Just moments a go fight fans at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto city had the chance to see a thriller for the Japanese Lightweight title. The bout saw Woz Boxing's Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) come to the ring as a champion for the first time and only just retain his title with a true champion's performance against hard hitting challenger Yuhei Suzuki (16-5, 12).
The bout started well for Suzuki with the challenger rising to the occasion from the off. Suzuki, challenging for a Japanese title for the third time, quickly found a home for his jab, his left hook was on point early on and straight right was sharp. His shots weren't the most thunderous but they were damaging leaving Tokunaga with visual damage around the eye and they were telling with Suzuki running up a wide lead by the mid-way point.
The open scoring, which is in effect for all Japanese title fights, saw all 3 judges having Suzuki in the lead with scores of 50-46, twice, and 48-47. It was clear that Tokunaga was going to have to change things if he was going to keep his title.
From round 6 the champion did begin a fight back but Suzuki answered it and as the pace rose the action became more intense. This saw both fighters standing their ground more and landing hard shots.
In round 9 Tokunaga finally began to turn things his way and it was looking like his slow start had left him with a reserve of energy that was needed to try and turn the fight around. His title was slipping away but he had the gas needed to try and come from behind against a tiring Suzuki who had got out the blocks but was running on fumes.
It was in the final round that Tokunaga finally managed to make his power count as he dropped Suzuki hard and forced the referee to stop the bout with the challenger.
Going into the final round Tokunaga did need a big round, but the T/KO sealed the deal and did so in impressive fashion with the champion putting the bout beyond doubt.
Although the bout was a third loss at title level for Suzuki the real story was the action which spoke for it's self, especially in the second half of the bout and really did help solidify Tokunaga's position as the Japanese Lightweight champion. Few will consider him the best in Japan but today's performance will have strengthened his fan base and his claim as one of the best in the country, albeit one who appears to be a clear level below OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani and former champion Yoshitaka Kato.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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