Earlier today we saw Venezuelan star Jorge Linares (44-3, 27) defending his WBA, Ring Magazine and WBC “Diamond” titles against Filipino challenger Mercito Gesta (31-2-2, 17).
The fight started surprisingly competitively with Gesta aggressively coming forward, using a lot of head movement and letting his hands go in a manner that seemed to make Linares somewhat nervous. The Venezeuelan always looked the more skilled but Gesta was applying pressure, managing to get through with some hooks up top and seemed to be making Linares work for the rounds. It was however Gesta having his durability, toughness and heart tested as he was forced to take shots to land his occasional blow.
After the decent start from Gesta we saw Linares turn up the gears and begin to show case his skills, hand-speed and combinations. It began to look like the fight many expected, but Gesta was doing enough to force Linares to remain switched on, which saw him landing some razor sharp straights and eye catching combinations.
In round 8 Gesta managed to open up a nick above Linares' right eye, and Freddie Roach, in Gesta's corner, would likely have began to see a door open for the upset. Instead it seemed to solidify Linares' who seemed to win round 9 with his smart pot shot-ting, though did have to come through a strong Gesta rally as the Filipino let his hands go in short but exciting bursts.
Gesta refused to back down and just take the loss and continued to press the action in round 10, which was one of Linares' worst due to a lack of work from the champion. The success from those two rounds saw Gesta putting himself in harms way in the final couple of rounds but resulted in him taking shots from the faster, smoother Linares, who was constantly being forced to work.
Although Gesta was out classed for the most part he did come to fight and forced Linares to fight back in a fight that seemed to fly by. Sadly for Gesta though he never looked capable of doing enough and came up well short on the cards, with scores of 118-110, twice, and 117-111 all in favour of Linares.
To his credit this was the best we'd seen of Gesta, and whilst he wasn't close to winning he really put in an effort, especially early on. For Linares this win sets up some potential super fights with Vasyl Lomachneko and Mikey Garcia, but he would be the under-dog against both.
We've often mentioned that 3-weight world champions from Japan were rare. There has only ever been two, Koki Kameda and Kazuto Ioka. We have however seen numerous fighters fall short in attempts to win a third divisional title, fighters like the great Hozumi Hasegawa and Hioki Ioka, Kazuto's uncle. Another who has fallen short is Takahiro Ao (27-4-1, 12) who unfortunately failed in his attempt to claim the WBO Lightweight title this past Friday night.
Ao was hoping to add the title to previous reigns as WBC champion at Featherweight and Super Featherweight. Unfortunately for him he came up against a bigger, stronger, tougher and more powerful Mexican, by the name of Raymundo Beltran (30-7-1, 18).
From the moment the men stood close it was clear that Ao was the smaller man, it was no surprise however as Beltran had actually failed to make weight for the bout, weighting ½lb above the Lightweight limit. Knowing he was the smaller man Ao knew that he would have to use his speed and trickery to have any chance of winning and, for the first 90 seconds, he managed to have some success with his southpaw straight left hands. Sadly that was about it for him as Beltran found his range and managed to pressurise Ao late in the opening round. The pressure from Beltran forced Ao to respond and the two swung wildly at each other for a few moments before the bell.
The second round saw Beltran starting the way he had ended the opening round and almost immediately he dropped Ao with a monster of a right hand on the chin. Ao went down hard. The Japanese fighter showed his courage by getting up at the count of 8 but never managed to land another shot of note as Beltran rushed in for the kill, rocking Ao time after time before the referee mercifully saved the over-matched Japanese fighter.
With Beltran missing the weight the title will remain vacant until later in the year with Britian's unbeaten Terry Flanagan expected to fight for it. For Ao it's back to Japan title-less and considering the future. He came up against a really big fighter here and he may well try again at a Lightweight title, though we suspect his next move isn't going to be rushed. He's only 31, so time is on his side, but he'll likely have to drop back down to 130lbs if he's hoping to fight at world level again. If he stays at Lightweight then his future is probably going to be at the OPBF level, though there is no saying he'd even be able to claim the Oriental title at the weight.
For Beltran the weight issue has robbed him of the title, though he's only really got himself to blame for coming in over weight. He said, after the fight, that he was going to try and remain at 135lbs though we do wonder whether he'd more effective at 140lbs, despite the fact the division is a tough one right now.
Just moments ago at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium fans saw the popular Jorge Linares (38-3, 25) claim the WBC Lightweight title as he managed to stop Mexico's hard hitting but crude Javier Prieto (24-8-2, 18) in 4 rounds.
The bout started somewhat tentatively with Prieto applying the pressure and Linares being forced to move, pick his spots and fight a controlled fight. At times it looked like it was going to be a battle between Linares skills and speed and the power and pressure of Prieto. Unfortunately for the Mexican however his lack of speed did make things a little bit easier to Linares who managed to avoid many of the wide round house swings of Prieto.
The first 2 rounds were very similar to each other. Prieto trying to land bombs whilst often forcing Linares backwards, Linares picking his spots and landing sharp shots in return. It did however look like Prieto was going to land eventually, and that's what he did in round 3 when he seemed to momentarily sting Linares. That was however as good as it got for Prieto who was then forced to follow the skillful Venezuelan who was caught by anything else all that notable.
In round 4 the ending was sudden. Prieto was on the march towards Linares until the "Golden Boy" landed a sharp jab instantly followed up right hand, right on the ear. This sent Prieto's legs into a wobble for a second before he dropped his hands, a moment later he dropped to his back. It seemed like Prieto had gone down awfully casually and he looked like a man sun bathing, though he took the entire count. From the way the right hand landed we have to suspect that Prieto suffered some sort of damage to his ear or equilibrium though he may have just had enough.
With this win Linares becomes a 3-weight world champion, just the second to have been promoted by a Japanese promoter. Unfortunately for him he will have to defend his title against Omar Figueroa when Figueroa returns from his hand injury and that could be a very painful night for Linares given the power and style of Figueroa. For now however Linares is free to celebrate a victory that puts him back on the boxing map and sees him claiming a world title for the first time since his loss to Juan Carlos Salgado, more than 5 years ago.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Not many fights really deserve slating and, whilst we might not always agree with referees decisions, they rarely seem to be clueless. Unfortunately the fans in Macau got both a stinking world title fight and a referee who seemed to have a penchant for homo-erotic holding.
Whilst we understand that styles can make or break fights a fighter really shouldn't be allowed to deliberately break a fighter. It's even worse when the referee appears to be part of the reason for a fight failing to break out though that's exactly what Ernie Sharif did.
We had, like fans around the world, been looking forward to seeing Miguel Vazquez (34-3, 13) defend his IBF Lightweight title against Denis Shafikov (33-1-1, 18). Whilst we were looking forward to the contest before hand we were left feeling disgusted and abused by the fight which had more breaks and more hugging than we'd ever expect to see in a world title fight.
The fight started predictably with Vazquez using his footwork and jab to keep Shafikov at range. If you'd seen Vazquez before you'd have seen him do that to various other opponents as he showed off what he can do at his best. Unfortunately, however, for the sake of entertainment, Shafikov managed to cut the range. Vazquez's solution for when the distance was cut was to hold...and hold...and hold. He really had no other idea on what to do when he wasn't at long range.
Holding up close can be acceptable as long as it's not a fighters sole way of coping with a fighter up close. Unfortunately Vazquez had no other gameplan up close other than to hold and the referee, who should have been doing his job and deducting points merely allowed him to get away with it then tell them to break. This tactic, whilst effective in ending any momentum that Shafikov could get going, was allowed far too often and in a number of rounds it appeared that Vazquez was holding more often than he was punching.
What made the efforts of the referee even more frustrating was that he was often warning for other things caused by the holding but yet never acting on the warnings. For example hitting behind the head whilst holding, or Vazquez pushing Shafikov down. In most of those few times where the referee did act like he card he made a point of warning both men and not just the one responsible for the holding.
Although Shafikov's pressure did seem to be having an effect in round 4 it was neutralised so effectively by the holding in the following rounds that the fight was never in doubt. If anything the fight merely become unexciting, actionless and frustrating to watch. Even the crowd, who had been excellent throughout the show, seemed to make it obvious they didn't care with one fan shouting "stop wrestling" in the otherwise silent venue.
The holding hadn't just riles us up but also Miguel Diaz, who was in the corner of Shafikov. Diaz, a very respected trainer, made his view of the referee known and on 4 separate occasions he let his view of the referee be known. Unfortunately for Diaz and his man the referee didn't seem set to deduct points for repeated holding.
By round 8 the holding had ruined any sense of a fight and many, including ourselves, were just waiting for the final bell. It was obvious that Shafikov would have needed a knockout to get a win, though he may have found that any knockout blow he landed would have been ruled illegal anyway.
The only real surprise at the end of the bout was that two of the cards ha the fight close with one judge having it 115-113 and one having it 116-112, the third judge may have gone too far the other way with a 119-109 card but there was only one winner at the final bell.
Although Vazquez retained his title he certainly didn't make any new fans and may well find himself struggling to get any sort of fights in the future. He's talented but so negative and fight destroying that we can understand fans refusing to have anything to do with him. As for Shafikov he probably won't get another title fight in the tough Lightweight division which is a shame considering he did try and make a fight even if Vazquez and referee Sharif did prevent him from doing so.
(Picture courtesy of Toprank)
Courtesy of boxrec.com
Earlier today in the US Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16) attempted to become just the fifth Japanese fighter to claim a world title on American soil. Unfortunately for Arakawa he ran into one of the most promising and most exciting young talents in America in the the form of Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17), a guy with "superstar" and "PPV" written all over him.
Going in to the bout Figueroa had a reputation for wiping out opponents in the first 2 or 3 rounds. He had scored 8 opening round victories and 15 in the opening 2 rounds. The betting favoured him to do a similar job against Arakawa, despite the fact Arakawa is one of the genuine tough guys of boxing.
With the reputation for early victories it was fair to suggest that Figueroa had real question marks over his stamina. He had been 8 rounds twice and 10 rounds just once. The obvious game plan from Arakawa's camp was to see out the early rounds and then try and drown Figueroa late in the contest.
With the game plan being obvious Arakawa didn't try and hide what he was going to do and started the bout by trying to smother Figueroa and holding him every time a big punch was landed. The worked fine to help see the Japanese fighter through the opening round though it was already obvious that Figueroa had the sort of power to hurt Arakawa, something he did at least once in the opening stanza.
In the second round Arakawa attempted to move his game plan on a stage and started to push Figueroa backwards as if to suggest that he was the man and Figueroa was the boy. Forcing Figueroa on to the ropes was likely a plan to help smother him though with the hand speed and unreal power of Figueroa it unfortunately didn't work and Arakawa was again hurt. This time his legs went to jelly and he was really struggle to tie up Figueroa, something he appeared to just do before Lawrence Cole started a count. This was despite there being a "no standing 8 count" rule in effect.
Arakawa continued to push his young adversary on to the ropes where he attempted to tee-off. Unfortunately for Arakawa he was was unable to land enough to really bother Figueroa who fired back his own flurries that seemed to shake Arakawa up on a regular basis. Oddly Figueroa was able to square up and still manage to generate extraordinary power on his shots.
With the fight being fought at a brilliant pace and often up close it seemed only a matter of time before heads would clash and that's what happened in round 5 with an accidental clash leading to a cut on Figueroa's nose. Despite the cut Figueroa continued to unload combinations. Oddly this round was probably the closest in the first half of the bout and a case could have been made to have given it to the Japanese fighter.
Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter his success in round 5 was soon forgotten with Figueroa rocking him to his core in round 6. Once again Arakawa tried to hold and seemed to manage to clinch whilst remaining on his feet though was, for the second time in the fight, given a standing count.
The success from round 6 for Figueroa seemed to give him a huge boost and he came out firing on all cylinders in round 7. It seemed clear that Figueroa still believed he could stop Arakawa despite the fact he was starting to lose the snap on his shots.
Thankfully for the fans Arakawa managed to survive through the storm of round 7 and fought back hard in round 8 as he started to re-establish himself in the fight. Arakawa's fight back seemed to be ended later in the same round after a series of body shots had him reeling before the bell came.
Amazingly Arakawa refused to genuinely go down and fought back hard in round 9 as Figueroa appeared to be start to wilt. The America still had power in speed in his shots but they were becoming less frequent with only an odd burst of punches every so often as his feeling the pace.
With Figueroa clearly tiring and fighting in the 10th round for just the second time in his career it was now Arakawa's chance to turn it on. Unfortunately the body shots from Figueroa and the general pace of the fight had taken it's toll on Arakawa who was starting to look just as exhausted as Figueroa. Despite this Arakawa went on the offensive and looked for the stoppage that he clearly needed.
After having limited success in round 10 Arakawa managed to have a clear round in round 11 as we entered the championship rounds. This was the first time Figueroa had been so deep into a fight and it showed as he had very little energy left and did very little other than cover up and survive.
The final round saw Figueroa doing almost the same as Arakawa had done in the opening round. He held on, he spoiled and he threw some shots back but nothing major as he concentrated on seeing out the final bell. Unfortunately for Arakawa he was unable to close the show in the way that he'll have wanted to.
With the 2 knockdowns against Arakawa it was clearly going to be a decision victory for Figueroa who took it by scores of 119-107 and 118-108 twice. We had it 117-109 to Figueroa so cannot complain with the result, even if the 119-107 card was certainly a bit harsh.
Despite the loss it's fair to say Arakawa and Figueroa both made new fans tonight's and both threw their names into the hat to be "Fight of the Year 2013". Do not be shocked if this is replayed repeatedly on youtube over the next week or so.
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.