Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) got one of his toughest tests today as successfully retained the WBO Flyweight title, making his second defense, and over-came Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13).
Prior to the bout Tanaka really struggle to make weight and showing signs of dehydration at his medical. He has looked unhappy through fight week and rumours had grown that he had really taken a lot out of himself to make Flyweight.
That looked to be the case early on, as the Japanese fighter didn't look his usual sharp, aggressive self. Instead he looked clumsy, almost plodding, as he struggled to keep up with Gonzalez. The Puerto however looked sharp, crisp and like a man who was confident of picking up the upset. Gonzalez fought off the back foot excellently, moving and landing his straight left hand with alarming regularity.
Tanaka managed to have a huge break through in round 3, when he dropped Gonzalez with a huge body shot. To his credit Gonzalez got back to his feet and continued the round, though was perhaps fortunate there was only seconds of the round left. He looked badly hurt and had the shot come 30 seconds earlier the bout could have looked very different.
Tanaka looked to try and build on his knock down in the following round but was dropped himself in round 4, from a Gonzalez left hand behind the ear. It was a balance issue, rather than Tanaka being hurt or buzzed but it essentially wiped out his success from round 3.
Gonzalez would manage to build on his knockdown, using his speed and ring craft to out landing, out move, out speed and out box this lethargic looking Tanaka. Tanaka was being caught regularly by Gonzalez's flurry's and looked incredibly conservative with his output. Not the Tanaka we'd seen recently. Whilst a lot of that could be put down to Gonzalez's skills, and movement there was a lack of crispness to Tanaka's work as he followed Gonzalez around the ring, looking to land single big shots, and was being out worked as a result.
Thankfully in round 7 Tanaka finally moved through the gears, chose to let his hands go. The flurry's we all loved from Tanaka were finally on show, and they were having success, especially the body shots. One thrown early in the round hurt Gonzalez and a follow up dropped him. From then on Tanaka could smell blood, dropping Gonzalez twice more in the round. Every time Gonzalez got up ready to continue, but he had done little to show there was anything left in the tank and the referee wisely chose to stop the fight, rather than let it continue on.
For Gonzalez this was a great chance to show how good he was, and he looked excellent at times, though it also showed his flaws. His lack of power and lack of durability, two issues that have been brought up in the past, were again apparent here. He can come again, but those issues will always be issues, and won't be things he can easily change. We do however wonder whether or not he could make 108lbs.
As for Tanaka the bout, or rather the performance, surely spells the end of his time at Flyweight. A move to the talent laden Super Flyweight division would have him in with more recognisable names, and an all Japanese super fight with Kazuto Ioka is one he has mentioned in the past.
Sadly Tanaka has had these hot and cold performances in the past, and this was similar, in some ways, to his performances against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. Like both of those bouts he was dropped and pushed hard. Notably after both of those bouts he also moved up in weight, citing issues making the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight limits respectively.
Some fighters are must watch fighters who really do provide amazing entertainment and action every time they are in the ring. One such fighter is Kosei Tanaka (18-0, 7) [田中恒成] who again delivered a FOTY contender, as he recorded his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title and defeated former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一].
The bout, as we've come to expect of Tanaka fights, started fast and it never really slowed down. The opening round wasn't a typical opening round, instead it was an action war, fought at a frightening tempo, more a typical round 4 or 5, when both men have settled. Both unloaded shots with Tanaka having the edge in speed and power and Taguchi landing some very solid looking right hands. The second was all Tanaka, it was a clear demonstration of his gameplan, overwhelming Taguchi with combinations, getting in and out, and finding ways to connect to the head and body of Taguchi. Taguchi had moments but they were easily out numbered by those of Tanaka.
Round 3 saw Tanaka being wobbled but he seemed to out land Taguchi by some margin, especially with heavy shots, and although Taguchi never looked hurt, it was clear the blows were taking a toll on him and that he was slowing down. The proved to be the case in every round afterwards, with Tanaka finding it easier and easier to out work Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi never gave up, but through rounds 6, 7 and 8, he took a real pound as Tanaka tightened his grip on the bout and seemed to begin looking to break down the challenger. Taguchi seemed to realise and in round 9 he began to really make things messy with clinching and spoiling, slowing the pace of the fight. It was an effective tactic in some ways, though didn't win him rounds.
As we headed into the championship rounds it was clear Tanaka was in the lead. He could have cruised his way over the line. Instead he seemed to want to put on a show, and did so, especially in round 12. The round saw Tanaka go all out, looking for a stoppage. Taguchi, to his credit, held, spoiled, fought and survived the onslaught, to make it to the final bell, in what was really a moral victory. He had looked, for several rounds, like a man who was on the verge of being stopped.
After 12 rounds the judges turned in score cards of 119-109, and 117-111, twice, to give Tanaka a clear decision victory. For him the future is incredibly bright and there was talk earlier in the weak about a move up to Super Flyweight in 2020. For Taguchi however the end seems nigh, and it's really hard to see how he becomes a world champion again.
Having spent the last 2 weeks in none stop talks with a CBC representative to get a legal feed to the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka we went into Monday with real fear. What if the bout we had done so much to hype failed to deliver, what if the stream failed, what if it ended inside a round or two, or ended because of a technical decision.
Thankfully our fears were averted and instead we got a genuine contender for fight of the year, and a fight that reminds us how special all-Japanese world title fights are. In fact it reminds us that sometimes the bouts we are most looking forward to really can deliver and that fighters don't always “just want to win”, sometimes they want to win in a fashion that lasts long in the memory.
Coming in to the bout we had Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] as the defending WBO Flyweight champion faced off with mandatory challenger Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成]. The champion was seeking his third defense, following a title win last year against Zou Shiming and succesful defenses against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Zou Shiming. Tanaka on the other hand was looking for his place in history, as only the second man to claim world titles in 3 weight classes in just 12 fights, following Vasyl Lomachenko.
As we've become accustomed to with Japanese fights there was no feeling out round. There was no gradual build up to a crescendo. Instead the two men started fast, with the opening round playing out as the first of 12 action packed rounds of brutality. The naturally stronger Kimura applied the pressure straight away and forced Tanaka to box and move, through Tanaka regularly stood his ground anded traded blows, relying on his speed and reactions to out land Kimura. The champion was hurt in round 2 from a huge counter left hook from Tanaka, which lead to Tanaka going for the finish, though Kimura was no where hurt enough and he began to fire back as Tanaka realised it was too soon. Kimura was hurt again in round 3 from a right hand, but held his own for much of the round.
Kimura began to build some momentum of his own in round 4 and in round 5 he began to grind down Tanaka, who was taking a lot of hard shots, despite having moments of his own. Kimura, who is typically a fighter who gets stronger the longer bouts go, seemed to be dragging Tanaka into his fight with body shots and his pressure taking a toll.
That sustained success from Kimura didn't last too long with Tanaka turning it back on it round 6, as he began to try and turn the fight back in his direction. That was partly because Tanaka changed his game plan and started to use more movement. Whilst Kimura was strong and aggressive he was being made to chase shadows at times and at one point Tanaka looked Lomachenko-esque switching from side to side on Kimura who was unable to respond.
Kimura's pressure began to amp up again in round 8, especially late in the round as he tried to put the pain on Tanaka, but again Tanaka's movement saved him from too much harm, despite a real desire being shown from the champion. In round 9 it seemed Tanaka again took control as he began walking down Kimura, a tactic that was unexpected but seemed to work as Kimura's right eye began to close rapidly. The champion was soon fighting one eyes, and on the back foot. Despite being defensively tight Kimura was eating shots on a regular basis with Tanaka pushing him backwards.
Tanaka looked like he was in the lead, but was wanting to leave an impression in the final rounds as he hunted a stoppage. It wasn't a smart move and instead it left the door open to Kimura who gritted his teeth and had real success late on, leaving Tanaka's face swollen and bruised. The tactics of Tanaka late were impressive, backing up Kimura, but were unnecessary and Tanaka kept getting caught by the heavier shots of Kimura.
At the end the bout seemed to be very competitive at times, with both men having a few clear rounds. Both men had been to hell and back, both were swollen messes, both had taken serious punishment. To us it seemed like Tanaka had won a clear, but competitive fight, but the judges seemed to have it very close with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112, giving Tanaka the majority decision.
With the win Tanaka joins the growing list of Japanese 3 weight champions, having achieved that feat quicker than any other Japanese fighter in history. Also we believe he's become the youngest 2 weight champion in history. For Kimura the loss ends his Cinderella man run of results, though given this performance and his growing popularity in China and Japan we suspect we'll see him return to title level in the not so distant future.
We'd like to send a massive thank you to the people at CBC for helping us get an official feed and thanks to the two men in the ring for a FOTY contender. It's just a shame it wasn't shown live across Japan, and won't be aired in much of Japan until the middle of the week.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier this month fight fans in Japan got a minor upset, with Filipino Vic Saludar defeating Ryuya Yamanaka for the WBO Minimumweight title. Today Vic's brother Froilan Saludar (28-3-1, 19) attempted to double the family's haul of world titles as he travelled to China and faced off with WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) [木村翔], who was looking to secure his second defense of the belt.
The fight started excellently for Saludar as he boxed off the back foot, neutralising the pressure of Kimura and landing the cleaner, better and more accurate shots. To his credit Kimura took the shots well but it was clearly a round for the challenger. Saludar also seemed to shine in round 2 as he picked off Kimura's pressure, countered excellently and showed off the boxing skills that had seen earn so much hype early in his career.
The fight began to turn in round 3 when Kimura upped the pressure, moving through the gears and and trapping Saludar on the ropes, where he went to work big time. The Filipino had no answer with Kimura showing he had the ability to cut the ring off as and when he wished.
Saludar tried to return the favour in round 4, when he trapped Kimura, but was unable to get the champion's respect and the round finished with Kimura back on top. The pressure of Kimura was beginning to be cranked up and he was forcing Saludar to move move more, use his legs more and wear himself out. That was compounded by the clean body shots that Kimura was landing, with those shots taking the legs from the challenger in round 5. Without his movement Saludar was a sitting duck and was dropped with a shot to the mid-section in round 5 as he began to wear down under the now relentless pressure of Kimura.
The champion seemed confident that Saludar hadn't recovered as we began round 5 and he jumped on the challenger, unloading shots from the off. Saludar began to fight fire with fire and traded blows in what was a wild fire fight, but unfortunately for Saludar he was now running on fumes and a second knock down saw Saludar take the 10 count.
With two defenses now under his belt Kimura is now set to return to make a mandatory title defense against former WBO Minimumweight and Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka, in what is expected to be a thrilling all Japanese world title fight as we head towards the end of 2018.
Earlier this year Japan's Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) [木村翔] scored one of the upsets of the year, as he stopped Zou Shiming in China to claim the the WBO Flyweight title. It put Kimura on the boxing map, in China at least, but left him as a relative unknown champion in his own homeland. Today he had a chance to make a name for for himself as he took on countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-4-3 12) [五十嵐 俊幸] live on TBS as part of the huge Kyokugen show.
Sadly for Kimura the first round wasn't a hugely kind one for him, as he was made to look wild, open and reckless. Igarashi on the other hand looked fleet footed, accurate and smart, jabbing the fact of Kimura and landing the occasional southpaw left. The second round was slightly better for Kimura, as his pressure started to have some moments, for the most part it was Igarashi's skills that seemed more telling. The one highlight for Kimura in round two came at the end as he landed a very eye catching 2 punch combination.
From round 3 Kimura's pressure become more and more effective, taking more and more of a toll on Igarashi who seemed to begin falling apart in round 3 as the body shots from Kimura began to slowly take his legs away and the headshots started to land more regularly. The pressure continued to build in round 4 as Igarashi;s eyes began to show real signs of battle and both were looking swollen.
Amazingly Igarashi had one of his best rounds in round 5, as he moved well and made Kimura look wild. It was however just a brief respite for the challenger who wads dragged into a toe-to-toe war in round 6. The battle saw Kimura landing a much higher volume, whilst Igarashi looked to land single big shots. The two clashed heads towards the end of the round, with Igarashi suffering a cut over his right eye, as his face began to really fall apart. The following round things went from bad to worse for Igarashi who who took real damage through the round, despite being able to cut the champion with a punch near the right eye.
Kimura's pressure finally rocked Igarashi in round 8, with a right hand landing flush on the challengers' jaw. It seemed to really impact him and Kimura looked to secure the finish there and then as Igarashi went into survival mode. Amazingly the challenger saw out the round, and came out storming for round 9, but it was one final throw of the dice before his energy reserves ran out and Kimura forced him into the corner where he unloaded, eventually forcing the referee to jump in and stop the action.
The stoppage loss for Igarashi is the first time he has been stopped, and likely marks the end of his career as a world class fighter. As for Kimura this is a second huge win for him this year and his wish of becoming better known at home and getting a bigger place to live seems to be a genuine reality now in what is one of the feel good boxing stories of 2017.
Upsets regularly happen in this sport, but rarely do they shake a full continent. That however happened today when the WBO Flyweight world title was ripped from the hands of Chinese star Zou Shiming (9-2, 2) [邹市明] by little known Japanese fighter Sho Kimura (15-1-2, 8) [木村翔], who refused to read the script and upset a man priced as a 1/40 favourite!
Kimura rarely looked like a man taking a leap up in class as he pressured Shiming from the opening round, forcing the Chinese fighter to fight at a pace he never seemed comfortable with. That was despite Shiming using his boxing skills well, and avoiding a lot of the heavy leather Kimura threw his way.
As the bout progressed Kimura began to have growing success, landing notably to the body, and despite taking some solid counters he never seemed to be discouraged by what Shiming threw his way, including some really eye catching shots. Instead it seemed as if the Chinese fighter was beginning to question himself, moving more than fighting and needing to do so whilst Kimura continued to press.
That pressure came at a cost to Kimura, who was cut over the right eye from a head clash, but the blood seemed to drive the challenger on, further leaving Shiming in trouble.
Shiming's footwork began to falter in the later rounds, twice slipping in his own corner, and it seemed clear he was tiring from the incessant and often wasteful movement. As a result Kimura was getting more and more chances and he made the most of them in round 11 letting his hands go on a tiring Shiming who fell to the canvas as Kimura unloaded. The Chinese fighter, showing clear signs of exhaustion, got back to his feet but the referee knew he was unfit to continue waving off the bout and saving the Chinese hero from extra punishment.
With the loss Shiming likely looks at retirement, and will be kicking himself for having this fight after an overly long training camp that likely left him less than 100%. At 36 he's old, very old for a Flyweight, and it's hard to see him mounting any sort of a comeback. For Kimura however it's a career defining win, and one that will live on long with the Japanese fans, who will perhaps see this as a huge win over a major geopolitical rival.
Amazingly with the win Kimura becomes only the 9th Japanese fighter* to win a world title title outside of Japan, the first since Tomoki Kameda back in 2013, the first to do so on Chinese soil and helps secure Japan's graps on the Flyweight division, becoming their third reigning champion at the weight alongside WBA champion Kazuto Ioka and WBC kingpin Daigo Higa. Also, impressively, Japan now has 12 Japanese born world champions, and 13 world champions if we include Teiken promoted Jorge Linares, showing just how much of a high Japanese boxing is on right now!
*Koki Eto's WBA "interim" Flyweight title isn't included in this stat
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
For only the second time ever a Chinese man holds a recognised world title, as earlier tonight former amateur star Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) [邹市明] defeated Thailand's Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (39-2-2, 24) [ขวัญพิชิต 13เหรียญเอ็กซ์เพลส] and claimed the previously vacant WBO Flyweight title, marking his “successful” transition from amateur great to professional world champion.
The two men were fighting for the second time, having first fought back in 2014 when Shiming easily beat Kwanpichit, and like their first bout it was clear they were in totally different leagues. In fact it wasn't so much a case of whether Shiming would win again, but rather whether he was capable of stopping the Thai.
From the opening stages it seemed clear that Shiming had improved since their first bout, sitting on his shots more and showing a more polished and professional style than he had in their first bout. The style left him more open to counters, and Kwanpichit did have the occasional bit of success, but those moments were few and far between with the Thai being tagged at will. In the second round the success of Shiming worked to great effect with a right hand dropping the Thai.
Shiming continued to dominate through the middle rounds of the fight, though at times reverted to the Shiming we all know, and many hate, with a huge amount of unnecessary movement and little final product. There were some great combinations from Shiming, but they were too few and too far, whether everyone just wishing Shiming would stay in the pocket and really look for the finish.
By the end of round 9 even Kwanpichit was looking like he wanted the bout to end, throwing Shiming down at the end of the round, likely a trick taught to him by countryman Amnat Ruenroeng who he had been training with prior to the bout. The following round Kwanpichit looked little more than a human punch bag, but one that Shiming showed too much apprehension in tagging, despite Kwanpichit stumbling around like an exhausted fighter.
Despite being clearly tired Kwanpichit was able to hear the final bell as Shiming, once again, refused to allow himself to shine. Happy to win the rounds with his feet rather than to make an impression on fans. It was a disappointing and tame ending to a hugely frustrating performance, that saw Shiming score a shut out.
For Chinese boxing the result really is great, and it gives the country a second champion after a string of failures in recent bouts, by Shiming, Ik Yang, Qiu Xiao Jun, Xiong Zhao Zhong and Yi Ming Ma. Sadly though Shiming's reign likely won't last long and it wouldn't be a shock to see him make just a single defense before coming unstuck against a B rate challenger.
For Thai boxing the bout was an insult with no one referring to Kwanpichit by his fighting name and the performance was dire. Kwanpichit never looked like he had any chance and the fact he made it to the final bell said more about Shiming's inability to actually force a stoppage.
Thankfully with the division having plenty of hungry sharks in it we're unlikely to see Shiming's reign last long, with fighters like Daigo Higa, Muhammad Waseem, Iwan Zoda and Donnie Nietes all chasing world title fights in 2017. As for Kwanpichit it's time to look for pastures new, or be used as a stepping stone for a rising youngster who actually has some potential to go places in the near future
The Flyweight division is easily the most competitive in boxing right now. Whilst the American fans are fawning over the Welterweight division they are being by passed by the action, fighters, fighters and match ups at 112lbs which is a real shame.
One of three stand out Flyweights was in action this past weekend and that was Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 19) the reigning WBO and WBA "super" champion at 112lbs. Estrada, who alongside Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez, has shown a willingness to fight anyone anywhere.
This time Estrada was returning home, to Puerto Penasco, after back to back fights in Macau. It was his first fight home since 2012 and he put on a show as the over-matched Filipino challenger Richie Mepranum (27-4-1, 6) fell short in his second world title bout.
Mepanum, who went in to the bout with plenty of confidence, knew he was in with a very good opponent. By the end of the second round Mepranum was beginning to to learn just how good Estrada was. The champion, almost immediately, found a home for his body shots and let rip with them landing some vicious ones throughout round 2. It seemed like it was the sort of attack that could finish an attack at any time and it seemed that even Estrada knew the crowd didn't want a finish that early.
If the second round had been painful for Mepranum then round 3 was just embarrassing as the champion offered his chin and cruised through the first 2 minutes before launching a scathing burst of offensive work that stole him the round. It was obvious that Estrada was too strong, too skilled, too tough and just too damned good for the Filipino challenger.
The challengers best moments of success came in round 4 as he managed to get Estrada on the ropes and went to work. Unfortunately for Mepranum his lack of power saw him struggling to to really hurt the champion. With both men finding their groove going into round 5 it appeared that we may have a fight and both started to exchange shots as the crowd began to raise their noise level. A slip from Estrada almost saw the champion going down but he quickly recovered before going back to work and dominating the remainder of the round. Although Mepranum smiled at the bell and raised his arms he was convincing no one, he was getting beat up by the end of the round.
In round 6 it was clear the body shots were taking their toll on the challenger and the two men spent long swathes of the round stood toe-to-toe in a battle of machismo. Unfortunately for Mepranum he was was on the receiving end of much of the punishment and although he was able to see out the round it was obvious that he was being ground down by the lovely offensive work of the champion. It seemed that every time Mepranum landed something he got paid back with interest and through out rounds 7 and 8 that really was taking it's toll on the challenger.
The toll continued through round 9 and it was clear that Mepranum was starting to get beaten up a little bit. He wasn't being destroyed but he had no way to win. He was 9 rounds down, he was getting tagged a lot, couldn't make Estrada back up or respect him and in the end he knew he was just going to take extra punishment for no gain. Instead he took the smart decision and retired on his stool before congratulating the very talented champion who just too much of everything for him.
For Mepranum this is a second failure in a world title bout whilst for Estrada this was a second successful defence with both coming against Filipino's. It's fair to say that Estrada will be keeping an eye on the upcoming IBF title fight between Amant Ruenroeng and Kazuto Ioka and will also be showing an interest in the winner of the up coming contest between Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez, tentatively rumoured for September.
(Photo courtesy of Rafael Soto Zanfer)
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Filipino challenger Milan Melindo (29-1, 12) took on the best Flyweight on the planet in Juan Francisco Estrada (25-2, 18), the WBA "super" and WBO champion, and whilst he came up short he proved that he belonged on the world level.
The Mexican champion, who incidentally won his world title in the same venue back in April by defeating Brian Viloria, went in as a clear betting favourite. Despite this Melindo seemed unfazed by the under-dog tag and after a quiet couple of rounds he started to come to life.
Using his excellent handspeed and crisp straight shots Melindo began to force Estrada back and even appeared to rock the champion as he began to his feet in the bout. It appeared, from round 3 onward that the challenger was up to the task and through the middle section of the fight he really showed why so many in the Philippines rave about him as he rattled off wonderful combinations on Estrada.
Although much of the bout was a high speed chess match it was clear that Melindo had both the speed and the boxing brain to hold his own with Estrada who at times actually seemed to run from the challenger. It was also surprising that Melindo appeared to have the power to hurt Estrada, something that Brian Viloria and Roman Gonzalez both struggled to do.
Unfortunately for the challenger he was often being tagged in the body by hard single shots from the champion who is one of the sports truly under-rated body punchers. These shots appeared to be taking their toll in the latter rounds with Melindo's offense becoming less and less notable from 9 onwards as Estrada began to bully a tiring challenger.
With Estrada coming on strong Melindo was going to have to fight off a determined champion and whilst he was holding his own in the trenches in round 10 he was clearly running out of gas.
As Melindo's work rate decreased and Estrada continued the charge Melindo was forced to take the power of Estrada who dropped him in round 11 as he started to turn the screw on the challenger. Melindo was again rocked in round 12 as Estrada tried to force an early conclusion though the Filipino showed his fighting spirit and saw out the final round.
Although the Filipino had fought his heart out and many felt he had pushed the champion all the way the judges seemed unimpressed by Melindo and had Estrada as a run away winner, claiming a lopsided decision as a result.
The scorecards may make fans, and Melindo himself, feel he was thoroughly outgunned though in all honesty most neutrals who watched the fight will know that he gave Estrada as tough a contest as Viloria did just a few short months ago.
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.