Whilst top level fighters are best known for their brilliance in the ring, and it's a real joy to watch the likes of Vasyl Lomachneko, Naoya Inoue, and Roman Gonalez in action, we also enjoy the flawed but exciting fighters. Perhaps the most entertaining fighter, in the "flawed but exciting" category is Jamie Conlan, but he's given a good run for his money by Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) [麻生興] who made his first earlier today in a thriller against Yusuke Konno (11-4, 5) [今野裕介].
On paper the bout won't have enthused those who don't follow Japanese boxing, but those who do follow the Japanese domestic scene will know what to expect when Aso gets in the ring. He's an aggressive pressure fighter, who lets his hands go, and looks to have a tear up. Today he found Konno was willing to fight fire with fire in a bout that is a front runner for the Japanese fight of the year, and a bout that could well have shortened the career of both fighters.
From the opening moments Aso's pressure begn to dictate the bout and Konno, who tried boxing, was forced to return fire in a round that really didn't feel like the opening round of a title bout. It felt, instead, like a championship round, where both men would have put it all on the line to take the title. The risk of blowing it early seemed to be something both were willing to take in hunt of an early victory, and the crowd loved every second of it as we quickly got a war.
The war built round after round, after round with the two men just standing and unloading on each other in exciting and intense bursts of punches up close. It was none-stop action and after 5 rounds there was little to seperate them, with all three judges scoring it 48-47, two in favour of Konno and one in favour of Aso.
Konno started the second half of the fight really well and actually forced Aso back, though to his credit Aso didn't worry and look concerned and instead looked for opportunities to counter, and in round 8 he clearly hurt Konno. To his credit Konno gritted his teeth and fought back, but was clear that he was Aso could hurt the challenger.
Going in to the final rounds it was clear that both men knew it was close, in Amazingly after 8 rounds the men were 76-76, 76-76 and 75-77, with Konno leading on the third card, although neither man actually knew the scores going into those final two rounds.
In the final round both looked tired, but both knew the round be pivotal. It was Aso who's experience shone as he turned it up and finally, broke through stopping an exhausted Konno with the referee saving the tired and beaten challenger. Amazingly, there was only 42 seconds of the bout left.
Had the bout not been stopped, but Aso had taken the final round, he would have retained his title with a split decision, 96-94, 95-95, 94-96. He wouldn't have known that however and will feel relieved he saw off Konno in what was one of the best bouts in a Japanese ring in a very, very long time.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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