By Troy Parslow
As the Korakuen Hall welcomed fans for a WBO flyweight arrival on Friday, Junto Nakatani pulled Giemel Magramo into his centre and dispatched him in eight rounds.
Opening in a strong, low stance, not struggling for his timing punching down at a shorter opponent as a result, and occupying Magramo's guard at mid-range, Nakatani set the tone: hurting Magramo with an off-beat counter left hand as the visitor was baited into hooking around the jab—swinging a feel-out round and all momentum with it. Being hurt effortlessly, and just the two minutes into the contest, is quite a brutal awakening for someone whose wearing counters is an occupational hazard he so often disregards for their (lack of) consequences.
Whether Magramo was hurt too often to risk shuffling forward through long-mid-short range or disturbed by Nakatani's lead hand, as soon as the head began hanging so precariously over his front foot and the upper body movement—highlighted before the fight in being crucial in keeping Nakatani honest—made way for low, shapeless entries, it felt to this fan that the writing was on the wall. Nakatani punished the Filipino's bent shape, loading both hips—even upon falling short—to finish his combinations with leveraged, arching punches.
Stepping back, around Magramo's front foot, pushing him off before stepping out from the clinch, pivoting into space; Nakatani was able to create separation whenever it occurred to him and, by extension, manage the rounds on his terms. By the fifth, Magramo's exaggerated role as puncher was forgotten and the dynamic flipped. In stealing his rhythm and forcing Magramo to pick up his feet, Nakatani was the puncher—troubling his man with whatever he couldn't anticipate or roll.
If nothing else proving his mettle and industry, it would, however, be wrong to overlook Magramo's successes coming back. On more equal terms rounds two through four and even in the sixth, moving in behind right hand leads with a level change, he managed to find the body and a home for short uppercuts and counters. Head-on-shoulder, trying for space with a forearm and disrupting Nakatani's stance enough to land his own cuffing shots before being turned, or slipping an arm out to unsettle him from underneath in the clinch. Not particularly pretty, sometimes desperate, but getting through all the same.
Still, Magramo met the end of round six and the vanity of his inroads with a grimace. The bodywork seen snaking around the guard, and more so under it, taking its toll and the giant delivering it looking as strong as I've ever seen, Magramo unravelled with his resistance. He couldn't move Nakatani in six rounds and, now struggling to cover the distance behind a right hand, the next two were less kind.
Between last ditch raids and a couple of glances at his corner, Magramo was guided into space or retreating to the ropes as Nakatani played with step-back counters and poked at the body. Ninety seconds left in the eight, a sweeping left hand, disguised with a level change and hidden by a jab, ushered in the finish sending Magramo bouncing each side of the ring as Nakatani timed the rebounds. Falling on his front, Magramo succumbed to his imbalance—climbing to his feet before referee Nobuto Ikehara translated defeat in his gape and waved the fight.
I think Magramo's lack of shape and pressure is the main catalyst for his undoing, and it has a couple of roots. First off, barely trying to apply his normal feints after he was hurt suggests he didn't expect be—hurt, that is—and he very rarely is. He looked panicked, therefore unwilling to to risk playing with his rhythm at mid-range for fear of getting timed again. Then there's obviously Nakatani's ability to make Magramo reset and draw him in again. Case in point at 2:40 of the fourth round: Magramo bites of a couple of foot feints, moving to parry a jab and then throwing a right hand as if to counter another; Nakatani anticipates, stepping back with a counter left hand(just missing) as he guides Magramo past him and the right hand over his shoulder. With Magramo not giving him many looks and entering the pocket predictably, it was too easy for Nakatani to break up any success, reasserting his dominance by creating space and dominant angles.
That's not to say Magramo would win if he could hold the long combinations and counter more on his own time, but it might've looked more the fight we were(I was) expecting. In some respects Magramo looked as he always does:catching or rolling punches, accumulating short counters and shovel hooks to body. A lot of his best work is subtle and even if he was losing those moments to the more proactive and far more consistent wide flourishes of Nakatani, the fight wasn't always mismatched. We knew Nakatani was more complete and he laid it all out there for us again. What we do now know better than ever is his ability to keep his discipline and gameplan against a world class fighter—expertly managing the rounds and punishing the body.
Make no mistake, well beaten and finished, Magramo(24-2) demands your respect. In the heat of a second wave, he saw to the fight being realised(at the sixth time of asking) travelling away to Japan, weathered days quarantined in his hotel—running the hallways and hitting mitts in the rooms for preparation—and walked into the fire until he was burnt out. If Nakatani made sure we wouldn't see 'Pistolero's best version, he allowed for his most audacious. Never looking to survive, his reaction to being hurt was valorous, if a little bit concerning for the success of future challenges. Ever the action fighter, he wins, and looks great, or he goes out on his shield—the full “Skull and Bones” Magramo experience, if you will.
So what of the winner? What's next for Nakatani(21-0, 18)? Whoever's chosen, he's left little doubt he'll be ready. Previewing the fight, I considered him one of the fastest maturing fighters in the sport and, re-watching Friday's coup, it occurred to me that he's only accelerating. Stronger, more powerful, more efficient, improved with every fight, how he managed a talented Magramo and reduced him to a one-speed brawler was upsetting, honestly, and a little bit special at just his 22 years.
The best skill set in the flyweight division is of bantamweight proportions, and you'd be brave to doubt it.
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.