Earlier this year Japanese fans saw the ultra-talented Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) suffer his first defeat as he came up just short against the much touted Rikki Naito in a bout for Naito's Japanese Super Featherweight title. Rather than rebuild his career from the ground up Ito went straight back into a title challenge, knowing that he had more than proven himself in the bout with Naito, a bout many thought he had deserved to win.
Today we saw Ito in that that title bout as he took on domestic foe Dai Iwai (17-4-1, 6) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title, a title that had been vacated this year by Thailand's Jomthong Chuwatana
On paper the bout between Ito and Iwai was a great one. It promised to be competitive, well matched and seemed very likely to go the distance with neither being a puncher and neither having been stopped prior to this bout.
Whilst the records indicated a close bout, the actual action wasn't that competitive.
In the opening round Ito established himself as the faster fighter, and the more intelligent. From the off Ito set the pace, setting a high work rate that had mixed success. On one hand Iwai's guard did prevent too many shots from landing clean though on the other hand Ito did get though more than his foe, who was handcuffed at times by Ito's speed and combinations.
Although Iwai's defense served him well early on Ito managed to find ways around it, and made the most of his uppercut which had alarming success in round 4.
The work of Ito had clearly pleased the judges who had him up 39-37, twice, and 40-36 when the scores were announced after 4 rounds.
The early success of Ito continued through the middle rounds with Iwai having fewer moments of his own and instead being driven backwards by Ito. This was a worrying time for the Misako gym fighter who seemingly couldn't outbox Iwai nor outfight him. The speed and physical strength was simply too much for him and he was beginning to look rather lost. Whilst things weren't going well they were also not helped by the open scoring which had Ito in the lead by clear margins of 5 points, 6 points and 8 points, going into the final 4 rounds. Those scores mean that Iwai would need at least 2 knockdowns for a draw and would likely need a knockout for a win.
Rather than Iwai turning things around in the final few rounds it was Ito who continued to press the action and make the fight. This eventually resulted in a bloodied Iwai being stopped in round 10 as Ito unloaded a barrage of shots.
Following the bout Ito seemed to suggest that he wanted to move towards world titles. At the moment he'd be the clear under-dog against any of the title holders but he's certainly showing the improvements he needs to go all the way. For Iwai the future isn't as clear, though we suspect he'll be back in early 2016 as he looks to rebuild his career and get another title fights of some kind.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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