiming in China to claim the the WBO Flyweight title. It put Kimura on the boxing map, in China at least, but left him as a relative unknown champion in his own homeland. Today he had a chance to make a name for for himself as he took on countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-4-3 12) [五十嵐 俊幸] live on TBS as part of the huge Kyokugen show.
Sadly for Kimura the first round wasn't a hugely kind one for him, as he was made to look wild, open and reckless. Igarashi on the other hand looked fleet footed, accurate and smart, jabbing the fact of Kimura and landing the occasional southpaw left. The second round was slightly better for Kimura, as his pressure started to have some moments, for the most part it was Igarashi's skills that seemed more telling. The one highlight for Kimura in round two came at the end as he landed a very eye catching 2 punch combination.
From round 3 Kimura's pressure become more and more effective, taking more and more of a toll on Igarashi who seemed to begin falling apart in round 3 as the body shots from Kimura began to slowly take his legs away and the headshots started to land more regularly. The pressure continued to build in round 4 as Igarashi;s eyes began to show real signs of battle and both were looking swollen.
Amazingly Igarashi had one of his best rounds in round 5, as he moved well and made Kimura look wild. It was however just a brief respite for the challenger who wads dragged into a toe-to-toe war in round 6. The battle saw Kimura landing a much higher volume, whilst Igarashi looked to land single big shots. The two clashed heads towards the end of the round, with Igarashi suffering a cut over his right eye, as his face began to really fall apart. The following round things went from bad to worse for Igarashi who who took real damage through the round, despite being able to cut the champion with a punch near the right eye.
Kimura's pressure finally rocked Igarashi in round 8, with a right hand landing flush on the challengers' jaw. It seemed to really impact him and Kimura looked to secure the finish there and then as Igarashi went into survival mode. Amazingly the challenger saw out the round, and came out storming for round 9, but it was one final throw of the dice before his energy reserves ran out and Kimura forced him into the corner where he unloaded, eventually forcing the referee to jump in and stop the action.
The stoppage loss for Igarashi is the first time he has been stopped, and likely marks the end of his career as a world class fighter. As for Kimura this is a second huge win for him this year and his wish of becoming better known at home and getting a bigger place to live seems to be a genuine reality now in what is one of the feel good boxing stories of 2017.
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.