On paper it looked like a mismatch in favour of the Thai, who was looking to equal the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano and record his 8th defense. It was however the total opposite of what we expected, with Fukuhara setting an insane pace in the opening round and forcing Wanheng to fight fire with fire. It was as if no one had told Fukuhara that he was there to lose, and instead of being respectful of Wanheng's unbeaten record he went straight at the champion. To his credit Wanheng did fight back, and landed the better shots, but was very much taken by surprise by the intense work rate of the challenger.
Wanheng managed to have better success in rounds 2 and 3, as he landed the bigger shots, and actually started round 3 with the initiative, something he hadn't done in the first two rounds. Despite starting well Fukuhara came back at him later in the round, showing good variety and the high tempo which had caused so many issues for Wanheng, not only in the opening stages of this bout bus also against Melvin Jerusalem.
Wanheng also had credible success in round 4, arguably his best round of the fight, as he forced Fukuhara to fight at range, made the most of his technical abilities and prevented the challenger from unloading with volume. It was a round that showed the skill level differences between the two men. After 4 rounds the champion was up on the score-cards, with all 3 judges favouring the local, and although it felt like he was fortunate to be in the lead it wasn't out of the question for him to be up.
The success of Wanheng continued in round 5 as he managed to make the most of his heavier hands, but he wasn't able to discourage Fukuhara who continued to press the action and ended the round looking like a man possessed, despite eating the best Wanheng had to offer. In round 6 Wanheng's pace seemed to drop off as Fukuhara managed to again cut the distance, get to work and press with not only his volume but also some very solid shots, including a big head shot mid-way through the round. Wanheng did land his own stiff right hand late in the bout, but it seemed like a clear round for the challenger.
Fukuhara's success seemed to grow from there, as he pressured Wanheng with serious intensity, landing not only flurries to the body but also some really eye catching head shots, including a big uppercut. Wanheng returned the favour with some body shots of his own, but was clearly out worked through the round, and appeared to be showing signs of tiredness as Fukuhara refused to back off. The challenger was even more intense and driven in round 8 as he thoroughly out worked Wanheng, landing bigger and heavier shots on to a champion who was looking at the referee for every minor incident. It was looking like the champion was frustrated by the fact Fukuhara was always in his face and always refusing to back off, despite the clean shots the champion had been able to land.
With the champion looking like he was flagging the open scores after round 8 seemed like they were going to be very interesting, bizarrely however they were all widely in favour of Wanheng, reading 80-73, 79-73, and 78-74. It seemed clear at this point that Fukuhara wasn't only up against the unbeaten champion, but also the judges.
Knowing that he wasn't going to get the decision Fukuhara changed his tactics in round 9. The high energy and intense assaults were put on the back burner as he looked to land bigger, heavier shots. Those became the key in round 9 as he landed some big shots which seemed to force Wanheng to on to the back foot. Wanheng had his moments, but was again out worked, and out landed by the challenger. Fukuhara continued to look bombs in rounds 10 and 11 as Wanheng looked more and more tired, struggling to even raise his arms at the end of round 11. Fukuhara seemed to ignore his defense at times, instead choosing to just chase Wanheng and unload, and the only real breaks in action happened when Wanheng tired up the challenger, or complained about some small issue, with the referee starting to seem like yet another opponent for the challenger.
The final round saw Fukuhara go all out for the stoppage. He combined power shots with volume and an insane intensity that saw him jump on Wanheng at every opportunity. It was a thrilling final round that saw Wanheng being forced to respond with power shots, until he was spent and forced into pure survival mode. It was a thrilling all action effort from the challenger, but given the scores after round 8 it was clear it wasn't going to be enough to see the title change hands.
With the judges scoring the bout in favour of Wanheng he had now scored 8 defenses, but this is the second time where he could be regarded as very fortunate in recent times, and it does seem like his reign is living on borrowed time. For Fukuhara the bout seems to suggest he can continue fighting at world level, and will almost certainly get another shot down the line.