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
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