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.
The Light Flyweight delivered another action packed bout earlier today as Filipino Randy Petalcorin (29-3-1, 22) battled against heavy handed Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado (34-2, 30) in a bout for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title, which had been given up by Hekkie Budler earlier this year. On paper the bout matched one of the best pure boxers in the division against one of the most destructive in a bout that really looked fantastic on paper.
For fans of Alvarado they would have known exactly what to expect from the Nicaraguan, and he fought true to form, bringing his trademark intense pressure. In the opening moments Petalcorin coped with it well, moving around the ring and fighting smart with sharp counter shots, but couldn't force Alvarado backwards or really get his respect.
The second round saw Alvarado pick up the pace, and really take the fight to the Filipino who failed to ever create space in a round that instead saw him being pinned against the ropes. It was a huge show of confidence from the Nicaraguan who looked like a monster. Petalcorin managed to have a better round 3, as he created some space, but was again on the back foot and forced to take some big shots from the Nicaraguan. To his credit Petalcorin landed some tasty counters, creating a welt under the right eye of Alvarado, but he was never able to get Alvarado's respect.
Round 4 saw more pressure from Alvarado as he continued to hunt his man, though his success was limited at times as he began to look sluggish, with the intensity dropping. The lower intensity allowed Petalcorin to have some moments in round 5, especially early on, but he was on the receiving end at the end of the round as Alvarado's pressure began to ramp up. That pressure continued to get more intense from Alvarado in round 6 as he began to really dig heavy body shots into the local favourite. Petalcorin rode a lot of shots well, and even landed some of his own clean counters, but it was clear that the damage was accumulating on the Filipino, who was being forced to take some massive body shots.
In round 7 Alvarado's pressure finally broke through as he dropped Petalcorin in the corner. The Filipino gritted it out and got back to his feet but was dropped again not long afterwards. He looked spent but got to his feet again and fought fire with fire, trading blows with Alvarado. In the trading sequences Petalcorin landed a huge head shot, but was taken apart by body shots, and was dropped again. This time the bout was stopped.
After coming up short to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco this was third time lucky for Alvarado, who looks like he will be very hard to dethrone, though would make for brilliant fights with Angel Acosta or Hiroto Kyoguchi. For Petalcorin he's young enough to bounce back, but his performance here saw him really struggle with the pressure, and he will have to pick a smart route to a title if he's to go all the way.
Last year was a huge one for Japanese boxing, with fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Daigo Higa bursting into the world scene, and there was a great string of results for the county which ended the year as one of the dominant forces in global boxing. The year's final show saw Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一] defeat Milan Melindo to unify the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles. Today, almost 6 months later, Taguchi returned to the ring to try and make his first defense, taking on former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10).
Budler, who had actually lost to Melindo last year in an IBF title fight, started this fight like a man possessed and quickly took the fight to Taguchi. The Japanese fighter tried to respond but often seemed to slower fighter and was about half a step behind the busier, more aggressive and eye catching Budler. The South African kept up the intense pressure through the first half of the fight, badly hurting Taguchi in round 4 and bursting his nose in what was a really strong round for the challenger.
Budler's success came from getting inside on Taguchi and working the combinations, with Taguchi struggling to return fire. The movement of Budler was fantastic as he ducked out out of the way of headshots and turned Taguchi, giving him angles that the champion simply couldn't respond to. Taguchi tried, and battled through the bloodied nose, but really struggled to match the out put and success of the challenger.
By the mid-way point it seemed like Taguchi was going to need something very special to turn the fight around and he wasn't really looking like he was able to do it. He was having success with big single body shots, but wasn't really able to follow that up.
The second half of the fight saw the pace slow down, and this helped Taguchi, who managed to hurt Budler in round 9, and leave the challenger with a bloodied nose. It was the first clrar round for Taguchi in some time and although Budler fought back well after being hurt, it was a very clear round for the champion. Taguchi build well on that success and seemed to do just enough to take round 10 and 11.
Knowing he had to be behind, even if it was close, Taguchi went all out in round 12 and quickly hurt Budler before sending him down, in a decision ruled as a slip. Taguchi would continue to press and attack through the entire round whilst Budler was in survival mode, holding, spoiling and taking punishment as Taguchi hunted a remarkable come from behind win. Sadly though for him he couldn't get the stoppage and we went to the cards.
Whilst waiting for the cards Budler's crash to the canvas was reviewed and reversed into a knockdown, which it hard originally looked like, but still even with the 10-8 in his favour Taguchi simply hadn't done enough, and the judges all had the bout 114-113 in favour of the South Africa.
With the win Budler becomes a 2-weight champion and Japanese boxing misses out, again, on what could have been a massive domestic unification bout between Taguchi and WBC champion Ken Shiro.
Whilst last year was a big one for Japan this year has been a faltering and frustrating one. The country has seen Kenichi Ogawa being stripped of the IBF Super Featherweight title, for what was seemingly a skin medication, Daigo Higa lose the WBC Flyweight title on the scales, and now Taguchi's loss here. There is still time left to finish this year on a high, and demand for a rematch between Taguchi and Budler has already began, but it's not been a good few months for Japanese boxing.
In the final fight of 2017 fans were treat to a Light Flyweight unification as WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) [田口良一] battled is IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) in a highly anticipated match up. The contest was frustrating at times, compelling at others and genuinely a fantastic way to end out what has been an amazing 2017 for boxing fans.
The fight started with both looking to feel the other out. It was however Melindo who maanged to take the opening round as he settled quickly and looked very sharp very early. That sharpness shone through in round 2, though by the end of the round it was clear that Taguchi was finding his footing and it seemed he was beginning to settle well, after some rocky moments.
In round 3 Taguchi really got going and arguably took his first round as he managed to get in an out, fight at a range of his choosing and have success both inside and outside. Sadly on the inside the heads came together and it wasn't long until Melindo was cut from a clash of heads, likely re-opening old scar tissue from a previous fight., As soon as Melindo was cut he seemed to have something taken away and Taguchi's success grew in a very messy and forgettable round 4. There was some moments of success for both but on the whole it was a frustrating and messy round.
The charge of Taguchi continue into round 5 and by now he was really getting some momentum going, despite both clashing heads numerous times. It was a very good round for Taguchi, who landed several clean and clear right hands as Melindo seemed to be showing some frustration at the cuts. Although accidentally Melindo did also land a shot after the bell, though neither Taguchi or the referee made much of it
Melindo managed to have some notable success in round 6, but Taguchi held his own whilst managing to drag Melindo into his style of a fight. It was exciting again as both men began to let rip with combinations. The combinations of Taguchi continued to shine in round 7, one of his best rounds, as he showed he could box at range and looked crisp doing so as he made the most of his reach advantage. Melindo tried to fight back, and landed a nice counter near the end of the round, but showed frustration towards the end of the round. Taguchi's success from 7 got even better in round 8 as he really did look like a fighter enjoying his time in the ring, and enjoying the success he was having against an ever more frustrated, and wilder, Melindo.
Round 9 was, for all intents a messy one. Melindo looked to turn things around but often rushed in, spoiled his own work and, despite cutting Taguchi with a headbutt, really struggled to look fluid for long. He had some lovely moments, and arguably took the round, but it wasn't a fun to watch round with a limit in terms of class action. Sadly for Melindo that success was easily forgotten by the end of round 10 as Taguchi had a huge round, really taking the fight to Melindo who was backing up as Taguchi moved into top gear. The Japanese fighter kept up the pace in round 11, with Melindo's face becoming a total mess, partly due to more headclashes. With Melindo's face really becoming a mess it would have been easy for him to look for a way out but instead he stayed in there, and was hurt close to the end of the round.
Knowing he was behind going into the final round Melindo threw the kitchen sink at Taguchi early on, but Taguchi then threw it back at Melindo as the act lead to more head clashes, a worsening of Melindo's cut over the right eye and real blood and guts action. It was a perfect end as both really just gave their all in a messy yet exciting final round.
Despite the excellent start by Melindo he really came undone in the middle of the bout and struggled to get things going again whilst Taguchi moved through the gears. By the end of 12 rounds there was little doubting of the winner, with Taguchi taking a unanimous decision, 117-111, twice and 116-112. We feel the 117-111 cards were harsh, but at the edge of reality, with 116-112 feeling like a more correct card.
Taguchi ends the year as the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion, ending the year as arguably the key man at 108lbs, though that's a position countryman Ken Shiro may dispute. For Melindo it's a painful end to what had been an excellent year, and ends his slim hope of being the 2017 Fight of the Year.
On a huge day for boxing fans around the globe it could be said that fans in the Philippines got the perfect start as they got two brilliant bouts on Pinoy Pride 42, the second of which saw a local hero retain a world title, despite suffering massive cuts over both eyes.
The champion was IBF Light Flyweight kingpin Milan Melindo (37-2, 13), who narrowly defeated South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) in a really dramatic, and engaging contest.
The fight started slow and the 4 rounds were tactically changed rounds with Melindo looking to unleash his counter punches and Budler waiting back, trying to figure out a point of attack. That saw the challenger look to jab, and look to unleash combinations on the inside, though he got punished for both. The one massive incident during those early rounds was a monstrous low blow from Melindo that sent Budler down in a heap.
In round 5 it seemed like Budler finally found something to go with as he upped the pace, and Melindo responded in kind in a round that suddenly saw the fight come alive. Through the round it seemed like Melindo was the bigger puncher, but Budler certainly seemed to land more and seemed to be the one forcing the action as it suddenly looked like we were on for a tear up.
Sadly the action completely died in round 6, arguably the worst round of the fight. Despite the action dying off the end of the round saw the drama begin as a huge headclash left Budler cut over the left eye, with the cut being a long, deep one. The cut could have stopped the fight, and in round 7, when the doctors inspected it, it did look like we were going to have an early conclusion.
Thankfully the doctor decided to let the fight go on and in round 7 Budler had a great round and it seemed things were turning his way, with the cut clearly bothering Melindo. To his credit Melindo fought back fantastically in rounds 8 and 9, as he escaped another inspection.
With the fight finely balanced Melindo suffered yet again, as the two traded blows and their heads connected again. This time it was Melindo's right eye that was left with a gash over it and a bad swelling that made it seem like he was essentially blind in the eye. The swellings drove on Budler in round 11 and although Melindo was clearly fighting with his sight impaired the Filipino had his moments, including a massive right hand late on. It wasn't enough to take Melindo the round but continued to prove he was the power puncher in there.
With the bout close, and with Melindo's face a swollen and cut mess, the final round was always going to play a major role and both fighters knew it. Budler came out hot, unfortunately was dropped in the first 30 seconds. He got back to his feet, complained about it being a trip and then they went to war, with Melindo seemingly hunting a stoppage then Budler turning the tables until they were just trading back and forth in a round that should in contention for round of the year.
When the knockdown occurred it did seem like it would play a massive role, and that proved to be the case when the cards were read, with scores of 115-113 to Budler being over-ruled by scores of 115-112 and 117-110 for Melindo.
With the win Melindo secures his first defense, but he will be out of the ring for quite some time due to the cuts he suffered, which were both nasty ones. Potentially he could be back in time for a mandatory in 2018, or perhaps see an interim champion crowned whilst he recovers.
Although the Light Flyweight lacks the respect it deserves this was the second world title fight the division has seen this week, and like the first it was a thrilling and dramatic defense, with the winner over-coming serious facial damage. Sadly though it could mean that two champions are out of action until 2018.
To begin today Japan had all 4 of the Light Flyweight world titles, though sadly for those hoping for a 4 man Japanese unification those dreams were shattered today as long term warrior, and 3-weight champion Akira Yaegashi (25-6, 13) [八重樫 東] lost the IBF title within a round to Filipino Milan Melindo (36-2, 13), who entered the bout as the "interim" champion and left as someone looking like a star.
The bout started with both men lookign to establish their jab, and it seemed liek Yaegashi was the quicker man as he began to move in and out, and he in fact landed the first blows of note. It was however short lived success for the popular warrior who was dropped when the two traded blows. It wasn't a hurtful knockdown, but it was a shock.
Yaegashi looked clear headed when he got back to his feet but was down moments later, and this time he looked hurt, and was clearly buzzed. The warrior spirit saw him get to his feet but Melindo could smell his prey and went on the hunt, dropping the Japanese fighter with a huge right hand, and this time the referee had seen enough, and Yaegashi looked like he was clearly in need of being saved.
It's a sad way for a warrior like Yaegashi to lose his title, in just 165 seconds, but it's fair to say that his history of wars have taken their toll on him and his punch resistence isn't what it once was. His wars with the likes of Pornsawan Porporamook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Pedro Guevara, Javier Mendoza and Jose Martin Tecuapetla have all taken a toll on him. At the age of 34, and with a lot of miles on the clock, this is probably the end for Yaegashi, though we've said that before only for him to bounce back.
As for Melindo it was third time lucky, finally winning a world title after coming up short against Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza, and it was the performance that puts him in the mix for some amazing fights down the line. He looked strong and powerful here and could well be offered some big money to come back to Japan for a unification bout.
The first of 7 world title fights in Japan over the space of 2 days was an IBF Light Flyweight title bout that saw defending champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) [八重樫 東] put on an educated performance to retain his title and beat down gutsy Thai challenger Samartlek Kokietgym (31-6, 11) [สามารถเล็ก ปูนอินทรียิม].
We had this bout pegged before hand as a potential FOTY contender, given Yaegashi's tendency to be in some thrillers, but instead the bout was a tamer than expected affair with Yaegashi comfortably and safely out boxing the Thai during the early stages with his speed, jab and movement alone. The Thai came to apply the pressure on Yaegashi but was often left following the champion around the ring in the early stages.
In round 4 the Thai challenger began to show more ambition and started to bring the fight to Yaegashi. It was still a round that the champion won but it seemed like Samartlek was getting the engine going and landed a notable right hand and several body shots, the shot that his team had said would be his key weapon. The success from round 4 for the Thai was quickly sniffed out with Yaegashi neutralising him with ease in rounds 5 and 6, and in fact Yaegashi seemed to begin loading up more whilst landing some huge right hand counters.
Although the fight had been relative quiet through 6 rounds there was always a risk a fight was going to break out and in round 7 that happened as Yaegashi changed up his tactics and went to war with Samartlek, and engaging in close combat. This was the Yaegashi we all love and this was the style of fight we had been hoping for. The change in tempo gave the fans a rush of excitement but showed that Samartlek was resilient and he fired back forcing Yaegashi to think twice about having a war.
The aggressiveness of Akira continued to be shown in flashed during round 8, and at one point he got the challenger against the ropes and looked for a finish with some smart body shots. Once again Samartlek saw off the storm but it was clear that he had nothing to trouble Yaegashi with. Yaegashi however had a lot to trouble Samartlek with and seemed happy to prove that again in round 9 as he continued to slowly turn the screw on the challenger and break him down with shots to both head and body. The Thai however showed bravery and toughness to see out Yaegashi's continuing assault, surviving rounds 10 and 11, despite taking a progressively worse beating in those rounds.
Going in to round 12 it seemed the best Samartlek could hope for was to see the final bell, and the referee seemed to looking over him very closely, knowing that whilst he was tough he was taking a beating. With a bout a minute left Yaegashi rocked him, and a follow up attacked forced the referee to mercifully saved the gutsy challenger form any further punishment, even though was only around 48 seconds of the bout left.
Next for Samartlek will likely be a return to Thailand where he will probably spring together some low key wins before being brought back over to Japan to be a test for some of the rising hopefuls. As for Yaegashi his attention will turn to mandatory challenger Milan Melindo with the two likely to face off in April or May
Earlier today fans at the Cebu Coliseum saw local star Milan Melindo (35-2, 12) claim the IBF "interim" Light Flyweight title and secure a shot at the regular title as he out pointed Thai youngster Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 15) [ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์] over 12 rounds.
The home fighter, with the crowd well behind him, started well by using his skills to keep Fahlan off balance and prevented the Thai from building any real momentum, despite applying the pressure. Fahlan did eventually land with a key shot that opened up a cut on Melindo's nose and forced the Filipino to be a bit more wary, as he focused on body shots, attempting to slow Fahlan down.
By round 6 it did seem like Melindo was in charge and in round 7 he had one of his best rounds, wobbling Fahlan who had to grit his teeth to see out the round. Despite bing hurt in the 7th Fahlan came out firing in rounds 8 and 9 and seemed to win both of those to close up the scorecards as Melindo's output dropped and the Thai came into the bout.
Despite crawing his way back into the fight Fahlan was unable to do enough in the championship rounds to make up for the early rounds and Melindo had an excellent round 12, letting bombs go, to seal the result.
After 12 rounds it seemed like Melindo, with the crowd supporting him and the home advantage, had done enough to secure the victory and that proved to be the case with the Filipino getting the decision by scores of 115-113, twice, and 117-111.
With the win Melindo essentially books a bout with full champion Akira Yaegashi, and the hope is for Yaegashi Vs Melindo to be made for December 30th, though the cut may force the bout to be delayed until 2017. Sadly for Fahlan this was a second loss in a world title bout, however at the age of 23 he will almost certainly bounce back and get another down the line.
When we talk about Japanese fan favourites fer really rival the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12) [八重樫 東] who has been in some of the most memorable wars staged in Japanese rings over the last 5 or 6 years. Today he was in another thriller as he successfully defended his IBF Light Flyweight title with a split decision win against the against the exciting and determined Mexican warrior Martin Tecuapetla (13-7-3, 10).
The bout, picked by some as likely to be the fight of the weekend, lived up to the expectation of being an action packed war, with the fight being thoroughly exciting from the off. The opening round saw both having their moments, with Yaegasghi probably just edging the round on his slightly sharper shots.
In the second round Tecuapetla began to warm to the task and brought the fight to Yaegashi in what turned out to be the beginning of a number of very fun rounds between the two men. From the second round to the 5th round Tecupetla brought the action and made the fight his fight, whilst Yaegashi seemed to look somewhat leggy and almost as if he had over-trained.
Despite struggling through some of those earlier rounds Yaegashi began to find his rhythm in round 6, tagging the body of Tecuapetla with ease and he began to get out of the wheel house rather than remain in front of the Mexican. It suddenly seemed like Yaegashi had found his leg, had found his bounce and had found his energy as he began to get in and out, using his excellent speed to make Tecuapetla look like a brave but limited brawler.
In rounds 7 and 8 Yaegashi continued to use his speed and and avoid too many exchanges when he didn't need to engage in a war. By round 9 however the warrior spirit began to kick in and Yaegashi again decided to fight with a fighter, with the final seconds of the round being particularly exciting. That fighting continued in round 10 with Tecuapetla having some real success with his thudding shots and spiteful combinations. Yaegashi wasn't beaten up through the round but there were worrying signs for the Japanese fighter who's face began to show it's familiar swelling around his left eye.
The warring continued in round 11 with Yaegashi this time getting the better of it with his accurate shots and incredibly sharp combinations using Tecuapetla's head as a speed ball. The crowd fed from their hero's success cheering loudly as Tecuapetla was beaten into a shell for much of the round before gritting his teeth in the final seconds. By the final round both were looking like they were fighting on will power alone, and it was amazing they were both capable of standing toe-to-toe just letting shots go at an insane pace. It was a round that seemed to be better for the challenger than the champion, but it was a round that was really won by the crowd who get a 3 minute treat.
Given the fight's close rounds it was clear the cards could be all over the place. Yaegashi's face a swollen mess and Tecuapetla looking like a man who had fought like he was involved in a 15 rounder.
At the end the champion had done enough through the middle stages to claim the win, with scores of 115-113 and 116-113 in his favour whilst the third judge scored the bout 115-113 to Tecuapetla. Despite the win for Yaegashi this performance likely puts a target on his back for other top Light Flyweights who may view him as a man coming to the end of his fantastic career.
We have forever made a point of not doing our annual awards until the year is over, it doesn't make sense to do them until the final bell for the year has been rung, and it's actually a bit disrespectful to do the awards when numerous possible contenders have still got to fight. That was proven today when we had another FOTY contender and arguable the comeback fighter of the year.
The bout in question saw the amazing Akira Yaegashi (23-5, 12) claim the IBF Light Flyweight crown with a stirring performance against Javier Mendoza (24-3-1, 19) and mount an incredible comeback after back-to-back losses in 2014. Not only did he return to claim the title, and become Japan's 3rd 3-weight world champion* but he did so with a performance that summed up his entire career in 36 action packed, bloody and exciting minutes.
From the opening round it was clear that this wasn't going to be a typical boxing bout. There was no feeling out round, instead the pace started fast with Yaegashi using his incredible speed to make Mendoza look like a clumsy fool. Yaegashi hammered the body, landed counters and looked like the younger man despite being the better part of a decade older than Mendoza.
Yaegashi's speed continued to carry him through the first 3 rounds with out any real problems at all. All the problems were Mendoza's and the most notable of those was the fact he was wobbled on the bell to end round 2 as Yaegashi landed numerous straight right hands.
It was until round 4 that Mendoza seemed to really have a break through as he started the round fast and had the early success to build form. Yaegashi took it in his stride however and stood and traded with Mendoza in an action packed sequence of testicular fortitude. The success that Mendoza had in round 4 grew through the middle rounds with the 5th round being close, just like rounds 6, 7 and 8. A case could be made for Mendoza to have won any of them, though they were all competitive.
It seemed during those competitive rounds, especially in round 7, that Yaegashi was beginning to tire and that Mendoza had plenty left in the tank. The reality however was that that was all Mendoza really had and Yaegashi had taken it and fired back every time, despite starting to show the scars of war, with swelling around his face and blood seeping from his eye.
It seemed, that if Yaegashi was going to lose it would be due to a doctors stoppage due to his facial damage, in round 9 however Mendoza joined him in the damage stakes with a nasty cut of his own. That cut seemed to deflate Mendoza who was himself looking like a fighter who knew he wasn't going to be able to change things. Whilst Mendoza was looking tired and flat footed Yaegashi appeared to have a second wind and was bouncing on his toes, further adding insult to injury.
Mendoza would try and turn the action around in round 10 but Yaegashi managed to control the distance and tempo making life very easy for himself overall as he countered the jab of the defending champion and landed huge straight shots. For Mendoza time was running out and it seemed like he summed one final effort to fight in round 11, a round in which he seemed to hurt Yaegashi before almost being stopped himself as Yaegashi unloaded a huge attack on the bell, an attack that seemed to have Mendoza reeling and badly hurt. After the bell Yaegashi roared on the crowd and it looked clear that he knew the title was staying in Japan.
The final round started with Yaegashi looking like a man who knew the win was his and for the first 30 seconds or so he was skipping around, making Mendoza look silly. Then the warrior kicked in and Yaegashi took the fight back to Mendoza, rocking him, hurting him and almost stopping him in the final minute as he unloaded. Mendoza, to his credit, survived the storm but did look like a man who was happy to back track and hear out the final bell.
The scorecards were never in doubt with Yaegashi claiming a wide unanimous decision with scores of 120-107, 119-109 and 117-111, and cementing his place among the modern legends of Japanese boxing. His feat of being a 3-weight world champion has matched that of former rival Kazuto Ioka and Koki Kameda, and it's fair to say that his fights, including this one, will live on long after he has retired.
*Technically he's the 4th Japanese fighter to claim 3-weight titles after female fighter Naoko Fujioka also accomplished the feat.
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.