Back at the start of the year we had some really interesting fights, as we began 2020 blissfully unaware of what was to come over the rest of the year. One of the early bouts the promises little but delivered everything took place at Korakuen Hall back on January 18th. This is not the best bout you'll see from 2020 but it is one that gave us drama, action and controversy, all within just a few rounds. It also featured a touted prospect who did not look like much of a prospect during the bout. This was the perfect little gem for those who assume boxing is predictable, and one of the first bouts we highlighted for our Treasure Trove series.
Takuma Takahashi (4-0, 4) vs Leonardo Doronio (17-17-3, 11)
Although not too well known outside of Japan Takuma Takahashi is regarded as a genuine prospect in his homeland and through his first 4 bouts he looked like a prospect worth following. He came from the World Sports Gym, the same gym that manages Takeshi Inoue and Kazuto Takesako, and was widely viewed as their #3 behind those two.
A former amateur standout, blessed with nasty power, good speed and and exciting mentality Takahashi ticked a lot of boxes and early career wins over Jonel Dapidran and Sitthidet Banti seemed to show that he was on the right line for bigger and better tests.
In January it was the turn of Filipino veteran Leonardo Doronio to take on the rising Japanese hopeful. The 31 year old Filipino was very much a journeyman, but like many Filipino journeyman he could be a genuine banana skin, and on his day he could be too much for less experienced fighters. His 17-17-3 record looked poor but included wins over Jeffrey Arienza, Jose Ocamp, All Rivera and Taiwo Ali. It also included narrow, and controversial, losses to Nery Saguilan and Yoshitaka Kato. Although he looked like a poor opponent, he was, in all honesty, the perfect type of opponent for Takahashi at this point in his career.
For all intents and purposes this looked like a straight forward win for Takahashi against an opponent with a decent reputation. What we ended up with was very, very different. What we ended up with was dramatic, exciting, entertaining and controversial. It was a heart in mouth, a gut check and something totally engrossing.
From the off it seemed Takahashi was the better boxer. He was quicker, sharper and quicker, but Doronio looked much sturdier and more powerful. It was that power that told around a minute into the fight when the Filipino twice caught Takahashi. This should have been a sign for Takahashi to take Doronio seriously. He didn't heed that warning and just over 30 seconds later he was dropped to the canvas for the first knockdown of the fight. The knockdown came as a result of a clean, sweeping left hook, and it was the sort of shot that could, easily, have kept a lesser fighter down.
To his credit Takahashi rose to his feet but Doronio knew his man was hurt and went hunting for him, hurting him again before Takahashi was dropped again. By the time he rose there was just seconds left in the round, but this was a 10-7 to Doronio and the unbeaten prospect had taken some serious punishment.
After a torrid lesson in round 1 Takahashi showed a lot more respect to Doronio in round 2, holding when he needed to, riding shots when caught and avoiding exchanges as much as possible. He did caught once or twice, but knew not to try to respond with fire when tagged. It was clear he had learned his lesson, and learned it in a painful fashion. This was much smart from Takahashi, who had began to use his physical tools at last. It was a near perfect bounce back round.
We had drama in round 1, a moment to catch our breath in round 2 and then we moved on to controversy in round 3.
Within seconds of the round beginning Doronio was rocked, then took a knee. Then took a 3-punch combination from Takahashi, who seemingly wanted to punish the Filipino now he was vulnerable. This could, and perhaps should, have seen Takahashi being disqualified but instead saw him at the end of a telling off. Then the fight restarted and Takahashi was rocked from a huge Doronio right, then a left. He was in trouble again. Thankfully for Takahashi he responded quickly and rocked Doronio before the crowd erupted.
With around half of round 3 gone Takahashi's face was a bloodied mess, both hand landed bombs and it was clear that was not going to last much longer. With the two men letting fire go it wasn't long until Doronio was backed into the corner, dropped for the second time and again hit when down. This time the late shot was essentially ignored as the referee waved off the bout, giving a bloodied Takahashi the win.
Although not a fight of the year contender, this really did squeeze a lot into 3 rounds and is a must watch. It had literally everything we could hope to see, with both being hurt, both being downed, some questionable refereeing, and a fire fight in round 3. This was sensational stuff, in a bout that looked, on paper, like it was going to be an easy days work for an unbeaten prospect.
We admit the refereeing left much to be desired here, though don't let that overshadowed what was a genuine barn burner.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.