The first of those world title bouts came at Minimumweight where IBF champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) risked his title against upset minded Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-4-1, 15).
For many Japanese fans Sakkreerin Jr is best remembered for his previous fight in Osaka, when he stopped former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki in 3 rounds, in what was a late contender for the 2013 upset of the year. He returned to Osaka with the same mindset, believing he could shock the bigger name and win score a major shock.
In the opening round things were really close. Takayama was trying to sneak in and out whilst Sakkreerin was boxing well using his reach and height to catch Takayama as he came in. It was close, competitive and, like many opening rounds, one that could have gone either way with out much debate. It was however the only really close round of the fight of the fight.
In round 2 the Japanese fighter began to make a point as he applied intense pressure, back the Thai up and and began to motor threw the gears through a high volume of shots. Not all of them were getting through but it was clear that Takayama was showing his challenger who the boss was whilst Sakkreerin was doing little more than backing up, covering himself and tried to avoid the onslaught. It looked as if the Thai was hoping to ride out the storm and fight back against a tiring Takayama. The Thai's hopes however were slow to come to fruition and by round 5 it was clear Takayama had bounds of energy and was taking a huge lead due to his intense work rate. To his credit Sakkreerin did begin to fire back with some counters though they often appeared to be thrown more out desperation than anything too educated and they were few and far between.
In round 7 we saw Takayama given his first moments of discomfort as his left eye was cut following a clash of heads, a round later his right eye was cut, again from a clash of heads. The blood seemed to throw Takayama slightly as the champion became slightly more cautious and started to pick his spots. It was obvious that the facial injuries were bother the champion who was inspected twice during round 9 before the bout was stopped after 2:19 of the round.
The stoppage elected massive celebrations from the Thai's team who seemed to feel their man had won the bout with a TKO. Takayama looked resigned as he walked back to his corner though all was not as it seemed and a few moments later the men were brought to the center of the ring with the scorecards being read out. It was clear that the Thai's celebrations had come too soon as the cards were announced as being 86-85,90-81 and 87-84, all in favour of Takayama.
The champion, swollen and bloodied, looked like he had been the one taking a beating as his hand was raised. This keeps alive bouts against Kosei Tanaka, who was ringside, and Hekkie Budler, though neither of those will have seen anything here to worry them too much. For Sakkreerin this loss would have hurt considering how he had celebrated, however it seems clear that the Thai is a tough kid and a move back to 108lbs will almost certainly serve him well. Although Sakkreerin lost he will certainly come again given his age, toughness, and willingness to travel to face big names.
(Image, from a post fight conference, courtesy of boxingnews.jp)