In 2017 Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], aka Wisaksil Wangek, put himself on the boxing man as he became a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion and ended the long unbeaten run of Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez. Since then he has further strengthened his resume with a stoppage win over Gonzalez and a decision win over Juan Francisco Estrada.
Today Srisaket made history by becoming the first man to defend a major world title on a major MMA promotion as he headlined ONE Champion's "Kingdom of Heroes" show in Bangkok. In the opposite corner to the Thai was unheralded Mexican challenger Iran Diaz (14-3-3, 6), a man who proved his toughness and determination despite being the clear loser.
The first round saw Srisaket put the pressure on the Mexican straight away and land a huge number of body shots. The predictions of many was that this bout wouldn't go long and the way the Thai started the bout he seemed intent of living up to the predictions of the fans and media. To his credit however Diaz saw off the storm and made it into round 2. He then slowly began to create a bit of momentum for himself, building round by round and neutralising some of Srisaket's offense. The Mexican wasn't really winning rounds as such, but was giving a much better effort than many expected as he created distance and found a home for counter right hands.
After 4 rounds Diaz had not only lasted longer than expected but had taken a round on one of the judges scorecards, with the open scores being 40-36, twice, and 39-37. It was amazing that Diaz's body was still upright given the punishment he had taken, but he was doing more than just surviving.
Having made things a little bit competitive in rounds 4 and 5 it seemed like Diaz was finding a groove. That was totally destroyed however when Srisaket upped the tempo, particularly in rounds 7 and 8, as the Thai looked to rip Diaz apart with head shots and body shots. Diaz managed to see off the storm, and potentially should have had a knockdown scored in his favour in round, following a flush uppercut that was ruled a slip by referee Jay Nady.
The open scoring after 8 rounds saw scores of 80-72, 79-73 and 79-74 all in favour if Srisaket who had the bout in the back but still wanted the knockout. He hunted it again in round 9 but was again on the canvas, again ruled a slip though again it seemed like there was a punch involved, with Srisaket being caught by a counter right. The Thai repeatedly caught Diaz up top with some vicious head shots from round 9 to round 11 as he seemed intent on closing the show for the local fans, wobbling Diaz badly at one point he couldn't send the Mexican down.
Having been taken into round 12 Srisaket suddenly changed his mentality and rather than being the aggressor, he turned into a slippery counter puncher and had some fun and sliding the shots of Diaz, with the Mexican picking up the tempo and swinging for the fences. It seemed like Srisaket had landed everything in his arsenal and had decided not to fire off any more bombs in the final round, with the bout well and truly in the bag.
At the scorecards both men looked happy with themselves. Srisaket was the clear winner, with the judges scoring the bout 119-109, twice, and 120-108. On the other hand Diaz was likely happy to have seen the final bell and put himself in the mix for good fights, maybe not world title fights but other good fights in a stacked division.
Srisaket's future looks likely to be in big divisional fights, including a potential rematch with Estrada or a unification bout with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas.
On Friday night in Oakland we saw IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) escape with his 6th defense thanks to a fortunate draw against little known Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-5, 7).
On paper the bout was a mismatch. The champion had won his last 17, he was in the form of his life, and looked like one of the top fighters at 115lbs whilst Santiago was a relative unknown who had never fought at this level and was taking a notable step up. In reality however it was the challenger who looked the rounded and accomplished fighter.
In the opening round Santiago proved he was not the patsy many had anticipated. Instead he was a smart fighter. Despite the smaller man it was his jab that was landing, and it was he who was controlling the range, totally neutralising the southpaw jab of Ancajas whilst using smart footwork to get in and out. That footwork of Santiago not only worked for him when he was neutralising Ancajas but also when he was letting his own hands go, and after a few rounds he had found the range for his right hand and his left hook. Ancajas on the other hand was often limited to his straight left, which he landed to the body and head.
Many of the rounds were competitive but it always seemed like Santiago was doing enough to take the rounds. He was however leaving the judges an opportunity to give rounds to the slightly busier Ancajas, who's shots were less effective but but seemed to be more consistent. Sadly for Ancajas whilst he was doing more, he was very predictable and looked like a fighter who lacked real fire or a plan B. There no real change in intensity from Ancajas, no change in tactics and at no point did he ever really cut off the ring. Instead he continued the same thing over and over, whilst getting timed by Santiago.
What Santiago really did well was pick up the pace late in rounds, and there was a number of close rounds in which he upped the ante late on and left the lasting impression. It was something that Ancajas could never do, and when he tried to respond he was made to look messy and looked like he was either hurt or flailing at the air.
When we reached the final bell it looked like Santiago had won a clear but competitive bout. He seemed to feel that he'd clearly won as well, celebrating on the corner posts whilst Ancajas looked like a man who knew he hadn't deserved to retain his title. Boxing however does give us some whilst cards, and the first had Ancajas winning 116-112, a bizarre score. The second card had Santiago winning 118-111, another bizarre score but one that seemed to go to the right guy. The deciding had it 114-114 resulting in the draw.
The result really was as good as Ancajas could have got. He kept his title, but got a real scare, and seemingly got very fortunate. His stock has dropped as a result of the draw, despite remaining a champion, and it's clear that he should be guided away from certain fighters in the division. As for Santiago this was a performance that would have put him on the map. It could cause him problems, as he looks a nightmare to fight, but it's the performance that shows he belongs at world level, something few actually expected. The Mexican is unlucky not to be the new champion but will almost certainly get another in the future.
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)
On Saturday night we we had a PPV that featured 4 bouts. The first 3 of those lasted a combined 9 rounds, but thankfully the main event gave us not only 12 rounds of action, but 12 of the very best rounds of 2018. Those rounds provided us with a highly technical high tempo war to decide the premier Middleweight on the planet. For once a highly hyped and massively anticipated bout lived up to the expectations and more.
The match up in question saw long term Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 24) take on the hugely popular Saul Alvarez (50-1-2, 34) with the 36 year old Golovkin looking to defend the WBA Super and WBC Middleweight titles against a man he controversially fought to a draw against a year ago.
Sadly for the Kazakh it wasn't to be his day, as Canelo narrowly took home the decision in what was one of the most hotly contested, and exciting, bouts of 2018.
Canelo stamped his authority on the bout early on. He started better, applying the pressure and and landing the cleaner in the first few rounds. Building moment that he could carry forward. The pressure of Canelo saw him not only force Golovkin to move more, but also saw the Mexican landing the eye catching counter shots.
Golovkin managed to stage a fight back in the middle rounds, cutting Canelo's left eye as he began to out work the Mexican fighter. Canelo continued to land the better single blows, but was being out-worked on the whole, in rounds that were very well balanced and featured some fantastic back and forth action. It was a war, yet it was technical. Neither man got reckless, neither man was wild, both were sharp though it seemed like Canelo's shots were that little bit more eye catching, even if he was a bit more conservative.
After the very competitive middle section the bout turned heavily in favour of Golovkin who began to have a second wind in round 9 as he picked up his work rate. Golovkin's success would grow more in round 10, a round that saw him clearly hurt Canelo, and round 11. They were as clear rounds to Golovkin as the first 2 or 3 were for Alvarez and it was clear that the decision was going to go down to how the judges had scored the middle rounds.
The final round, like many of the middle rounds, was close. It ended with Golovkin cut around the right eye, but there had been almost nothing to pick between the two men. It was a round that could have gone either way, like many from the contest.
When we reached the score cards the reality was that the bout could have gone either way. It seemed a lot more competitive and compelling than their first bout. Canelo had changed his style more, going from a back foot boxer to a pressure fighter, and forced Golovkin to show something new to his boxing. Both men were banged up, both had been cut, and both had looked like they were going to need some serious recovery time.
Despite the swelling and cuts it was Canelo who managed to get the win, with a majority decision. The judges returning cards of 114-114, and 115-113, twice, in his favour. Unlike the first bout between the two men there was no outlying score-cards, instead all 3 judges score the bout in a way that seemed right. There was no clear winner, and that showed.
Whilst Golovkin will clearly be disappointed in the result, there can be no major complaint. It really was a bout that was so close that it showed how even the men were. He may want a rematch, but at the age of 36 we wonder if there is another 12 hard rounds left in him. For Canelo the bout is his crowning as the Middleweight's king, and he will now be the man the others will be chasing. His status as a unified champion, and this huge win, will help him put a frustrating 2018 behind him.
A rematch would make sense, and is perhaps the most logical choice for both men, but with fighters like Ryota Murata and Billy Joe Saunders out there it may make more sense for the two to go their own way, rather than take the punishment that another 12 rounds against each other will give them.
Earlier this year we saw the first All-Filipino world title fight in over 90 years, as Jerwin Ancajas defended the IBF Super Flyweight title against Jonas Sultan. On paper that looked a good bout, but ended up never catching a light and being pretty forgettable. Today we had the second all-Filipino world title fight of the year, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) traded blows for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
For Nietes the bout saw him looking to become the third 4 weight world champion from the Philippines, following Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and the third man to win world titles in the sport's 4 lowest weight classes. For Palicte it was a chance to emerge from the shadows of Filipino boxing to become a world champion.
The bout was competitive through out. It matched the incredible skills and boxing IQ of Nietes against the imposing physical size of Palicte. From the off both men had moments, and it was a hard one to score either way with Nietes landing the more consistently offensive, but taking the heavier leather, and being pushed on to the back foot through out the fight. It was also the combinations from Palicte, which rarely landed cleanly, that really caught the eye with numerous shots being thrown with so much power that Nietes found his own gloves smashing into his face.
Nietes' ring craft was amazing. At the age of 36 he he was able to set traps on a regular basis, often luring Palicte into clean right hands, and countering brilliantly. He was however unable to get Palicte's respect and the younger man, a natural Super Flyweight, took shots cleanly and seemed to smile, whilst taking them. It was possibly the regular smirk of Palicte that made Nietes' clean shorts seem unthreatening compared to the glancing blows of his own.
There was very few clean cut bouts through the entire fight. It was often a case of picking a winner of a very close round. One of the few clear cut rounds was round 4, a round that Nietes seemed to take off. On the other hand he clearly won round 5, as he picked up the pace and found a home for his right hand, which landed frequently through a brilliant stanza for the veteran. Another clear round was the final one, which saw Nietes landing several of his most eye catching shots. For the most part however there was very, very, little to pick between the two fighters, and a strong case could be made either way.
The close nature of the rounds seemed to give the feeling that no score was really going to be wrong. Despite the commentary playing a strong pro-Nietes narrative through out, cheer leading the skills of Nietes and giving very little credit to Palicte and his work. That close nature of each round showed on the scorecards which were 116-112, in favour of Palicte, 118-110, for Nietes, and 114-114, giving us a split draw.
The HBO team try to play off that the bout was a robbery, quote the always questionable Compubox as part of their narrative. The reality however is that there was very, very little to split them overall. On a round by round basis, neither man did enough to really assert their self. 118-110 and 116-112, either way, were wide, but a strong case could be argued for either of those cards. In the end however the draw seemed the fairest result and the most accurate.
As a result of the draw he WBO title does remain vacant. A rematch between the two is a real possibility, as would be a bout between either man and the returning Kazuto Ioka, who won on the same card against McWilliams Arroyo who had been the WBO #3 ranked fighter behind Nietes ans Palicte.
We have often applauded fighters for chasing history, it's why we have been to vocal in our support of fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Of course historical achievements can questioned, such as a fighter who wins a serious of vacant titles or a fighter who pads their record, but it's nice to see fighters do historical things. We mention that as today WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] notched his 10th defense and over-came gallant Filipino Pedro Taduran (12-2, 9) to move to 51-0.
Now whilst Wanheng's achievement isn't actually a record, a number of fighters have had better starts to their career, it is potentially setting the stage for history as he has now surpassed the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr, who holds the most statistically impressive unbeaten record of any retired world champion. A record that would end tomorrow if Wanheng decided to retire following today's win.
The fight saw Taduran getting into Wanheng's face from the off, with his pressure being impressive straight away. Sadly for the challenger Wanheng's defense and counter punching was equal to the aggression and pressure of the challenger with the champion often landing clean crisp counter shots that caught the eye in the opening round. In the second round both men increased their output, giving us a thrilling round of none stop action, and it seemed like they had both agreed that they would go for a stoppage win with one of the rounds of the year. The round however took a toll on both men and both seemed to slow down in the rounds that followed. Despite the slow down the pattern of the bout during the other early rounds continued, with Taduran pressing and Wanheng countering, with some eye catching and solid shots.
It was a case of accuracy over work rate, and the judges seemed to take Wanheng's side after 4 rounds, scoring the contest 40-36, twice, and 39-37 in favour of the Thai.
The bout continued to slow in the middle rounds, which appeared to suit the more technically solid Wanheng. Taduran still had some solid moments, particularly in round 6 when he managed to get off some solid body shots on the inside and backed Wanheng on to the ropes, but took some heavy punishment of his own. The challenger was also beginning to battle the referee who, very harshly, took a point from the Filipino for a low blow that really really didn't deserve a punishment of any kind. It was harsh certainly didn't help the challenger, but the judges did seem more impressed by him in the middle rounds, with the open scoring showing the scores of 78-74, twice, and 79-74. He was still well behind, but the judges were starting to give him more credit.
The 9th round was one of the most compelling. Wanheng seemed to win the first half of it, he landed some really nasty shots but part way through the round the referee adjusted the champions trunks. Following that Taduran seemed to sense something and let his shots go in a way we hadn't seen since round 2, it forced a response from Wanehng as the two began to trade. The intensity from Taduran continued in the early part of round 10, before Wanheng began to re-establish his control with his defense and clean counter shots.
The result was made a total formality in round 11 when the referee again got involved to the detriment of Taduran, deducting a point from the Filipino for leading with the head. He had been warned about it a number of times, but the deduction seemed harsh, especially given the previous deduction for low blows. It essentially put the bout to bed, despite being a good round for the challenger who showed his desire. Sadly his technical faults showed up and he still took some solid counters.
With the decision essentially in the bag Wanheng seemed happy to spoil and stall through the final round. Taduran, still wanting to win, fought hard but never looked like downing the champion, who held and complained and danced through much of the round.
The win for Wanheng seems him retain the gold and Petchyindee promotions will be happy that their man is still the champion, and has reached the marvellous mark of 51-0. They however will know their man will need to perform better if he intends to win a planned bout in Japan in December. Away from home he may not get the breaks given to him here. He would have still won with out the deductions, given the scores were 118-108, 115-111 and 117-110, but they would certainly have made things a lot more interesting going into the final few rounds.
For Taduran the shot did seem to come a little too early. Given another year or two of seasoning, some technical work on his offensive and balance, he could have potentially over-come Wanheng. Instead he'll have learned a lot in defeat, and will likely improve as a result. He will be wondering why there was a referee with next to know world title experience in the middle of the ring with him but the tough conditions in Thailand have given him a huge platform to build from. And he really did impress here, especially in the rounds when he upped the pace and really let his hands go.
The month of August hasn't been great for Japanese Super Bantamweights. Back on August 16th we saw Ryosuke Iwasa lose the IBF title to TJ Doheny in Tokyo. On August 23rd Hinata Maruta was held to a controversial draw against Ben Mananquil in the Philippines. That run unfortunately continued this past Saturday when 37 year old Hidenori Otake (31-3-3, 14) suffered his first stoppage loss, being taken out inside a round by WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe (20-0, 14).
Otake had gone over to Arizona confident, he had spoke about taking Dogboe long and defeating him based on his stamina. That confidence showed as he looked to stand toe-to-toe with Dogboe and take the fight to him. Sadly for Otake that was a mistake as Dogboe was sharper, quicker and more accurate, landing solid uppercuts and left hooks at will.
One of those left hooks was a dynamite shot right on the chin, sending Otake down hard. The Japanese fighter, who had proven toughness, got to his feet at the count of 4 and went on to the front foot, trying to take the fight to Dogboe. It was a mistake and he was forced to touch down again only moments later.
Otake continued to fight but was totally unable to avoid the left hooks from Dogboe and the bout was stopped as Dogboe unloaded a big flurry on to the Japanese fighter.
This is likely to be Otake's final bout as a professional, and we're expecting him to announce his retirement very soon. As for Dogboe the future is very exciting and he openly called out the other world champions after his win, with potential show downs against Rey Vargas, Daniel Roman and TJ Doheny all interesting looking bouts for the young fighter from Ghana.
Japan's Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] has a reputation of coming up short against the best Southpaw's he's faced. That proved to be the case again today when he lost the IBS Super Bantamweight title to Australian based Irishman TJ Doheny (20-0, 14) via unanimous decision at the Korakuen Hall, with the loss following previous defeats to southpaws Shinsuke Yamanaka and Lee Haskins.
The champion, defending his belt for the second time, had a good start. Both men looked to feel the other out but it was a right by Iwasa that caught the eye as he wobbled the challenger, and left him with a nasty cut on his right cheek. It seemed an almost perfect start. He was however unable to capitalise and the following round a busier, quicker and sharper Doheny was about to out work a one paced Iwasa, who landed another good right hook but spent too much of the round stalking and not enough actually fighting.
Rounds 3 and 4 were also good ones for Doheny who out landed Iwasa and landed some really eye catching head shots. Although Iwasa again had moments he refused to move through the gears, and the good shots he was landing were rarely followed up on, whilst Doheny actually let his hands fly in bursts. By the end of round 4 the challenger wasn't just cut but also swollen under the left eye, but showed little worry of Iwasa's power, often circling with his hands down.
Iwasa managed to have more success in round 5, when he began to feint less and through more. Doheny seemed to feel the power more often, and it certainly seemed like Iwasa had more power than the supposedly heavy handed Doheny, but it against seemed like Iwasa was too concerned on single shots and not his combinations. The Japanese fighter has a really potent straight left hand, but he did little to set the shot up, and seemed to be willing to look for perfect shots as opposed to taking a risk or two.
Round 6 was a stand out round as the two men went tit for tat. Doheny had the early success, and and had a big attack about a minute into the round. Iwasa fired back, and seemed to rock Doheny at one point before fighting back. It again seemed to show that Iwasa was the puncher in the fight and that Doheny's reputation as the puncher wasn't right, but it was Doheny who always seemed to engage the attacks and force the fight. In fact round 7 was another good one for Doheny, who landed a brilliant combination late in the round. The challenger was spoiling up close, but but knew what he had to do to get shots off and to smother Iwasa.
Iwasa had a better round in round 8, as the two both let their shots go with more freedom than they had earlier on. It was clear that neither man was too confident that they were in the lead, but it was Iwasa who was beginning to land more, letting his shots go in bunches and landing some crunching body shots with Doheny's blood from the cut began to drip down his face. The good round from Iwasa was again neutralised by Doheny having a good bounce back round, as he once again out worked the Japanese fighter.
Round 10 was one of the most competitive rounds of the fight. Doheny started really well, but Iwasa managed to come on strong, landing a fantastic right hand late in the round before a body shot seemed to hurt the challenger. The success there was finally built one by Iwasa who had an amazing round 11, his best round, as he finally moved through the gears, let his shots go and hurt Doheny, who looked to be running on fumes. The body shots looked like they had knocked the gas out of Doheny who clinched, spoiled and even wrestled Iwasa to the floor as he tried to see out the storm.
It looked like Doheny was going to be there for the taking in round 12, but amazingly he had his second wind, just when he needed it, and he out worked Iwasa through the round. Iwasa, did little when he really needed to let it all go.
Sadly for the Japanese fighter his failure to fight fire with fire in round 12, among other rounds, was the difference between the two men and Doheny was a worth decision winner, with the judges scoring the bout 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 in favour of Doheny.
Sadly those watching on ESPN+ in the US had a narrative from Teddy Atlas of a robbery, it wasn't. The right guy win, though 117-112 is wide of the mark the other two scores are spot on, with the best Iwasa could have hoped for was a draw. He let Dohney have his way too much, and the destructive Iwasa who claimed the title in eye catching fashion against Yukinori Oguni was nowhere to be seen here.
This past Saturday fight fans in the US were able to see Kyrgyzstan born Russian boxer-puncher Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11) successfully retain the WBA Light Heavyweight title, as he scored a clear decision win over the tough and tricky Isaac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10).
The talented Bivol started well and seemed to look the boss early on, but struggled as the fight went on, with Chilemba's defensive skills blunting the usually destructive power of Bivol. In round 7 Chilemba showed the offensive skills to back up Bivol, and it showed flaws in the champion who looked uncomfortable boxing on the back foot. Not only was Chilemba pressing Bivol backwards but had also got a read on him, and was able to make Bivol look a bit predictable with some competitive action.
By the end of the fight Bivol had began looking more and more ordinary, though was generally doing more than enough to win the rounds, albeit competitive rounds. Chilemba though was not doing himself nay disservice and made things tricky round after round for the champion.
After 12 rounds it seemed like Bivol had done enough, but had failed to shine. Despite that two of the judges scored the bout 120-108 for him, whilst the other had the bout 116-112 in his favour.
There will be no one complaining about the result, though Bivol's performance was somewhat underwhelming, whilst Chilemba performed better than expected.
Supposedly the plan had been for Bivol to face off with Sergey Kovalev, in a WBA/WBO unification bout in the near future. Sadly however that plan was scrapped not long after this bout, with Eleider Alvarez upsetting Kovalev with a 7th round KO.
(Image courtesy of Sumio Yamada)
There's long been a reputation of Japanese fighters not being good travellers. The reality is often that they prepare badly for their bouts on the road. Instead of giving themselves time to acclimatise they often travel the week or so before the fight and never really give themselves time to get read to fight a world class opponent.
One man who seemed fully aware that he needed to give himself time to prepare Stateside was Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) [伊藤 雅雪], who put on a career defining performance to take the unbeaten record of Puerto Rican Christopher Diaz (23-1, 15) and become the new WBO Super Featherweight world champion.
The fight started at an amazing pace with both men looking to get their jabs going. It wasn't long until Ito found the range for his right hand and managed to work sharp uppercuts on the inside, proving he could get out on top on both the inside and outside. It was competitive but Ito did seem to be the man landing the cleaner, harder shots. Ito's confidence grew in the second round as he outlanded Diaz and landed the better more painful shots to both head and body. Diaz was becoming more and more wild looking to land something to establish himself but he was really struggling.
The Puerto Rican managed to up the pace in round 3, the first round that could really have gone his way. He upped the tempo and managed to find the range and timing for his left hook. It was a close round but one that certainly went to Diaz. It was however just a short respite for the Puerto Rican fighter who was dropped from a big combination of headshots in round 4, and Ito's accuracy showed as he hammered the face of Diaz, swelling his eye noticable. Diaz, to his credit, fought back and even seemed to hurt Ito, but the Japanese fighter landed some big body shots late on to slow the Puerto Rican's fight back.
Amazingly Diaz had a fantastic bounce back round in the fifth as he seemed to step his foot on the gas again and give Ito some problems. Ito was holding his own for the most part but it did seem like a round that Diaz won, though it was competitive and perhaps felt more like a Diaz round based on how much better he did in the round than he had in the previous one. Sadly though the fight back was a bit of a short lived one with Ito essentially sweeping the middle rounds by out working, out landing and out powering Diaz, who had his moments but always seemed to take shots back with interest.
It wasn't until round 9 that someone could make a case for Diaz to take another round, but he did start a nice little surge and seemed to do enough in round 10 to deserve that too, with Ito starting to slow, and perhaps show signs of tiredness. Not only did Ito seemed slower and less active in round 10 but Diaz began to get his shots off and landed several notable shots, with a right hand looking like it had hurt Ito.
Given the tempo of the fight it wouldn't have been a surprise to see Ito feeling the pace of the action but instead he he seemed to come out for round 11 with more energy, boxing on the move and using his jab early before sneaking inside and working up close. The shots from Ito were worsening the damage on Diaz's face with his left eye essentially swollen shut, and bleeding. Itos was unloading combinations and despite being tagged hard by a left hook it was the Japanese fighter who was controlling the round, one of the clearest of the fight. Diaz, several times, showed how much pain he was in, and was close to fighting with just one eye.
Diaz needed to go for a KO in the final round but he seemed to be worn out, in pain and was on the receiving end of a beating through the round, with Ito looking to close the show. Diaz, to his credit, saw off the aggression of the Japanese fighter, but lost the round, and didn't really come close to scoring the knockout he needed.
Having seen 12 rounds of action we went to the score-cards which were all in favour of Diaz, with scores of 116-111, 117-110 and 118-109.
With the win Ito becomes the first Japanese fighter since 1981 to win a world title in the US, which was when Tadashi Mihara claimed the WBA Middleweight title in New York. Not only did he win the title but he also put himself on the international boxing map, with new fans fans now wanting to follow his fun and fan friendly style.
For Diaz the loss will be a painful one, he gave his all but had all sorts of technical flaws that Ito took advantage of. He showed his heart, and his desire, but he was simply not good enough on the night to over-come Ito, who really did put in the performance of a life time.
Whilst Ito was a clear winner the fight was so action packed, busy and exciting that it should make a shortlist for Fight of the Year. It was high tempo, both men were hurt a number of times, and action packed. Just like every great fight should be.
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.