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
When we see boxing fans talk about super talents we always make sure to mention WBC Light Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) who claimed a world title in just his 6th bout by stopping Mexican veteran Adrian Hernandez in 6 rounds earlier this year. In that fight Inoue announced himself on to the world stage in impressive fashion as if to tell the world "I'm a future legend"
Today Inoue effectively waved good bye to the 108lb Flyweight division as he successfully defended his title beat up the game but limited Samartlek Koietgym (17-5, 5) to record his first defence.
Inoue was in charge from the opening round and it was incredibly clear that the two men were in completely different leagues to each other. Samartlek, to his credit, refused to be intimidated and tried to fight back, even landing some flush power shots of his own, though all they seemed to do was bounce off Inoue as if they were nothing. In some ways it was disappointing that Inoue wasn't showing off his defensive ability though in other ways it was a case of the Japanese youngster showing how exciting he can be when he's on seek and destroy mode, similar to how he was against Jerson Mancio.
As the bout progressed Inoue became more and more aggressive, dropping Samartlek in round 4 and then beating him down over the following, one sided, rounds. He went from landing thudding single shots that snapped back Smartleks head to full blown combo's of power shots that were as genius as they were sickening. The head and body of Samartlek were targeted with the "Monster" switching between the two at will and punishing Samartlek every time the Thai threw a shot in anger.
The combinations just got better and better from Inoue who finally forced the referee to step in round 11 after landing, flush, with a monstrous right hand. It was the straw that broke the camels back and although Samartlek was on his feet he was in a major hole on the scorecards and taking a really vicious beating. It was clearly a mercy stoppage but it was the right thing to do considering how many flush shots Samartlek had been eating and how little he had been firing at Inoue.
Prior to the fight Inoue had made it clear that he had been struggling to make the 108lb limit and it now seems certain that he will vacate Light Flyweight to begin his campaign at Flyweight. At 112lbs we expect to see Inoue tighten up his defence though there is no doubt he's going to be a real nightmare to anyone at Flyweight. Hopefully no Flyweight looks at this performance and thinks that they saw the best of Inoue, they really didn't. What they saw was a man looking to excite fans, not show off how truly exceptional he is.
(Image courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)
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.