One of the often spoke about things when it comes to predicting fights are results against shared opponents. That often forgets that styles make fights and that boxing isn't as simple as A beats B, and B beats C so A beats C. There are, through history, hundreds examples of this in play, sometimes in huge fights, sometimes in less fights and sometimes in the fights that fall somewhere between the two. Today we get to look at an example of that in what was one of the biggest upsets of 2016, and sadly one of the most forgotten upsets from the year.
December 31st 2016
Shimazu Arena Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan
Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7) vs Jonathan Guzman (22-0-0-1, 22)
IBF Super Bantamweight champion Jonathan "Salomon King" Guzman had won the previously vacant title in July 2016, when he battered Shingo Wake into an 11th round TKO loss. The victory, in Osaka, was a massive win and a huge statement for Guzman, who proved he could travel to Japan and beat arguably their number #1 fight at 122lbs. He hadn't just beaten Wake but had legitimately smashed his face in, leaving Wake needing surgery and being a bloodied, messy pulp at the end of the bout. He returned to Japan in December to take part in one of the now hugely significant end of year shows, where he was going up against the once beaten Yukinori Oguni.
Oguni was coming into his first world title bout. Prior to this he had held both the OPBF title and the Japanese title, both at Super Bantamweight. Although a skilled boxer, he lacked power, with just 7 stoppages in 20 bouts, and had suffered a notable stoppage himself to Shingo Wake. Yes, the same Shingo Wake that Guzman had battered for the IBF title just months earlier. It was assumed, doe to Oguni's lack of power, that Guzman would do the same to him as he had to Wake.
Not only had Guzman stopped Wake but all 22 of his wins had come by stoppage. The Dominican was a feared fighter, and the only blotch on his record was an early career No Contest against Luis Hinojosa in 2013. Since then he had racked up 10 wins, including the one over Wake and one over the very decent Daniel Rosas. Those wins massively over shadowed Oguni's best wins, over Yasutaka Ishimoto, Taiki Minamoto and Roli Gasca.
Going into the bout Oguni was priced as high as 10/1 with the UK bookmakers, whilst Guzman was 1/9 to win. This was seen as little more than a chance for Guzman to build his rpeutation and, on paper, score his 23rd stoppage win. This was supposed to be easy for the champion.
Of course Oguni didn't read the script. He wasn't there to lose, he was there to become a world champion and quickly established his jab, used his reach and speed and tried to keep Guzman at range. Despite Guzman pressing, and certainly having power, he struggled to have any success in the opening round. He simply couldn't get close to Oguni for any prolonged success due to the challengers very crisp jab, the occasional follow up right hand. It wasn't until the bell to end the round that Guzman appeared to even have something to get excited about.
Of course great fighters can often take the first round as a chance to scout their opponent, starting slowly, figuring their man out, and then put their foot on the gas. To his credit Guzman did step on the gas in round 2, but that didn't really help too much as once again Oguni, boxing and moving, continued to land the eye catching and consistent shots. He was tagging Guzman with consistent jabs, coming over the top with solid right hands and landing some very nice body shots. Defensively he was blocking a lot, but moving and making Guzman miss. The champion was trying to up the ante, but struggling to have success, and despite only being in round 2 looked like he was becoming a little bit desperate, but was having more success.
Oguni stuck to his jab in round 3, though was starting to take more and more time in the middle of the ring. It was a change he was punished for, with Guzman going to work on him, though one that strangely worked in the end. As Guzman started to press and let his shots go, likely seeing an opportunity, Oguni landed a fantastic left to the body, and repeated it moments later, sending Guzman down. In an instant Guzman's momentum was stopped, and he spent much of the round trying to recover whilst Oguni looked land another to the midsection of the champion. What had been a good 90 seconds for Guzman, was turned on it's head by the knockdown, despite him easily beating the count.
After just 3 rounds Oguni looked in control. He had, maybe, lost the second round, but with the good opening round and the knockdown in round 3, he had some breathing space. Guzman however wasn't there to lose and he came back well in round 4, to stop any possible momentum from Oguni. Despite that Oguni did land some solid body shots, trying to replicate the shot that had sent Guzman down the previous round, and landed a fantastic counter uppercut. Guzman took the shots in his stride however and tried to turn the bout into a fire fight.
Oguni managed to re-establish some control in rounds 5 and 6 as he backed up Guzman, who again struggled to lane much clean. Guzman kept trying, but was falling show, whiffing at the air, and being pushed back by the clean accurate jabs of Oguni. That was until the end of round 6, when Guzman came close to stealing the round as picked up the pace on the bell and sent Oguni stumbling into the ropes. That momentum from Guzman carried over into a very good opening 2 minutes of round 7 for the champion who managed to have Oguni in trouble at one point. It seemed, for a moment, like the wheels were coming off Oguni until he landed another great body shot and had Guzman on his toes, scootching away and recovering. It was a genuinely great round, one of the best of the fight, and showed that Oguni, despite not being a puncher, could get Guzman's respect with a single well placed shot.
In round 8 Oguni again went to the body of Guzman, and the champion didn't like it, backing up, going to the ropes, and looking for safety. Some how Oguni had gone from boxer using his jab, to a pressure fighter of sorts, imposing his will on a supposedly dangerous puncher. On the back foot Guzman looked really poor, and Oguni was starting to show just how Guzman hated to be bullied. Guzman, who was cut, was then inspected at the start of round 9. That was another round where Oguni's body shots really bothered Guzman, with one about a minute in landing in a way that would have dropped lesser men. Guzman has flashes in the round, but they were few and far between with Oguni taking the play away every time Guzman had some success.
With his title slipping away Guzman likely went into round 10 knowing he needed to turn it around. Sadly for him he was on the wrong end of more Oguni body shots, almost doubling over at one point from them. He battled through though and ended up having a very good bounce back round, despite the poor start to it. By now however it was clear that Guzman's power simply wasn't effective Oguni as it had with Wake, and he was seemingly too tired, too broken down from the body shots, to keep up any intensity.
In round 11 we again saw Guzman going to the canvas from body shots. The shot was ruled low by the referee, Eddie Claudio, though it was very clear on replay that the show was a clean one. Even disregarding what should have been a legitimate knockdown, Guzman looked a beaten man and was on the receiving end of one of the worst rounds of the fight. With the botched call from the referee Guzman was given recovery time, and he milked it, needing it. When the bout did continue Guzman was again on the back foot.
Between rounds 11 and 12 a replay of the "low blow" was shown in the venue, and it made very clear the referee had made the wrong call. Regardless Oguni wasn't letting his chance slip and once again he backed up Guzman, made the champion miss, made his fight the wrong fight, and made the supposedly dangerous Dominican look scared and worried of the , supposedly, light punching Japanese challenger.
After 12 rounds we went to the scorecards, and those backers of Oguni at 10/1 would have been delighted. He had put on a very surprisingly performance, out boxing, out punching, hurting and dropping the champion. Guzman wasn't embarrassed, but was clearly second best overall. That was shown on the cards which were 115-112 to Oguni from all 3 judges .
Sadly for Oguni his reign was an under-whelming one. He had put in the performance of a life time here, ripped up the script, shattered the odds, but lost the belt just 9 months later to Ryosuke Iwasa. As for Guzman he would vanish for almost 2 years following this loss before returning with a decision win over journeyman Roberto Castaneda.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).