The first world title fight on Japanese soil in 2019 took place earlier today at the Korakuen Hall as the WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) faced off against Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆]. As expected the fight was a hotly contested and fierce one, with both men landing big shots through out, despite being well contested, it ended in a rather clear win for Saludar who seemed to have that extra experience and know how.
Reports from ringside stated that both men looked to land their back hand early on, with Saludar looking to land right hands and Taniguchi looking for left hands. It was Saludar who seemed to get better of those early exchanges before he managed to create distance began to fight well at mid-range, something that Taniguchi couldn't match him at. Fighting at range and grabbing the bout by the neck was smart, given the huge reach advantage that Saludar had.
Taniguchi began to cut the distance in round 5 and had notable success in the middle rounds, clearly taking round 7 and seemingly doing enough to take round 8 as well.
Whilst Taniguchi had been turning the momentum in his favour his sustained success were short lived and it wasn't long until Saludar would take control again, taking the final rounds as his more proven stamina, and ring craft proving to be the difference.
By the end of the bout that no real doubt over who had won, with Japanese fans ringside all suggesting their man hadn't done enough, and that proved to be the case with the judges scoring the bout to Saludar with scores of 118-110, 117-111, twice.
The win sees Saludar scoring his first defense, and building on his great win from last year over Ryuya Yamanaka. For Taniguchi however this is a third loss, a third decision loss, and he really will need to work incredibly hard to earn another world title fight following this defeat.
Back in 2015 fight fans saw Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) put himself on the boxing map as he droped the then WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, before being stopped himself whilst up on the card in Japan. Today Saludar return to the Land of the Rising Sun and took on Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3, 5) [山中 竜也] for the same title that he had pushed Tanaka so hard for. This time however things were different and it was Saludar taking home the gold after a career defining win over the Japanese slickster.
The fight started quickly from Yamanaka, who looked to make an immediate impact and catch the eyes of the judge's in the opening few moments, After doing that however the bout then slowed to a near standstill for the final minute of the opening round as both fighters stood off each other and looked for opening, but found none. The bout did then move up a level as Yamanaka showed his speed and skills as he countered the challenger and looked like the world champion had schooled Moises Calleros earlier this year. The confidence of the champion grew in round 2 as he engaged in a war on the inside, a war that he seemed to win with body shots and volume. It seemed like a smart game plan from Yamanaka, to get inside and work away on Saludar, who couldn't get the leverage his power needed up close.
Saludar seemed to realise that the inside battle wasn't going to be the best for him and in round 4 started to back off and disengage, forcing Yamanaka to work harder to get inside, and eat some counters on the way in. It was a tactic that worked even better for Saludar in round 5, as he landed some very solid body shots and left Yamanaka looking second best through the full round. It wasn't until round 6 that Yamanaka would manage to get inside again, and the two men spent the final 90 seconds of the round trading blows in round of the fight. It again showed that Yamanaka was the better man up close, with Saludar lacking the power to get Yamanaka's respect.
Unfortunately for Yamanaka he wasn't able to cut the distance particularly well as and when he wanted to, and that showed in round 7 when he was caught by a full blooded Saludar right hand, that send him down. The Japanese fighter recovered to his feet but was still clearly hurt when he got up. Saludar could smell blood and went hunt, chasing Yamanaka, and would twice wrestle him to canvas as Yamanaka survied the round. Although the defending champion had surrived there was still danger and he didn't look like he had recovered as we headed into round 8. The round saw Yamanaka avoid a fight as much as he could. Saludar brought the pressure through the round but could never land a huge shot to see off Yamanaka, who managed to clear his head through the round.
The 9th round saw a recovered Yamanaka try to box with Saludar. It was a tactic that worked at times, with Yamanaka landing several solid right hands, but it left him open to Saludar's power and the challenger landed a very notable right hand, that had it connected the previous round would likely have spelled game over for Yamanaka. It was clear that Yamanaka was behind and in roudn 10 he did what had worked so well for him earlier in the fight, he got inside and worked the body. It was an effective tactic and at one point it did seem like Saludar's legs wobbled. Round 11 followed a similar pattern to the 10th, with Yamanaka getting in close an working, but it ended with Saludar creating some distance late an landing some of the better shots of the round.
Saludar seemed to feel like he was in a comfortable lead and boxed very smartly in round 12. He let Yamanake come to him, whilst he jabbed and moved, landing clean head shots on Yamanaka, who's face ended up half caked in his own blood. It was a brilliant round from Saludar who took next to no risks and took the round through pure skill and ring craft.
Going to the scorecards we felt Saludar had done enough, as did the fighter himself, and the judges agreed, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112 all in favour of the new champion Vic Saludar.
For the Saludar family this is a great boost and comes just weeks before Vic's brother Froilan Saludar battles Sho Kimura for the WBO Flyweight title. Sadly for Yamanaka it spells the end of his reign after just a single successful defense.
Last year Japanese boxing had some genuinely great stories, such as that of Sho Kimura, who came out of nowhere to claim the WBO Flyweight title by stopping Zou Shiming. Another was 22 year old Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5), who claimed the WBO Minimunweight title with a very hard fought win over Tatsuya Fukuhara to put his name on the map.
Although he won the title last year Yamanaka was still somewhat of an unknown, and lacked the wider attention that many other Japanese world champions were getting. Today however he made a statement, and opened the eyes of many as he dominated the very solid Moises Calleros (28-8-1, 16), and forced the Mexican to retire after round 8.
Yamanaka looked sharp as a tack from the opening round. He was quick, smart and beating Calleros to the punch. Not only was he landing his own shots regularly but he wasn't taking much return fire, with Calleros looking slow, clumsy and awkward.
The success of Yamanaka continued from round 1, to round 2 and then grow round after round. He not only showed he could box and move, as he began to show incredible variation in his work. Standing his ground and countering, slipping shots just outside the pocket, and pressing Calleros who seemed to begin questioning himself very early on.
By round 4 it looked like Yamanaka's only problem's could be that he might slow down, or that he could be caught by a single bit shot. But he looked so relaxed, so calm and so confident that neither of those things looked likely. Instead he seemed to to just build on what he was doing, landing some more telling right hands up top, nasty uppercuts and hurtful body blows. There no answer from Calleros who was looking a like a fighter who simply hadn't got a game plan for Yamanaka or his movement.
Going into round 8 the bout looked a foregone conclusion, but given Calleros' toughness and Yamanaka's relative lack of power it looked like we'd be going the distance. Surprisingly however Yamanaka hurt Calleros, and then went on the hunt, picking the challenger apart with accurate and hard shots. Calleros looked like a spent fighter, out of ideas and out of energy and both fighters knew it. Yamanaka went for the finish but couldn't find it in the ring. It wasn't to matter however as Calleros retired in his corner following the round.
With the win Yamanaka legitimised his reign almost instantly, and whilst he is the newest of the world champions at 105lbs he looks to be the most pure boxer at the top of the division and could be the divisional dark horse given how sensational he looked here.
Earlier todaty fight fans in Kumamoto saw a WBO Minimumweight title fight, though sadly for the fans their local hero Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] was unable to retain the title, as he was out pointed by fellow Japanese fighter Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4) [山中 竜也] in an incredibly competitive bout.
Straight away there was little to separate the two men, with Fukuhara being the more aggressive, and Yamanaka being the better mover, using his legs well to create some space and work at range. Round after round the action was nip and tuck, with neither fighter being able to clearly get contol of the action.
Although the scores weren't publically announced the score cards were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39 after 4 rounds, showing just how hard it was to split the men, and just how close the bout was in the early stages.
During the middle rounds Yamanaka managed to do enough to take the lead on two of the cards, drawing mistakes from Fukuhara and catching the judges eye with his work, to take a 77-75 lead one two cards, whilst the other had the bout 76-76.
Although it was still a close contest it did just feel like Yamanaka had that little bit extra into the final rounds, and that showed on two of the cards, as he swept rounds 9, 10 and 11, establishing a the lead on all 3 rounds going into the final round. A lead that he refused to give up.
At the final bell it was as if both men felt they could have done enough, but all 3 judges sided with the challenger, scoring the bout 116-112, and 115-113, twice, for Yamanaka.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Jut over 3 years ago Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-4-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] was being beaten by a debuting Takuma Inoue, today however he find himself the new WBO “interim” Minimumweight champion, following a split decision win over Mexican warrior Mexican Moises Calleros (25-7-1, 14). He also finds himself a local hero in Kumamoto and perhaps the most improved boxer of the last few year.
Today he got his big chance, battling against the aggressive and exciting Calleros, and he took that chance showing his skills, toughness and desire to over-come the Mexican.
From the opening moments it was clear that these two were brilliantly well matched with Fukuhara trying to box and move, whilst Calleros came in looking for a fight. The styles clicked immediately action was captivating for the fans in the arena. It was a truly great back an forth, and one where the judges were deciding whether it was the rounded boxing, and the skills on the back foot from Fukuhara or the aggression and pressure of the Mexican.
Through the first 6 rounds there was very little to pick between the two men, though it did seem that, in round 7, Fukuhara got a break though. The Japanese fighter suffered a cut from a headclash but fired back and landed a nasty southpaw left hand to the body that seemed to slow down the Mexican who was again forced to take a solid body attack in round 9 with Fukuhara seemingly finding a new tool in his arsenal.
That body attack became the key to Fukuhara's gameplan in the later rounds as he managed to low Calleros down and back him up, whilst showing his incredible will to win and doing enough to take the narrow decision, with scores of 116-112 and 116-112 which over-ruled a score of 115-113 in favour of Calleros
With the win Fukuhara became the first boxer from a Kumamoto gym to win a world title, even if it is “just” and interim title, and also secured himself a potentially lucrative bout with Katsuunari Takayama later in the year, with the two men set to fight in the next 180 days. Sadly the bout wasn't aired on major TV in Japan, nor was it featured on an online service such as Boxingraise or Asign,but hopefully Fukuhara will earn his chance to impress a wider audience next time out. As for Calleros the loss will be a hard one, but he's certainly a man who can come again with his exciting and committed aggression, which will also go down well with fans.
(Image courtesy of https://boxmob.jp)
1Boxing, at it's best, is an incredible sport, a sport that has drama, excitement and a human tale. Sadly at it's worst it's a mess that is decided by something that feels unsatisfactory. Be that a poor decision from judges that appear to have not been watching the action or by an injury caused by an unintentional incident in the ring.
Sadly today we had one of those unintentional incidents curtailing what had looked like a brilliant WBO Minimumweight title bout between teenager Riku Kano (10-2-1, 5) and war torn veteran Katusnari Takayamo (31-8-0-1, 12). Not only did the incident curtail the bout but it left a disappointing taste in the mouth of all involved, including the winner, who was distraught at the conclusion of the action.
The bout started well with an intriguing first round that began as a feeling out round but heated up well with both men managing to get into their groove in the late stages. When the fighters were in full swing Kano was finding a home for his eye catching left hand whilst Takayama was looking to turn the fight into a brawl, knowing that the style would favour him and his style.
Having warmed up Takayama began to run through the gears in round 2 as he put Kano under pressure. The youngster coped well, landing a number of eye catching counters, but was certainly under pressure with Takayama ending the round well with his movement and aggression befotre throwing his hands up to the crowd to celebrate.
Sadly that previously mentioned injury occurred early in round 3 when a clash of heads left Takayama with a nasty cut over the left eye. The eye, which had been cut several times during the course of Takayama's long and thrilling career, didn't look like it was an immediately bad cute but it was in some well known scar tissue of Takayama's and was a clear target for Kano's straight.
The cut forced a sense of urgency in Takayama who went all out to try and defeat Kano, speeding up the pressure and forcing Kano on to the back foot. The counters were still coming from the youngster but they were fewer than they had been earlier in the fight whilst Takayama was clearly upping the ante. Kano tried to do what he could to slow Takayama, both fighting back and holding, but the veteran wasn't to be denied the round making sure to end it really well.
Takayama's high pressure and output continued in to round 4 as the veteran looked to take a march on the score-cards. The cut, didn't seem like it would be immediately fight ending but it was certainly getting worse and with Takayama's style it seemed like a ticking time bomb, especially given that the bout would need 4 completed rounds to get a result. Despite the cut Takayama was now bullying Kano around the ring and landed a brilliant right hand near the bell putting the youngster fully on the back foot and into the defensive.
Takayama's relentless assault continued to begin round 5 before he got on his toes and showed a spring in his step, almost taunting the youngster. That dancing however didn't last long as a left hand from Kano got through. The left hand should have been a moment of notable success for Kano however Takayama took the shot and quickly cornered Takayama unloading a ferocious assault. Kano saw out the attack and thwarted Takayama's offensive foray. Takayama's offensive foray was followed by another and it was obvious that the veteran was piling up the rounds with his work rate.
Round 6 started much like the others, with Takayama on the front foot. Kano however seemed to have his successes in the opening 30 seconds with Takayama walking on to shots as Kano used clever movement to open up some space. That space was quickly taken away from the youngster with Takayama putting his foot on to the gas. Sadly however the time-bomb on Takayama's face was going off and blood oozed down his face forcing the referee to take him over to the doctor who took a few moments before ending the bout.
With the bout over Takayama was in tears, looking like a man who had lost everything. He seemed to feel that he had been stopped due to the cut, almost as if he didn't realise the stoppage was caused by a clash of heads and not a punch. The tears, which contained a lot of blood, showed what the bout had meant to him and it looked almost like he was ready to walk away from the sport. Although Takayama was confused on the ending the referee wasn't, telling the judges to “score the round”, making it clear that the fight ending cut was from the clash of heads in round 3.
After a few moments wait we finally saw the cards being read with Takayama's arm being raised, giving him the beginning of another title reign, his 5 if you include his reign as the WBC “interim” champion. For Kano however it was heart break, his plan of taking the old man down late had been destroyed by the cut and the way it had inspired the warrior spirit in the veteran.
The loss sees Kano missing out on the Japanese record of the youngest world champion, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him coming again, potentially in a rematch later this year. His goal of breaking the 29 year record of Hiroki Ioka may have failed but this isn't the last we'll see of the Taisei fighter who still has a long and successful future ahead.
For those interested in the particular,s the cards read 59-59, 59-56 and 58-56 all to Takayama.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
As we all know 2015 is coming to an end, however to end the year boxing fans get 5 world title fights in Japan. The first of those happened earlier today in Aichi where fans saw a WBO Minimumweight thriller between Kosei Tanaka (6-0, 3) and Vic Saludar (11-2, 9).
The fight started fast with Tanaka looking the more polished, faster and intelligent fighter, however Saludar took the shots well, mostly on the guard, and looked like the sort of strong and tough fighter who was going to take a lot to stop. He also looked very dangerous every time he let his hands go, though did struggle to land much of note. It was a round where Tanaka's movement and speed were his key weapons.
The challenger may not have shined in round 1, but he did in round 2 as he gave Tanaka absolute hell. Tanaka gave away his advantages in footspeed and decided to trade on the inside which was a foolish game plan giving Saludar a chance to use his strength and power up close and prove that he wasn't there to just make up the numbers, he was instead there to become a world champion. The success of the challenger continued in round 3 where he finished the stronger man and left Tanaka with a bloodied nose and left fans wondering why Tanaka was continuing to to brawl with a brawler.
The in fighting continued in round 4, a pretty even and exciting round, and again in round 5, a round in which Saludar's power finally told as he dropped Tanaka with an very solid right hand. It was the first knockdown of Tanaka's career and came from as much from his wrecklessness as it did from Saludar's power, as he left himself wide open. Whilst Tanaka was to blame for the knockdown he was up quickly, at the count of 5, and showed his survival skills to see out the round.
By the following round it seemed like Tanaka had recovered his senses, but not his pure boxing, and instead of boxing and moving he continued to apply the pressure and force a fight on the inside. Although, still, fighting the wrong type of fight he did quickly find a home for his left hand into the body of Saludar. The Filipino continued to fight back, but was, eventually, caught by a peach that dropped the Filipino for the count.
It's fair to say that Saludar was over-looked by Tanaka, who was seemingly looking beyond him, towards a move to Light Flyweight. It was however a mistake to do so and it almost cost him, whilst also showing up the champion as a fighter who still has real maturing to do. He needs to get back to what he's good at, which is out boxing, being speedy and not brawling. In fairness to Saludar however, there is a good chance he will have a title reign in the future.
(Image courtesy of Nikkan Sports)
Kosei Tanaka showcases his ability, and his flaws, as he defeats Julian Yedras for WBO belt and Japanese record!
In late 2013 we began raving about a Japanese youngster who was preparing to make his professional debut. At the time he was just 17 or 18 and was just getting his B class license. That was Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2), now just 5 fights later the youngster is the WBO Minimumweight champion, and the new Japanese record holder for the fewest fights to win a world title.
Earlier today Tanaka took the title with a dominant win over Mexican Julian Yedras (24-2, 13) in a performance that could be described as “comfortable but flawed”.
The early going was perfection from Tanaka who claimed the first couple of rounds with amazing boxing. It was the sort of boxing that every fan wishes to see. It saw Tanaka using his movement to open up opportunities for his lightening quick hands, making Yedras look incredibly slow and showing signs of not just being a special talent but a future pound-for-pound level boxer. There really was every thing you could ask for, world class foot work, frightening combinations and sharpness on every punch. It was near flawless for the first 6 minutes.
In the third round things began to change, significantly, as Yedras found a way to cut the distance with his pressure. In theory the close Yedras could get the more the bout favoured him, in reality however Tanaka showed he could more than hold his own on the inside or in a brawl. Yedras was beginning to have success but was forced to take some solid shots in return as Tanaka showed he was capable of beating Yedras up close.
The success for Tanaka appeared to go to his head slightly and it saw rounds 4, 5 and 6 become more and more tricky as Yedras seemed to build on his success round after round. Tanaka's lovely movement was becoming less visible and instead he seemed to hunt the knockout and allow himself to take some silly shots that really weren't necessary. That was particularly clear in round 6 as Tanaka seemed to take a lot of flush shots in the final minute of what was Yedras's first “clear” round, though could well have been his third on the spin if you'd felt like being generous, as one judge seemed to but more about that later.
Having clearly realised he was making this harder for himself Tanaka got back to his boxing in round 7 and seemed to thoroughly dominate the round with his speed, power, shot selection and accuracy which were all sensational. It was a round that ended in brawling though had seen Tanaka showcase everything about himself as a fighter and even seemed to show him hurt Yedras at one point. It was a round that seemed to show Tanaka had plenty in the tank but wasn't willing to show his hand all the time.
Sadly the seventh round was followed by another disappointing round from the youngster who seemed to take more than he needed. It was a close round, and could easily have gone Yedras's way, though it seemed like Tanaka was fighting in neutral as opposed to letting his hands go as he had the previous round. It was also another round that Yedras got inside and had success, particularly to the body.
Having looked slightly tired in round 8 there could have been questions about the youngster's energy reserves but then, in round 9, he came alive and had a thoroughly dominant round. We saw a return to the hurtful but lightning quick flurries, the smart movement, the breath taking accuracy and the skills that will take the young man very far. It was one of the clearest rounds of the fight and was a round that seemed to show Tanaka had a lot in reserve. The same skills were again on show in round 10 as Tanaka continued to show case the skills that had excited the hardcore Japanese fans prior to his debut.
The big question, for many, was how Tanaka would handle the championship rounds. Prior to this bout he had never been beyond 10 rounds. It then seemed very clearly he could handle the distance with ease as he toyed with Yedras in the eleventh. The Mexican looked like an amateur as he missed time and time again whilst being picked off at range and tagged up close. It was showcase stuff from the youngster who looked like an experienced, championship level fighter.
Going in to the final round it was clear that Yedras would need a knockout, even the most generous of judges had to have had him behind by a sizeable margin. Unfortunately for the Mexican he never came close to landing anything to turn the fight around. That was despite Tanaka show boating right in front of him, trying to draw a lead which was eventually punished by another amazing combination. The final round was full of magical moments from Tanaka which also included him turning the Mexican on the ropes whilst making it look effortless.
After the final bell we had it 118-110 to Tanaka, having given Yedras rounds 6 and 8. The closest we could possible see it was 116-112, having given Yedras rounds rounds 4 and 5, though that was being generous. Two of the judges had it in the middle of that window with scores of 117-111. Those cards really couldn't be argued with. The third judge however managed to score the bout a very confusing 115-113 to Tanaka, some how finding another pity round for the Mexican.
The close card, turned in by Puerto Rican Luis Ruiz, was far too close. We know he's not got much experience at this level but with a performance like that we can see why.
Despite the poor card of Mr Ruiz he couldn't take away from the performance of Tanaka which was, at times, amazing. The youngster is now likely to fight in a much bigger bout, possibly against IBF champion Katsunari Takayama who was ringside for television channel CBC, and whilst he showed some flaws here we suspect they came out of contempt as much as anything else. It was clear early on that Yedras couldn't hurt Tanaka and the Japanese fighter didn't seem to mind taking a few shots. The only major flaw was that the youngster got a bit too reckless when he thought he had Yedras hurt, but for a young man competing in just his 5th professional bout there's no real shame in being a little bit excitable.
It's clear than Tanaka doesn't have the KO power of fellow Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue, who's record Tanaka broke with this win, but he has everything else a fighter could want and at just 19 years old the world really is his proverbial oyster. Unification and multi-weight titles are certainly in his future.
For the second day running we saw a small slice of history being created. Yesterday we saw Naoya Inoue becoming the quickest man to become a 2-weight world champion, setting a world record in his 8th fight when he stopped Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds. Today the history was merely a bit of national history for Japanese fighters as Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) became the first ever Japanese fighter to win a version of all 4 major world titles.
Takayama did that earlier today by stopping light hitting compatriot Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) in the 7th round of their meeting and claimed the IBF Minimumweight title, for a second time, as well as the elusive WBO Minimumweight crown, the one title he had never had in his illustrious career.
On paper the bout promised excitement. Both men are volume punchers usually, both like to let their hands go and both are as reliant on their speed and movement as any other tool in their arsenal. As well as that there had been only a single stoppage defeat between the two men, and that was a more than 11 years ago when an immature Takayama was caught in the 9th round against Masato Hatakeyama in what was Takayama's first title bout. It seemed to go 12 on paper, but of course fights aren't fought on paper and when history is there for the taking sometimes a fighter can find something else in themselves.
The fight started well with both managing to find their range and timing, neither showed great fear of the other's power but neither felt like taking too many risks. It was busy without being brutal, fast without being rushed and in fact Odaira managed to more than hold his own early on with round 4 being a particularly good one for the relatively unknown fighter. Unfortunately as we hit the middle of the bout things began to change and Takayama's shots began to take their toll with Odaira being forced to take body shots, the like of which he had never tasted.
The body shots began to slow Odaira in round 5 and, as we all know, when a fighter is feeling the effects of body shots they can slow quickly and in round 6 it all seemed to unravel for Odaira who suddenly looked like a tiring man, despite still managing to do enough to fight back. Unfortunately for the Hanagata promoted fighter this was the beginning of the end and in round 7 Takayama got his chance and took it, with the finish coming in the a typical Takayama fashion with the “Lightning Kid” unloading shot after shot after shot in a furious bombardment of leather. The shots themselves had a lack of pop but the sheer volume of them was insane and Odaira's exhaustion was showing as the referee was forced to save Odaira who was being swallowed whole by a whirlwind of punches.
Whilst the win for Takayama was historic it also sees him achieving one of his two public aims. It seems him claiming all 4 titles in a career grandslam, the other aim he has spoken about is to become a multi-weight world champion and a move to 108lbs seems likely. Hopefully however he will look to defend his unified crown, possibly against talented teenage sensation Kosei Tanaka who is himself chasing Japanese boxing history as he chases the quickest rise to a world title.
After non-stop complaints by boxing fans who had tuned in to see the predictably mismatched action on Showtime we then got the hardcore fans who moved on to the action from Mexico which always looked like the best part of the weekend. That was because we had two of the best Minimumweights on the planet trading leather to become a unified champion, a champion of champions.
The fight pitted Japan's Katsunari Takayama, the IBF champion, against Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez Jr, the WBO champion. We knew it was going to be good, in fact we knew it was going to be great. And if we're being honest the fight exceeded even our high expectations in many ways, though one thing did leave us with a sour taste, more about that later however.
Going in the bout was going to be decided on two things. Did Takayama have the speed and stamina to out work, out move and out land Rodriguez? And did Rodriguez have the power and strength to hurt Takayama? At the end we ended up having both questions landed in the affirmative leading to a thoroughly compelling and action packed fights that, if compubox was in use, could have set punch number records.
In the opening round it was clearly Takayama's speed and movement that decided who won it. Rodriguez looked slow and sloppy though very strong as the pro-Mexican crowd chanted "Chihuas", the Mexican's nickname. In the second round however things became more competitive with Takayama starting the round very well before being rocked in the final 30 seconds or so. Takayama was already being warned for holding, despite the holding being kept to a real minimum, and was already being forced to stand his ground and trade. Although we gave Takayama round 2 we could understand others scoring it to Rodriguez, it was one of those plain old "swing rounds".
Unfortunately for Takayama round 3 wasn't a swing round as the Japanese fighter was dropped. He was up as quickly as he was down but the round was still going to be a 10-8, though he did make a good effort of trying to erase the knock down, in fact if he was at home the chances are he may have managed to have won the round making it a 10-9. Away from home however that never really happens.
Although rounds 1 and 3 were clear cut not many of the others were and rounds 4 and 5 were both swing rounds impossible to call for certain either way. Takayama tried to win them on work rate alone, unloading flurries to the body up close ad measuring with a jab as he picked his raids carefully whilst Rodriguez tried to claim them with the heavy handed assault that he's going to make his trademark over the decade. Both rounds really were rounds that you could argue for either man with great give and take.
Going into round 6 the scorecards really could have said anything. They could have been 48-47 to Takayama or 49-46 to Rodriguez depending on your reading of the fight. In fact it could well have been 49-48 if you'd have scored the 3 close rounds in the most fair manner you could, giving them each as 10-10 rounds, and we know it's rare but they really were impossible to split.
In round 6 we saw Rodriguez charge at Takayama in the early stages as he moved through the gears for the first minute of the round. Amazingly however for the final 2 minutes Takayama backed up the Mexican in what looked to have become a clear round for the Japanese fighter and a major turning point with Rodriguez then looking very tired. The exhausted look on Rodriguez continued in round 7 as Takayama appeared to easily bag another round and appeared to be on his way to unifying the titles. Rodriguez looked all in as if his assault to begin round 6 was him cashing in his chips.
Amazingly the Mexican suddenly looked refreshed in round 8 as he hurt Takayama at several points. Takayama was looking ready to go as the fight swung, yet again. By the end of the eighth it seemed almost certain that Takayama was on his way to being stopped and his usually bouncing toes were now flat feet, his work rate has dissipated and he appeared to be kept in the fight on heart alone.
The heart of Takayama seemed to kick in again in round 9 as he was forced to stand and trade almost from the off as Rodriguez came out in search of a stoppage. Luckily for Takayama he was able to recoup his legs a little bit as Rodriguez continually threw some wild shots that missed by a mile, though when he connected Rodriguez really did look to hurt the Japanese fighter who stood his ground for the last 40 seconds as the two men went toe-to-toe. They started round 10 as they ended round 9, stood in front of each other unloading shots, showing reckless abandon in he search of that punch that would drop their foe and help them to victory. At the end of the round both men seemed to be looking for hail Mary's.
Going in to the championship rounds it seemed like the fight had swung just enough in the favour of Rodriguez that the titles were going to stay in Mexico. Suddenly however at the start of round 11 drama, and a little bit of controversy, struck as Rodriguez went down in his corner. Was it a knockdown or a slip? It was ruled a slip though on replay it was a hard one to call and had it been ruled a knockdown it would have neutralised the one scored by the Mexican in round 3. By the end of the 11h the knockdown/slip question was all but forgotten as the men stood trading and flailing punches at each other. It was insane as both men just stood firing bombs at each other as if the fight needed to be won by knock out.
The final round saw Takayama slip in exactly the same corner as Rodriguez's incident in the previous round. That slip was early on but for the following 2 minutes they men against stood toe-to-toe trading, bombing each other and trying to score the stoppage they may well have felt they needed. They were fighting themselves to a standstill as the insane and hyper-active fight continued to be fought in the most impressive of manners. It was a war and it was amazing to watch.
After 12 rounds the general view here was that Rodriguez had nicked it by a round or two, being helped by the crowd to just sneak the majority of the swing rounds. When the first score was read out as 116-111 we nodded in the agreement, then a score of 119-109 was read as our stomachs turned before a final card of 115-112 made us nod in agreement. The cards, which all favoured the Mexican seemed to get the right winner but we were left genuinely baffled by the wide card which seemed to be very off, even for a bout that had as many swing rounds as this one.
Takayama looked dejected having failed in his attempt to collect the grandslam whilst Rodriguez rightfully celebrated winning what could go down as one of the fights of the year. Sensational bout.
Takayama, who fell to 27-7-0-1 (10) is now 2-3-0-1 on the road and may well think twice about ever fighting outside of Japan again. He has been a road warrior but may well feel that it's not worth travelling when some judges, such as John Madfis on this occasion, have seemingly marked their cards before the fight has began. In fact he may well call it quits or try to secure a rematch back in Japan. For Rodriguez, now 15-2 (10), this leaves him as one of the top dogs at 105lbs following back to back wins over Merlito Sabillo and Takayama.
As for the Minimumweight division we're now poised for a few interesting months. Talk of a rematch between these two is something Takayama and fans would likely love, WBA champion Hekkie Budler is set to defend his title against former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong, current WBC champion Oswaldo Novoa is set to defend against the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin in Thailand in November and we're also expecting a WBA interim title fight between Carlos Buitrago and Knockout CP Freshmart in October. Whatever happens in the coming months this division is going to be red hot at the top and possible deeper, especially if Kosei Tanaka gets his wish and gets a fight with OPBF champion Ryuji Hara. What a time to be a fan of the Minimumweight division.
(Image courtesy of Nakazato Boxing)
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.