Earlier this year we saw Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) [伊藤 雅雪] travel to the US and defeat Christopher Diaz to become the new WBO Super Featherweight champion. That bout saw Ito impress the US and UK fans, who had never heard of him, as well as becoming the first Japanese fighter to be crowned a world champion on US soil in over 30 years. Today he made his first defense of that title as he took on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (20-1, 10), from Russia. Despite it being a mandatory defense the bout was a mismatch, and there was several levels between the two fighters, with Chuprakov providing little challenge.
The open round was a messy one, with a lot of holding, wrestling and ugly action. The only real shots of any value were from Ito, who actually tried to box, whilst Chuprakov tried his best judo impressions and impressions of an angry goat, leading his head into Ito at every opportunity. Sadly for the challenger he was tagged by some brutal looking body shots as Ito showed he wasn't there to mess about. Chuprakov wrestled through round 2, and took more clean shots from Ito, who was starting to free himself from the messy spoiling, and landing more and more shots. Those shots became cleaner and cleaner round after round, with round 3 being another one where Ito dominated through his boxing, despite being cut from a clash of heads.
Ito managed to really begin dictating the range in round 4, as the wrestling seemed to tire out Chuprakov. That made life easy for Ito to land sharp jabs and open Chuprakov up for straight right hands. Up close Ito was having more success in the clinch, landing uppercuts and body shots on the inside. Those shots seemed to make Chuprakov think twice about trying to smother and left the Russian with out another gameplan. He was being out boxed on the outside and out fought on the inside.
In round 5 Chuprakov was hurt as he began to eat more and more head shots. He got through a doctors inspection on a cut, but wasn't able to avoid the punishment that Ito was sending his way. That punishment began to intensify with Ito really punishing Chuprakov in round 6, as the challenger's cut worsened and the fight was starting to become farcically one-sided. It seemed like the perfect time for Chuprakov's team to pull their man, who had no real chance of winning, out of the bout. Instead they let him go out for round 7.
By now Ito knew that Chuprakov wasn't much of a test and quickly hurt his man. Chuprakov held on, but Ito hit him with his free hand, and managed to totally break the clinch whilst backing Chuprakov into the corner and unloading. Chuprakov tried to respond, in an attempt to survive, and then spat his gumshield out. He managed to earn a short respite but was cornered again soon afterwards, with Ito again firing off with both hands. Chuprakov's corner had seen enough and climbed on the apron signalling that they wanted to save their man, who was just getting battered.
It was smart decision from the corner, their man had nothing left to offer though leaves us wondering what the WBO had had such a terrible mandatory challenger for Ito. Really Chuprakov didn't belong in the ring with Ito, or any top 10 type fighter. He was terrible. For Ito the fight didn't start how he would have wanted, but by the end end he was able to leave the impact he would have wanted, and threw enough in round 7 to have footage for a highlight reel.
It's now expected that Ito will be fighting in the US next time out, and he has spoke about unification bouts, specifically a bout with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt. Whether he gets a big stateside bout is yet to be seen, but we are expecting him to return to the US in the new year, for a much better test than the one he got today.
There's long been a reputation of Japanese fighters not being good travellers. The reality is often that they prepare badly for their bouts on the road. Instead of giving themselves time to acclimatise they often travel the week or so before the fight and never really give themselves time to get read to fight a world class opponent.
One man who seemed fully aware that he needed to give himself time to prepare Stateside was Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) [伊藤 雅雪], who put on a career defining performance to take the unbeaten record of Puerto Rican Christopher Diaz (23-1, 15) and become the new WBO Super Featherweight world champion.
The fight started at an amazing pace with both men looking to get their jabs going. It wasn't long until Ito found the range for his right hand and managed to work sharp uppercuts on the inside, proving he could get out on top on both the inside and outside. It was competitive but Ito did seem to be the man landing the cleaner, harder shots. Ito's confidence grew in the second round as he outlanded Diaz and landed the better more painful shots to both head and body. Diaz was becoming more and more wild looking to land something to establish himself but he was really struggling.
The Puerto Rican managed to up the pace in round 3, the first round that could really have gone his way. He upped the tempo and managed to find the range and timing for his left hook. It was a close round but one that certainly went to Diaz. It was however just a short respite for the Puerto Rican fighter who was dropped from a big combination of headshots in round 4, and Ito's accuracy showed as he hammered the face of Diaz, swelling his eye noticable. Diaz, to his credit, fought back and even seemed to hurt Ito, but the Japanese fighter landed some big body shots late on to slow the Puerto Rican's fight back.
Amazingly Diaz had a fantastic bounce back round in the fifth as he seemed to step his foot on the gas again and give Ito some problems. Ito was holding his own for the most part but it did seem like a round that Diaz won, though it was competitive and perhaps felt more like a Diaz round based on how much better he did in the round than he had in the previous one. Sadly though the fight back was a bit of a short lived one with Ito essentially sweeping the middle rounds by out working, out landing and out powering Diaz, who had his moments but always seemed to take shots back with interest.
It wasn't until round 9 that someone could make a case for Diaz to take another round, but he did start a nice little surge and seemed to do enough in round 10 to deserve that too, with Ito starting to slow, and perhaps show signs of tiredness. Not only did Ito seemed slower and less active in round 10 but Diaz began to get his shots off and landed several notable shots, with a right hand looking like it had hurt Ito.
Given the tempo of the fight it wouldn't have been a surprise to see Ito feeling the pace of the action but instead he he seemed to come out for round 11 with more energy, boxing on the move and using his jab early before sneaking inside and working up close. The shots from Ito were worsening the damage on Diaz's face with his left eye essentially swollen shut, and bleeding. Itos was unloading combinations and despite being tagged hard by a left hook it was the Japanese fighter who was controlling the round, one of the clearest of the fight. Diaz, several times, showed how much pain he was in, and was close to fighting with just one eye.
Diaz needed to go for a KO in the final round but he seemed to be worn out, in pain and was on the receiving end of a beating through the round, with Ito looking to close the show. Diaz, to his credit, saw off the aggression of the Japanese fighter, but lost the round, and didn't really come close to scoring the knockout he needed.
Having seen 12 rounds of action we went to the score-cards which were all in favour of Diaz, with scores of 116-111, 117-110 and 118-109.
With the win Ito becomes the first Japanese fighter since 1981 to win a world title in the US, which was when Tadashi Mihara claimed the WBA Middleweight title in New York. Not only did he win the title but he also put himself on the international boxing map, with new fans fans now wanting to follow his fun and fan friendly style.
For Diaz the loss will be a painful one, he gave his all but had all sorts of technical flaws that Ito took advantage of. He showed his heart, and his desire, but he was simply not good enough on the night to over-come Ito, who really did put in the performance of a life time.
Whilst Ito was a clear winner the fight was so action packed, busy and exciting that it should make a shortlist for Fight of the Year. It was high tempo, both men were hurt a number of times, and action packed. Just like every great fight should be.
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.