After the TV cameras stopped rolling at the Staples Center, following the 12 round classic between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, there was one more world title bout to take place. That bout featured Filipino Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) and American Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) with the two battling to crown a new IBF Minimumweight champion.
Sadly for two fighters the audience had shrank, from a few million international viewers to just the handfuls left in the venue for what was essentially a world title bout that acted as a walk out bout.
Thankfully among those in the venue was the excellent Ryan Songalia, who posted a series of tweets regarding the fight, and it seems like it was the most competitive contest on the show, with the two men matching other incredibly well. Licona was the naturally bigger man, the taller, rangier and harder hitting fighter whilst Barriga was the more technically gifted, the one landing the more eye catching shots, but also the one struggling to really leave an impact on Licona.
According to the tweets posted by Mr Songalia the two really hard to split, with both men having some clear rounds, but a number of rounds were a toss up. This was always going to make life tricky for Barriga, given he was fighting in the US in the same state that Licona lives in.
Japan can be one of the best countries for boxing, with a huge number of outlets for fights, a very active scene across the country and some of the most exciting match ups we can see, both at world and domestic level. It can be very frustrating with television outlets not always being able to show the full show, and having so much delay footage. That issues reared it's head again today when TBS failed to broadcast the second defense of IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人], who had to get through some real adversity to over-come Filipino challenger Vince Paras (13-1, 11).
Despite the lack of TV coverage the bout was a cracking contest, with some early drama and the type of excitement that left fans in the arena clamouring to see both men back in action, not just their local champion.
In the build up to the bout Paras had come across as confident, like a man who had travelled with a purpose and wasn't worried about the powerful champion. He started the bout with a tight guard, looking for openings and opportunities to land his power left hook, with an opening in round 3 seeing him connect clean and dropping Kyoguchi. The knockdown was the first that the champion had suffered since turning professional and showed that Paras had the power to trouble the champion.
Kyoguchi bounced back the following round and was in the face of Paras with hard blows as the action heated up. The following round a clash of heads left Paras cut around the right eye and from then on it seemed like the Filipino began to a bit, whilst the champion began to build on his momentum, landing big combinations as we got further into the fight. Paras however showed his toughness and refused to go down.
The final round was a tough one for both fighters, with both men holding their feet and digging to the body. Though neither could put the other down.
In the end Kyoguchi, who showed impressive defense after the knockdown, ran out a clear winner on all 3 cards, taking the decision 117-110, but clearly was left knowing he had improvements to make.
After the bout Kyoguchi seemed to admit his legs were tired later in the fight and questions remain as to how much he is taking out of himself to make the 105lb limit, having had to drop a lot of weight yesterday. It also seems like the type of bout where both men will learn a lot, and fans in the crowd seemed impressed not only by the winner, but also the loser, who at 19 looks a real talent and will certainly come again.
One of the under-the-radar stories of 2017, from a Japanese perspective, has been that of Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7) [京口 紘人]. The Watanabe youngster won the IBF Minimumweight title earlier this year, in a lacklustre bout against Jose Argumedo, having previously won the OPBF title even earlier in the year. Today he continued his rise as he became the first man to stop talented Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (30-3-1-1, 17) in an unexpectedly one-sided contest.
The bout, screened live on Canal 4 in Nicaragua, saw Buitrago starting well, applying his pressure and taking the fight to he challenger. Buitrago, to his credit, fought back but seemed unable to ever get Kyoguichi's respect with the champion closing the space the space between the two very easily. At close range Buitrago had some success, but lacked the power to do the damage that the champion was doing, as he began to chip away at the challenger with heavy hooks and uppercuts.
By round 4 Buitrago was clearly showing signs of slowing down, his eyes swelling and his output dropping whilst Kyoguchi was looking like a steam train, coming forward no matter what was being thrown in his direction. The pressure continued to tell and round by round Buitrago was becoming more and more negative, backing up on to the ropes and throwing “stay away” punches, rather than anything with serious intent.
By the end of round 6 it began to look like the referee was looking for a chance to stop the bout, but every time it seemed like he was going to Buitrago would have a spurt of action, throw back and make Kyoguchi momentarily back off. It wasn't that the challenger could ever hurt the champion, even clean right hands seemed to bounce off him, but it was enough to show life to the referee.
Sadly for Buitrago that fight just left him taking more punishment and in round 8, after several shots snapped his head back, the referee stepped in for the mercy stoppage. Buitrago was still throwing back at the time, but it was a stoppage that few would have complained with.
Having only debuted in April 2016 Kyoguchi's rise to champion has been incredible. This year he has gone 4-0 (2) claimed a regional and world title, defending both belts once, and has been one of the unheralded stars of 2017. He has answered questions regarding his chin, stamina and ability and in 2018 he's going to be a monster of a champion, who perhaps has his eyes on winning a title at 108lbs or unification.
For Buitrago the bout is a clear sign that he needs to give up fighting at Minmumweight. He had had persistent rumours about weight struggles coming in to the bout and now needs to move up and try to resurrect his career at Light Flyweight, before taking too many beatings like this.
Japanese prospects rising through the ranks quickly seems to be the thing at the moment, and there has been a string of super talented Japanese youngsters racing through the rankings and claiming world titles after just a handful of fights. The latest Japanese fighter to do just that was Minimumweight Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6) [京口 紘人], who claimed the IBF Minimumweight title earlier today, dethroning Jose Argumedo (20-4-1, 12). The youngster may have had more fights than some of the other Japanese youngsters who have raced to titles, but he had been a professional for just 15 months leading into this bout.
The bout promised a lot. Both are aggressive fighters, both have power and both have been in some entertaining bouts so far. It seemed in the first round that we were set for something a bit special as the two men stayed close, and let their shots off, with both landing some pretty solid and eye catching shots. By the end of the round though it seemed like Argumedo, who had spoke about a war at the signing ceremony, had felt the power of Kyoguchi and didn't want to taste too much of it using a lot of movement to avoid a fire fight.
The movement of Argumedo's continued in round 2, with Kyoguchi struggling to pin his man down, though he did land some eye catching body shots. The movement seemed to frustrate Kyoguchi, but came at an expense in regards to the power Argumedo could land with himself. In round 3 Argumedo decided to change tactic again, looking to land bombs, that came with with the problem of missing and being countered. His solution to that was to smother Kyoguchi, which became a problem through much of the bout, with the action descending into a slop fest of holding, hugging, rabbit punches and leaning on each other.
Argumedo got back on the move in round 4, with Kyoguchi fighting conservatively. Although holding back the Japanese fighter landed a number of body shots, in an attempt to stop Argumedo from hitting and holding, and a huge right hand upstairs that that again showed the danger that he possess. Argumedo ended up trying to throw the kitchen sink at Kyoguchi, but the accuracy simply wasn't there.
Rounds 5 and 6 were nothing short of messy wrestling rounds, with the clean punches kept to a minimum. It was becoming hard to watch, and hard to score. Argumedo had success with his jab, and his right hand, occasionally, whilst Kyoguchi looked to land body shots. It seemed however that both were rushing their work, throwing out of range and generally boxing like idiots, rather than two world class fighters.
Despite the messy action it seemed like both did have the fire power to hurt the other, and that proved to be the case in round 7, when a head shot shoot up Argumedo, who was clearly hurt and lucky that the shot came so late in the round as he began to eat some very hard body shots, and finished the round with a cut on the nose. Frustratingly Kyoguchi failed to build on the previous round, and round 8 was another sloppy round, with Kyoguchi's frustrations boiling over as he pushed Argumedo over. The following round saw Kyoguchi finally have a break through, badly hurting Argumedo and then sending him down legitimately with a follow up to secure a big 10 round, and had the round been 30 seconds longer he may well have closed the show.
Having got his nose into the lead Kyoguchi seemed to let Argumedo off the hook, and round 10 saw both men swing wildly and miss repeatedly in a round that began to sum up just how poor the fight had been. Had either man connected we could have seen the fight turn into something brilliant, but it seemed like neither had the composure, that late on, to really set up their work.
In the final round the mess just got messier, with both being tired, losing their balance, and Kyoguchi going down 3 times, from a combination of tiredness, pushing and balance issues, in what was a very ugly finish to a fight that promised a lot but failed to deliver.
At the end of 12 rounds the scores cards were read out, 116-111, twice, and 115-112, all in favour of Kyoguchi who became the new champion.
The fight wasn't the best showing of Kyoguchi, or of Argumedo in fairness. They styles should have gelled, but they never did, and instead of a FOTY contender we ended up with a really forgettable mess that will be remembered for Kyoguchi claiming a world title, just 15 months after his debut. And very few will go back and watch this one a second time.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
There are a lot of fighters that we can't help but lose, despite their limitations. One such fighter is the defensively liable Katsunari Takayama (30-8-0-1, 12) who sadly lost his IBF Minimumweight title earlier today, but showed just why we love him as he put on a blood and guts performance against Mexico's tough Jose Argumedo (16-3, 9).
Coming in to this one Takayama was the big betting favourite, it was supposed to be an easy defense against an inactive Mexican foe who had come up short every time he had faced a fighter of name value. In the end however it turned into an all action war, with back-forth action, high intensity and like many Takayama bouts, more trades the New York Stock Exchange.
The first round set the tone for the action with Takayama looking the more sprightly fighter but Argumedo looking like a big, tough solid
lump, and the bigger puncher. The round was one that could have gone either way, depending on whether quality and power trumps activity. Whilst the first was very competitive there was little damage to either man, despite the numerous shots that were landed. That wasn't the case in round 2 when a head clash left Takayama with a cut, a cut that worsened through out the fight. The action during the second was intense, and there was no wonder some blood was being spilled in what was quickly becoming an all out war.
The first was the start of a war that had serious battle through rounds 3, 4 and 5. During those rounds both men seemed to neglect defense, going all out with shots in what made for compelling viewing with round 5 in particular being something exceptional. Despite the action there was little to pick between them, except in round 4 which was a very clear Takayama round with Argumedo being backed up and bullied by the naturally smaller man.
Sadly for Takayama the warrior mentality was taking it's toll on his face and by the end of the 5th it appeared that both yes and his nose were leaking, a result of the shots from Argumedo and the fact he has had such a long and damaging career. The blood was beginning to look like and issue in rounds 6 and 7 but Takayama seemed to like the taste of it and upped the ante, throwing more than he had early in an attempt to break down a slowing Argumedo. The Mexican continued to look the stronger man but his feet were flat and his energy reserves seemed to be wearing away due to the intense tempo of the contest.
The battling spirit in Takayama again saw him forcing back Argumedo in round 8 but the Mexican could see the damage he was doing to the eye when he landed and seemed to target it with his heavy shots and by the start of round 9 the blood was a serious issue, along with the swelling around Takayama's face. The champion was beginning to look a real mess. The mess was so bad that the doctor had a really long, hard and serious look during the 9th round. It seemed as it the doctor was going to pull Takayama out there and then, though he relented, as if to say "you have until the round is over".
Knowing time was running out Takayama went on the offensive throwing everything he had at Argumedo, including the kitchen sink, but could stop the Mexican who saw out the storm and heard the bell. It was then that the doctor decided enough, was enough and called a halt to the bout.
This forced us to the scorecards for a technical decision, the second technical decision that Takayama has been involved in this year, though sadly for him he was to be denied of victory and his title with Argumedo taking a split decision with scores of 87-84, twice, whilst the dissenting judge had it 86-85 to Takayama.
This loss for Takayama will be a painful one, especially given the state of his face, though we doubt it'll be the end of the exciting "Lightning Kid" who seemed to suggest that he was heading to 108lbs next year.
Yesterday fans in Osaka had the chance to see the all action Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) take a huge step towards unifying his IBF Minimumweight title with the WBO belt held by Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka.
Takayama, defending the IBF belt for the second time, was facing former Tanaka foe Ryuji Hara (19-2, 11) and managed to score an 8th round TKO over Hara, who started well but came apart when Takayama upped the pace and showed his ability to go through the gears.
Early on it was Hara with success. He landed a number of solid body shots on to the champion and also managed to re-open a cut over Takayama's left eye, an injury that has been a recurring one in the champions illustrious career. The cut however seemed to spur Takayama on and in round the champion began to up the pace, when he did that Hara struggled to stay with him with a left hook late in the round being just one a number of solid signs that the bout was changing.
In round 5 the bout was becoming more dominated by Takayama, who was in complete control by the end of round 7. Then it seemed only a matter of time with Hara eventually being saved by the referee in round 8.
Following the bout Tanaka challenged the champion and it now looks like a New Year's Eve bout between the two men is likely barring the WBO ordering a mandatory for Tanaka before then.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
It's been a busy day for Japanese fans today, especially those in Osaka who managed to have a fantastic show featuring a former world champion, a Japanese title fight and a pair of world title bouts. It really was as good a show as many fans could have hoped for.
The first of those world title bouts came at Minimumweight where IBF champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) risked his title against upset minded Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-4-1, 15).
For many Japanese fans Sakkreerin Jr is best remembered for his previous fight in Osaka, when he stopped former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki in 3 rounds, in what was a late contender for the 2013 upset of the year. He returned to Osaka with the same mindset, believing he could shock the bigger name and win score a major shock.
In the opening round things were really close. Takayama was trying to sneak in and out whilst Sakkreerin was boxing well using his reach and height to catch Takayama as he came in. It was close, competitive and, like many opening rounds, one that could have gone either way with out much debate. It was however the only really close round of the fight of the fight.
In round 2 the Japanese fighter began to make a point as he applied intense pressure, back the Thai up and and began to motor threw the gears through a high volume of shots. Not all of them were getting through but it was clear that Takayama was showing his challenger who the boss was whilst Sakkreerin was doing little more than backing up, covering himself and tried to avoid the onslaught. It looked as if the Thai was hoping to ride out the storm and fight back against a tiring Takayama. The Thai's hopes however were slow to come to fruition and by round 5 it was clear Takayama had bounds of energy and was taking a huge lead due to his intense work rate. To his credit Sakkreerin did begin to fire back with some counters though they often appeared to be thrown more out desperation than anything too educated and they were few and far between.
In round 7 we saw Takayama given his first moments of discomfort as his left eye was cut following a clash of heads, a round later his right eye was cut, again from a clash of heads. The blood seemed to throw Takayama slightly as the champion became slightly more cautious and started to pick his spots. It was obvious that the facial injuries were bother the champion who was inspected twice during round 9 before the bout was stopped after 2:19 of the round.
The stoppage elected massive celebrations from the Thai's team who seemed to feel their man had won the bout with a TKO. Takayama looked resigned as he walked back to his corner though all was not as it seemed and a few moments later the men were brought to the center of the ring with the scorecards being read out. It was clear that the Thai's celebrations had come too soon as the cards were announced as being 86-85,90-81 and 87-84, all in favour of Takayama.
The champion, swollen and bloodied, looked like he had been the one taking a beating as his hand was raised. This keeps alive bouts against Kosei Tanaka, who was ringside, and Hekkie Budler, though neither of those will have seen anything here to worry them too much. For Sakkreerin this loss would have hurt considering how he had celebrated, however it seems clear that the Thai is a tough kid and a move back to 108lbs will almost certainly serve him well. Although Sakkreerin lost he will certainly come again given his age, toughness, and willingness to travel to face big names.
(Image, from a post fight conference, courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
For the second day running we saw a small slice of history being created. Yesterday we saw Naoya Inoue becoming the quickest man to become a 2-weight world champion, setting a world record in his 8th fight when he stopped Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds. Today the history was merely a bit of national history for Japanese fighters as Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) became the first ever Japanese fighter to win a version of all 4 major world titles.
Takayama did that earlier today by stopping light hitting compatriot Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) in the 7th round of their meeting and claimed the IBF Minimumweight title, for a second time, as well as the elusive WBO Minimumweight crown, the one title he had never had in his illustrious career.
On paper the bout promised excitement. Both men are volume punchers usually, both like to let their hands go and both are as reliant on their speed and movement as any other tool in their arsenal. As well as that there had been only a single stoppage defeat between the two men, and that was a more than 11 years ago when an immature Takayama was caught in the 9th round against Masato Hatakeyama in what was Takayama's first title bout. It seemed to go 12 on paper, but of course fights aren't fought on paper and when history is there for the taking sometimes a fighter can find something else in themselves.
The fight started well with both managing to find their range and timing, neither showed great fear of the other's power but neither felt like taking too many risks. It was busy without being brutal, fast without being rushed and in fact Odaira managed to more than hold his own early on with round 4 being a particularly good one for the relatively unknown fighter. Unfortunately as we hit the middle of the bout things began to change and Takayama's shots began to take their toll with Odaira being forced to take body shots, the like of which he had never tasted.
The body shots began to slow Odaira in round 5 and, as we all know, when a fighter is feeling the effects of body shots they can slow quickly and in round 6 it all seemed to unravel for Odaira who suddenly looked like a tiring man, despite still managing to do enough to fight back. Unfortunately for the Hanagata promoted fighter this was the beginning of the end and in round 7 Takayama got his chance and took it, with the finish coming in the a typical Takayama fashion with the “Lightning Kid” unloading shot after shot after shot in a furious bombardment of leather. The shots themselves had a lack of pop but the sheer volume of them was insane and Odaira's exhaustion was showing as the referee was forced to save Odaira who was being swallowed whole by a whirlwind of punches.
Whilst the win for Takayama was historic it also sees him achieving one of his two public aims. It seems him claiming all 4 titles in a career grandslam, the other aim he has spoken about is to become a multi-weight world champion and a move to 108lbs seems likely. Hopefully however he will look to defend his unified crown, possibly against talented teenage sensation Kosei Tanaka who is himself chasing Japanese boxing history as he chases the quickest rise to a world title.
After non-stop complaints by boxing fans who had tuned in to see the predictably mismatched action on Showtime we then got the hardcore fans who moved on to the action from Mexico which always looked like the best part of the weekend. That was because we had two of the best Minimumweights on the planet trading leather to become a unified champion, a champion of champions.
The fight pitted Japan's Katsunari Takayama, the IBF champion, against Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez Jr, the WBO champion. We knew it was going to be good, in fact we knew it was going to be great. And if we're being honest the fight exceeded even our high expectations in many ways, though one thing did leave us with a sour taste, more about that later however.
Going in the bout was going to be decided on two things. Did Takayama have the speed and stamina to out work, out move and out land Rodriguez? And did Rodriguez have the power and strength to hurt Takayama? At the end we ended up having both questions landed in the affirmative leading to a thoroughly compelling and action packed fights that, if compubox was in use, could have set punch number records.
In the opening round it was clearly Takayama's speed and movement that decided who won it. Rodriguez looked slow and sloppy though very strong as the pro-Mexican crowd chanted "Chihuas", the Mexican's nickname. In the second round however things became more competitive with Takayama starting the round very well before being rocked in the final 30 seconds or so. Takayama was already being warned for holding, despite the holding being kept to a real minimum, and was already being forced to stand his ground and trade. Although we gave Takayama round 2 we could understand others scoring it to Rodriguez, it was one of those plain old "swing rounds".
Unfortunately for Takayama round 3 wasn't a swing round as the Japanese fighter was dropped. He was up as quickly as he was down but the round was still going to be a 10-8, though he did make a good effort of trying to erase the knock down, in fact if he was at home the chances are he may have managed to have won the round making it a 10-9. Away from home however that never really happens.
Although rounds 1 and 3 were clear cut not many of the others were and rounds 4 and 5 were both swing rounds impossible to call for certain either way. Takayama tried to win them on work rate alone, unloading flurries to the body up close ad measuring with a jab as he picked his raids carefully whilst Rodriguez tried to claim them with the heavy handed assault that he's going to make his trademark over the decade. Both rounds really were rounds that you could argue for either man with great give and take.
Going into round 6 the scorecards really could have said anything. They could have been 48-47 to Takayama or 49-46 to Rodriguez depending on your reading of the fight. In fact it could well have been 49-48 if you'd have scored the 3 close rounds in the most fair manner you could, giving them each as 10-10 rounds, and we know it's rare but they really were impossible to split.
In round 6 we saw Rodriguez charge at Takayama in the early stages as he moved through the gears for the first minute of the round. Amazingly however for the final 2 minutes Takayama backed up the Mexican in what looked to have become a clear round for the Japanese fighter and a major turning point with Rodriguez then looking very tired. The exhausted look on Rodriguez continued in round 7 as Takayama appeared to easily bag another round and appeared to be on his way to unifying the titles. Rodriguez looked all in as if his assault to begin round 6 was him cashing in his chips.
Amazingly the Mexican suddenly looked refreshed in round 8 as he hurt Takayama at several points. Takayama was looking ready to go as the fight swung, yet again. By the end of the eighth it seemed almost certain that Takayama was on his way to being stopped and his usually bouncing toes were now flat feet, his work rate has dissipated and he appeared to be kept in the fight on heart alone.
The heart of Takayama seemed to kick in again in round 9 as he was forced to stand and trade almost from the off as Rodriguez came out in search of a stoppage. Luckily for Takayama he was able to recoup his legs a little bit as Rodriguez continually threw some wild shots that missed by a mile, though when he connected Rodriguez really did look to hurt the Japanese fighter who stood his ground for the last 40 seconds as the two men went toe-to-toe. They started round 10 as they ended round 9, stood in front of each other unloading shots, showing reckless abandon in he search of that punch that would drop their foe and help them to victory. At the end of the round both men seemed to be looking for hail Mary's.
Going in to the championship rounds it seemed like the fight had swung just enough in the favour of Rodriguez that the titles were going to stay in Mexico. Suddenly however at the start of round 11 drama, and a little bit of controversy, struck as Rodriguez went down in his corner. Was it a knockdown or a slip? It was ruled a slip though on replay it was a hard one to call and had it been ruled a knockdown it would have neutralised the one scored by the Mexican in round 3. By the end of the 11h the knockdown/slip question was all but forgotten as the men stood trading and flailing punches at each other. It was insane as both men just stood firing bombs at each other as if the fight needed to be won by knock out.
The final round saw Takayama slip in exactly the same corner as Rodriguez's incident in the previous round. That slip was early on but for the following 2 minutes they men against stood toe-to-toe trading, bombing each other and trying to score the stoppage they may well have felt they needed. They were fighting themselves to a standstill as the insane and hyper-active fight continued to be fought in the most impressive of manners. It was a war and it was amazing to watch.
After 12 rounds the general view here was that Rodriguez had nicked it by a round or two, being helped by the crowd to just sneak the majority of the swing rounds. When the first score was read out as 116-111 we nodded in the agreement, then a score of 119-109 was read as our stomachs turned before a final card of 115-112 made us nod in agreement. The cards, which all favoured the Mexican seemed to get the right winner but we were left genuinely baffled by the wide card which seemed to be very off, even for a bout that had as many swing rounds as this one.
Takayama looked dejected having failed in his attempt to collect the grandslam whilst Rodriguez rightfully celebrated winning what could go down as one of the fights of the year. Sensational bout.
Takayama, who fell to 27-7-0-1 (10) is now 2-3-0-1 on the road and may well think twice about ever fighting outside of Japan again. He has been a road warrior but may well feel that it's not worth travelling when some judges, such as John Madfis on this occasion, have seemingly marked their cards before the fight has began. In fact he may well call it quits or try to secure a rematch back in Japan. For Rodriguez, now 15-2 (10), this leaves him as one of the top dogs at 105lbs following back to back wins over Merlito Sabillo and Takayama.
As for the Minimumweight division we're now poised for a few interesting months. Talk of a rematch between these two is something Takayama and fans would likely love, WBA champion Hekkie Budler is set to defend his title against former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong, current WBC champion Oswaldo Novoa is set to defend against the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin in Thailand in November and we're also expecting a WBA interim title fight between Carlos Buitrago and Knockout CP Freshmart in October. Whatever happens in the coming months this division is going to be red hot at the top and possible deeper, especially if Kosei Tanaka gets his wish and gets a fight with OPBF champion Ryuji Hara. What a time to be a fan of the Minimumweight division.
(Image courtesy of Nakazato Boxing)
When we talk about our favourite Japanese fighters we always make sure to mention IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) who has repeatedly shown a desire to prove that he is the best in the world. He has never shirked an opponent and instead he has chased them around the planet to try and get the biggest and best fights.
When someone has faced a litany of top class opponents, including Eagle Den Junlaphan, Yutaka Niida, Roman Gonzalez and Nkosinathi Joyi we don't mind him fighting a lesser foe and that's exactly what Takayama did today as he faced fellow Japanese fighter Shin Ono (17-6-2, 2) a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Ono had looked like a fighter devoid of confidence at his public work out last week, his team had tried to buoy up his hopes talking about his notable wins over Yu Kimura and Xiong Zhong Zhao. Unfortunately for Ono his lack of confidence seem to reappear at sections in the actual fight, almost as if he remembered he was fighting in a world title fight and he was fighting arguably the best fighter at 105lbs.
The skill difference in the two men was noticeable almost from the off as Takayama just showed he had too many weapons for the challenger and after spending one or two rounds trying to box with Ono, the champion seemed to have a change of tact and went on the offensive realising that Ono lacked the power needed to hurt him. This front foot, offensive march of Takayama saw him landing numerous hard right hands that got the crowd cheering and although he had to take some decent left hands from the southpaw challenger who countered him wonderfully at times to win the odd round here and there.
As we went in to the second half of the fight it was beginning to look like a lost cause for Ono who was being out landed, out worked and back up repeatedly. It was beginning to look more and more one sided and the moments of success for Ono were becoming less frequent. It was as if Takayama was mentally grinding Ono and the challenger was being forced to do all he could to claim a round whilst also learning he couldn't ever get control of the bout.
In round 8 we saw Takayama rocking Ono for one of the first times in the fight as the two men traded solid blows. The similar trading occurred in round 9 though the bigger shots were from Takayama who seemed to hurt Ono again in the final minute as the challenger was backed up from one side of the ring to the other. It was great work from the champion who, although, cut was proving his class despite the televised highlights focussing on the few moments of success from Ono who did land some good lefts, although he was clearly out landed.
With the challenger fading the champion went on determined attack in round 10 and dropped Ono with a long and aggressive flurry. following the knockdown we got to see the lovely footwork of Takayama who danced around the challenger before rocking him hard moments before the bell. By now the bout was sealed and in round 11 a wilting, tiring Ono did what he could to try and fight back against Takayama. The success of Ono in the penultimate round was limited however and instead it was Takayama who was on the offensive landing some lovely shots on to his game but tiring challenger. Ono, to his credit, saw out the round standing.
Going in to the final there wasn't a question of who would win, instead the only question was whether or not Ono would see out the bell. Midway through the round it looked unlikely as Ono was dropped for the second time and Takayama immediately went on the hunt for the stoppage. It was a race against time as to whether or not the champion could force the referee to challenger who was showing the typical Japanese warrior spirit despite the fight being a lost cause and blood seeping from his nose.
With some early rounds having been close and some of the middle rounds having had moments for both the fight was likely to see a range of scores but the two knockdowns in the championship rounds left us with no doubt who the winner was. This was shown in the scorecards which favoured Takayama with scores of 115-111, 115-111 and 117-109 though we do understand some having it close though the first 10 rounds and we do openly confess to being Takayama fans so perhaps we were favouring him as a result.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym)
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.