One of the big issues with the lower weights are the lack of unification bouts. The divisions are stacked with talent but we rarely see the best face the best, and instead we see a lot of fighters establishing long reigns against lesser fighters. A great case of that is seeing the reign of Wanheng Menayothin, who has faced a string of lesser challengers rather than unifying with the likes of Knockout CP Freshmart. Thankfully when we do see the best fight the best we usually get something spectacular, as we saw in 2014 when the IBF and WBO Minimumweight world titles were unified in one of the best bouts in recent years.
Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-2, 13)
August 9th 2014 will go down in history as the date we got one of the greatest Minimumweight bouts of all time. It saw IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama travel to Mexico to take on WBO champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr. The bout delivered 12 rounds of beautiful brutality from two men who stylistically gelled perfectly and gave us none stop action, some amazing trading sequences and yet a technically solid performance from both.
Entering the bout Takayama was a 31 year old Japanese warrior who had done what most didn't think of. He had handed over his JBC license to pursue the IBF and WBO titles, travelled to South Africa, the Philippines and Mexico in pursuit of those belts. He wanted to be a grandslam champion, he wanted to own all 4 major titles and went about it the right way. Not only did he want to take titles but he also put on great fights, building a reputation with hardcore fans for all action bouts, incredible work rate, amazing toughness and his willingness to battle through adversity.
At 21 years old Rodriguez was a rising youngster who was really only known for 2 fights, in 2013 he had lost to Roman Gonzalez, being stopped in 7 rounds, but had become a world champion just 6 months later, bullying and stopped the then unbeaten WBO champion Merlito Sabillo. Rather than have an easy first defense he looked to unify and just 5 months after his title win he took on Takayama, looking to unify before out growing the division. He had shown real tenacity, incredible strength and size for a Minimumweight but looked like the type of fighter who's time in the division could end at any time due to a struggle to make the limit.
Given the styles of the men we knew this had the potential to be something amazing, and yet the bout easily exceeded the expectations.
At the opening bell Takayama rushed at Rodriguez. It didn't take long however to see Takayama trying to box and move, using his foot work, speed and combinations whilst Rodriguez began to apply pressure, using his physicality to walk down Takayama. Despite the differing styles the two were never apart for more than a few seconds.
This was the type of bout where even those who typically ignore the smaller guys managed to get caught up the action and enjoy a pulsating, 12 round war. This is what the little guys can do, and this is something every fan should watch, rewatch and watch once again.
Enjoy our latest, Closet Classic.
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When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features