Today we saw one of those men, Knockout CP Freshmart (14-0, 6), record his first defense of the WBA title and score his third unanimous decision win of the year as he took a clear victory over Japanese challenger Shin Ono (19-8-3, 3).
Coming in to the bout many, including ourselves, had wondered how Ono had deserved a world title fight given he had come up short in recent bouts to Tatsuya Fukuhara, a more deserving world title challenger, and Kenichi Horikawa in Japanese domestic title bouts. Despite those questions Ono put up a spirited and decent effort against Knockout.
The bout started very slowly with Ono using his longer reach and southpaw stance to control the range off his jab. Knockout did apply some pressure during those early stages but it was very much a scouting mission from the champion who seemingly wanted to get a read on Ono's speed, power and movement.
In round 3 the fight flipped on it's head as Knockout moved into second gear and pressed the action more, landing right hands at will whilst Ono seemed to look lost and was becoming unsure of himself. That lack of confidence was again seen in round 4, though Ono did fire back a bit and seemed to hurt Knockout at one point, arguably scoring a flash knockdown of the Thai that was ruled a slip. Sadly for Ono this success seemed to just irritate Knockout who continued to dominate as he racked up rounds 6 and 7 and seemed to come close to dropping Ono on several occassions.
After dominating much of the fight Knockout began to look seriously tired as we began to approach the championship rounds and in the 8th and 9th he looked like he had run out of ideas, and steam. It seemed the perfect time for Ono to step up the action but unfortunately for him he was unable to with Knockout neutralising almost everything with repeated clinches.
By the time round 10 came along Knockout appeared to have recovered and again had some pepper on his shots, dropping Ono with a solid left hand to score the only knockdown of the fight. The challenger got to his feet but it seemed to put him on the retreat for the rest of the round and it was clear that he didn't want to taste Knockout's power any time soon.
Sadly for the challenger the final rounds were “now or never” and he tamely seemed to suggest his choice was “never” with little real urgency until the final 30 seconds when he began swinging for fence and looking for a huge game changer, by then though he had left him self too little time.
Although Ono had put up a spirited effort, at times, he was widely beaten on the cards with scores of 118-109, 117-111 and 118-110, but certainly earned respect with his performance. For Knockout a question needs to be asked about his stamina and this was a second successive fight where he was flagging late. It could be that his style needs taming to preserve energy or perhaps he's struggling to make 105lbs and a move up to Light Flyweight would be a smart move for the Thai. We'll see what he does in the new year but it's fair to say there is serious work to do in the future.