The Flyweight division is easily the most competitive in boxing right now. Whilst the American fans are fawning over the Welterweight division they are being by passed by the action, fighters, fighters and match ups at 112lbs which is a real shame.
One of three stand out Flyweights was in action this past weekend and that was Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 19) the reigning WBO and WBA "super" champion at 112lbs. Estrada, who alongside Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez, has shown a willingness to fight anyone anywhere.
This time Estrada was returning home, to Puerto Penasco, after back to back fights in Macau. It was his first fight home since 2012 and he put on a show as the over-matched Filipino challenger Richie Mepranum (27-4-1, 6) fell short in his second world title bout.
Mepanum, who went in to the bout with plenty of confidence, knew he was in with a very good opponent. By the end of the second round Mepranum was beginning to to learn just how good Estrada was. The champion, almost immediately, found a home for his body shots and let rip with them landing some vicious ones throughout round 2. It seemed like it was the sort of attack that could finish an attack at any time and it seemed that even Estrada knew the crowd didn't want a finish that early.
If the second round had been painful for Mepranum then round 3 was just embarrassing as the champion offered his chin and cruised through the first 2 minutes before launching a scathing burst of offensive work that stole him the round. It was obvious that Estrada was too strong, too skilled, too tough and just too damned good for the Filipino challenger.
The challengers best moments of success came in round 4 as he managed to get Estrada on the ropes and went to work. Unfortunately for Mepranum his lack of power saw him struggling to to really hurt the champion. With both men finding their groove going into round 5 it appeared that we may have a fight and both started to exchange shots as the crowd began to raise their noise level. A slip from Estrada almost saw the champion going down but he quickly recovered before going back to work and dominating the remainder of the round. Although Mepranum smiled at the bell and raised his arms he was convincing no one, he was getting beat up by the end of the round.
In round 6 it was clear the body shots were taking their toll on the challenger and the two men spent long swathes of the round stood toe-to-toe in a battle of machismo. Unfortunately for Mepranum he was was on the receiving end of much of the punishment and although he was able to see out the round it was obvious that he was being ground down by the lovely offensive work of the champion. It seemed that every time Mepranum landed something he got paid back with interest and through out rounds 7 and 8 that really was taking it's toll on the challenger.
The toll continued through round 9 and it was clear that Mepranum was starting to get beaten up a little bit. He wasn't being destroyed but he had no way to win. He was 9 rounds down, he was getting tagged a lot, couldn't make Estrada back up or respect him and in the end he knew he was just going to take extra punishment for no gain. Instead he took the smart decision and retired on his stool before congratulating the very talented champion who just too much of everything for him.
For Mepranum this is a second failure in a world title bout whilst for Estrada this was a second successful defence with both coming against Filipino's. It's fair to say that Estrada will be keeping an eye on the upcoming IBF title fight between Amant Ruenroeng and Kazuto Ioka and will also be showing an interest in the winner of the up coming contest between Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez, tentatively rumoured for September.
(Photo courtesy of Rafael Soto Zanfer)
When we talk about the hardest pound-for-pound punchers on the planet the obvious name from Japan is Takashi Uchiyama, the Super Featherweight champion dubbed "KO dynamite". We'd however suggest that the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in Japan is Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16) who scored his 5th successive KO as he defended his WBC Bantamweight title for the 6th time.
Fighting against Belgium's Stephane Jamoye (25-5, 15) we knew Yamanaka was in with a tough and brave opponent, we just didn't know how brave until Yamanaka beat him up, discoloured his face and eventually stopped him in 9 very 1-sided rounds.
The fight started as many expected with Jamoye marauding forward, trying to pressure the champion in to making mistakes and getting involved in to a slugfest. Sadly for Jamoye his pressure wasn't educated enough to make Yamanaka feel any discomfort and instead the Japanese fighter boxed beautifully off the back foot using his jab and powerful left hand to land as and when he wanted.
In round 2 we saw the vaunted left hand of Yamanaka being used to it's full effect as he targeted the body of the challenger. Although the body was a clear target for Yamanaka the highlight was when he went back up stairs and dropped Jamoye for the first time. It appeared little more than a flash knockdown though that was due to Jamoye being insanely brave and getting back up quickly.
Despite getting up from the knock down the left hands of Yamanaka were having a telling effect on Jamoye with his right eye bruising up badly despite the fight being in the early stages. The shots may not have been knocking down Jamoye every time they were landing but they were all doing damage as the champion chipped away at the challenger.
The chipping effect of the straight left seemed to make the eye of Jamoye worse in round 3 and then appeared, at one point, to rock Jamoye a little. Unfortunately for the challenger his best shots seemed to do little more than bounce off the champion who was never bothered by anything the Belgian did. It was one sided and it gradual became more and more one sided as Jamoye continued to feel the effects of the shots.
By the start of round 5 the scoring was easy, 40-35, all the judges doing open scoring agreed and there was very little argument to the contrary, unless you felt like giving Jamoye a sympathy round for being a sacrifice to the "God of Left".
In the 5th the power of Yamanaka shook Jamoye again and the Belgian seemed to be just a few punches away from being stopped as the referee moved in, ready to stop the punishment, a huge left uppercut from Yamanaka followed before Jamoye fired back with a right hand that did enough to allow the referee to let him continue despite doing nothing to ward off Yamanaka who patiently looked for more and more openings for his left hand.
Rounds 6 and 7 saw much the same pattern. Yamanaka continued to dominate with his powerful straight left landing both upstairs and to the midsection whilst Jamoye tried to fight back with booming and wild shots that either missed or bounced off the champion. Unfortunately for the challenger he was no match at all for the champion who landed crisp and hurtful shots at will whilst never really looking rushed or pressured. The one thing that perhaps did go for the challenger was the fact Yamanaka was deducted a point for stiff arming in round 6 though at the end of the day it did little more than lead to a 9-9 round.
By round 8 it appeared that Jamoye was running out fight and and he was dropped early in the round. The challenger showed his toughness and bravery by getting up, again, but couldn't do much more than fight on instinct. He was nearly done and was actually bounced around the ring at one point before a solid body shot put the challenger down for the 3rd time in the fight. It was now clear Jamoye was a completely spent force but the bell to end round 8 saved him.
In all honesty his corner probably should have saved him though he was sent out for round 9 instead. The punishment in the 9th didn't last long and almost the first connect of note from Yamanaka dropped Jamoye again, this time the referee didn't give Jamoye a chance to recover and waved it off immediately, as if to say "you're brave kid, but you're only going to get battered if this goes on".
For Jamoye it was his big chance though he found out the huge gulf in class between "world class" and "European class". In Europe he is a top, top Bantamweight, in the world however he's not up there with Yamanaka who may well be one of the truly elite boxers on the planet.
With power, skills, speed, timing and a great judge of distance it's going to take a very special fighter to beat Yamanaka.
After the fight the Japanese fighter said that he wants a unification bout though we tend to think he'd prefer a bout with Leo Santa Cruz, who is unfortunately due a mandatory with Carl Frampton in the near future.
An interesting side note for this fight was the focus on Joichiro Tatsuyoshi in the crowd. "Joe" famously beat Sirimongkol Songwancha of Thailand back in 1997 in this same venue for the very title Yamanaka was defending.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today saw Japanese great Hozumi Hasegawa (33-5, 15) attempt to become the second 3-weight world champion in Japanese history. Unfortunately the 33 year old southpaw came up short as he fought the bull like Kiko Martinez (31-5, 23) who sadly stopped Hasegawa in 7 rounds to retain his IBF Super Bantamweight title.
The fight started competitively with a good opening round for the Japanese challenger. Unfortunately the round ended with the two men trading and it seemed like that was always going to be a problem against the hard headed Martinez who appeared tougher and stronger than Hasegawa.
In the second round the power of Martinez was on show as he rocked, then dropped Hasegawa. Hasegawa showed off his heart and determination by getting back up but went straight back to trading with Martinez who appeared to be going through the gears. The fact the champion had dropped Hasegawa should have said it all, this guys hits hard, instead it seemed like Hasegawa was determined to go out on his shield.
Thankfully over the following few rounds Hasegawa did start to use his skills a bit, despite suffering a nasty cut in round 4 over his right eye. The cut seemed to spur Hasegawa into using his brain and in round 5 he got on to his toes and began to box on the back foot forcing Martinez to fall short with his shots before firing back. It was a glimpse of Hasegawa at his best, he looked, for one round, like the man we all know and loved a fearsome, counter punching machine who could make world class opponents look second rate. Sadly at 33 Hasegawa was only able to muster up one round of that old magic.
In round 6 it seemed clear the magic had worn off as Martinez went to work and although the champion was deducted a point he was clearly on top as his pressure began to force Hasegawa back in to trading. The shots Martinez was landing were taking a clear toll on Hasegawa who was losing his sharpness and his footwork was beginning to get very sloppy as tried to escape the onslaught from the Spaniard.
By the start of round 7 Hasegawa still didn't look himself and Martinez continued to just walk Hasegawa down, this saw Hasegawa again forced into an exchange before he was dropped for the second time in the fight. The brave Japanese fighter managed to regain his feet but bot his senses and a follow up attack saw Martinez send him down for the third time. This time the referee decided to save Hasegawa from himself and immediately waved the bout off.
After the fight the two men embraced in respect though the shocked and saddened audience seemed to know that this was it, the end of Hasegawa who will almost certainly retire now rather than take any more damage. Thankfully Hasegawa walked out of the arena under his own steam and the sadness that was on the fans faces turned to respect as they clapped him back to the changing rooms where he will consider his future.
Hasegawa, if he does retire as expected, has plenty of options though working in TV would seem the most likely following in the footsteps of Toshiaki Nishioka. Like Nishioka, Hasegawa has given us all a lot of nights to remember and although this was a sad night he still gave us something to remember him by with the fantastic action in round 2, the skills in round 5 and the heart in round 7.
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp)
When we talk about living legends in the world of boxing few can rival the 49 year old Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2-2, 32) who once again showed his skills and class as he became the oldest boxer in history to unify world titles as he unified the IBF and WBA "Super" titles at Light Heavyweight.
Hopkins, fighting against Kazakhstan's Beibut Shumenov (14-2, 9), was masterful in a display that may not have been hugely exciting but was the perfect example of what skills can do in the ring.
The fight started slow. It started very slowly. The first 4 rounds saw very little action from either man and could well have gone either way. We, like we expect many others, had it even through 4 rounds with neither man having assumed control. It could have been 40-40 with each of the rounds scored evenly such was the lack of action.
From round 5 we began to see Hopkins go through the gears. He went from not throwing a great deal to landing at will with either his jab, his left hook or, more regularly, the straight right hand that tattooed Shumenov's face time and time again. It was clear that Hopkins was now in charge and Shumenov had no answer. Early on, when nothing was happening, things were even but with Hopkins letting his hands go it really wasn't even close.
Through rounds 6, 7 and 8 it became more and more one sided as Hopkins manage to evade what little Shumenov threw as the Kazakh seemed to spend too much time waiting and not enough time working. It was incredibly frustrating to to watch Shumenov, who usually lets combinations go, fight in such a restrained way. It seemed that he had picked the wrong tactics and been lulled into Hopkins's pace of bout, it was a double whammy and Kazakh simply couldn't adapt as the fight began to slip away from him.
Round 9 finally saw Shumenov letting some combinations go. Unfortunately it wasn't as much a change in tactics but more a feeling of desperation as the Kazakh began to realise his reign as world champion was coming to an end. Unfortunately for Shumenov it was too little too and much of the work was easily avoided and countered by Hopkins who saw much of the assault coming and fired back with solid shots in return. A similar pattern followed in round 10 as the desperation got ramped up again and Hopkins became even more dominant with his counters. It starting to look like a genuine schooling by Hopkins who looking like a teacher to the powerful but limited Shumenov.
Going in to the championship rounds it was obvious that Shumenov was going to need knock downs to cut down the difference on the scorecards. Surprisingly though it was Hopkins who would score a knockdown in round 11 as he effectively put the bout beyond any doubt. Hopkins didn't seem satisfied with just the knock down however and instead tried to end Shumenov's fight with some follow up shots after Shumenov got to his feet. The Kazakh saw off the storm but by then it was merely a question of whether or not Shumenov would make it through the final round.
The 12th was mostly a continuation of the previous round as Hopkins made Shumenov pay for his lack of speed, his poor defence, which included his left hand being kept low through the entire fight, and his lack of work rate. It seemed at one point that Hopkins rattled Shumenov though soon afterwards he let Shumenov off the hook, preferring to stick his tongue and pull faces rather than trying to close the show.
With Hopkins bossing much of the bout through the middle and later rounds the decision seemed an obvious one. At best you could have made a case for 5 rounds to Shumenov, and that was being polite, though with the knockdown against him and at least 7 rounds going to Hopkins there was no doubting the winner...or was there...
When it came to the the scorecards Jimmy Lennon Jr was forced to read that the bout had been scored a split decision. The first scorecard was 116-111 to Hopkins, about what we'd had it, the second however was a mysterious and frighteningly bizarre 114-113 card in Shumenov. Thankfully 2 of the judges got the right guy with the third card reading 116-111 in favour of Hopkins who made a comment about the judges before talking up a potential bout with the hard punching Adonis Stevenson and claiming he wanted to clean up the Light Heavyweight division.
Whilst Hopkins may dream of cleaning up the titles at 175lbs he is unlikely to be able to claim the WBO belt as WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev is signed to rival network HBO and this would prevent a Kovalev/Hopkins bout. It's unfortunate but that bout is likely to go down as one of those classic "what would have happened if..." bouts. One thing is for sure, Kovalev wouldn't have been as tame as Shumenov was here with the Kazakh effectively giving his belts to Hopkins due to his incredible low out put which suited Hopkins down to the ground.
For what it's worth, Asianboxing.info scored the bout 117-110 Hopkins
(Image courtesy of http://www.goldenboypromotions.com)
In the most anticipated rematch of the year we got a wrong righted and Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) got his long over-due victory over American Timothy Bradley (31-1-0-1, 12) and reclaimed him WBO Welterweight title.
The opening round was close and it could have gone either way. Neither man stamped their authority on it and it was a typical feeling out round. It was, if you will, round 1 of the fight and not round 13 of the rivalry which had of course began 2 years ago when Bradley had taken a controversial and much debated split decision over the Filipino fighter.
Although the opening round had been quiet the fight really picked up in the second round as Bradley tried to turn the contest in to a dog fight. This saw Bradley charging in, trying to break down Pacquiao's body whilst leaving himself open to the much vaunted straight lefts of Pacquiao which landed time and time again. It was a brilliant round and showed the type of action a big fight like this deserves as both men put it on the line.
The action from the second round continued through rounds 3 and 4 as both men connected with bombs on each other. Bradley continued to attack the body, almost as if his entire game plan was based on breaking Pacquiao's body and destroying his speed and stamina with the body assault. It great to watch as both men dug their heels in and went to work with bad intentions and it was clear that the intensity couldn't last, at least one man was going to have to change their tactics and slow down or they'd both burn out by the championship rounds.
Unfortunately for Bradley it was he that had to slow down. The insane intensity and energy he had put into rounds 2,3, and 4 had taken it's toll on him and although neither man really really won round 5 it was clear the pace was being felt more by the American than the Filipino. Sure Pacquiao didn't dominate the fifth but it seemed like he was trying to find his rhythm whilst Bradley was just genuinely feeling like his energy reserves were dipping.
The sixth round seemed to prove that Pacquiao still had gas left as he he fired off the occasional, eye catching, combination including one very late in the round that brought the crowd to life despite mostly missing due to Bradley's incredibly movement with his head and body. Although it was a case of Pacquiao stealing the round it was something that seemed to irritate Bradley's corner man who seemed to feel that Bradley was beginning to the let the Filipino assume control.
If Bradley's trainer was frustrated after round 6 he was irate after round 7 as Pacquiao found a new gear and went to work whilst Bradley was against the ropes. Bradley, who even waved Pacquiao in, was looking for a counter punch to knockout Pacquiao but instead was forced to eat a series of big combinations before the bell in one of the most dominant rounds of the fight. It was as if Bradley had gone to plan D and that was to go for the run punch with out doing anything to set it up, just throw it and hope it connects. It was stupid tactic and one that failed, in fact it saw him giving away round 7.
Round 8 was slightly better from Bradley who tried to box cleverly though he didn't do nearly enough to win the round. It was another change of tactic that failed from the American who was almost cycling through ideas in desperation and his trainer couldn't help but show his anger at his charge shouting and swearing, trying to make his man use his brain.
Bradley was falling behind and fast. He needed something big to happen in his favour. Instead what happened was bad news for Bradley who appeared to hurt his leg when the two fighters came together in round 9. This saw Pacquiao smelling blood and unloading with some big shots that sent the crowd wild. It was as if both Pacquiao and the crowd could sense Bradley was a wounded animal and was there for the taking, worse yet for the American was that it seemed even he knew something was wrong as he went back to looking for a highlight reel KO. Bradley's trainer by now seemed out of ideas and lied to his fighter suggesting the fight was even, it had been difficult to give Bradley a round since round 5 at an absolute push.
The leg issues of Bradley from round 9 seemed to continue in round 10 as he flailed himself across the ring, completely off balance at times. It was a dream round for Pacquiao who got to land counters on Bradley as the American left himself open, throw wildly and began to look like a man running on fumes. Amazingly however Bradley showed his toughness to see out the round and even fought back in round 11. It was in round 11 that Bradley turned boxer, used his feet, and seemed to do enough to win the round. It was close but we gave him it and it his first in a long time as the cards had began to look very one sided. Had Bradley fought like that earlier, with his movement and pot shotting he may have been able to keep it close but by now he had needed a KO.
With the knowledge he needed a KO Bradley came our hard for round 12, his infamous will to win was put to the test. Unfortunately his will to win was less than Pacquioa's and the Filipino gave as good as he got in a thrilling round that saw both men trading and both men opening up, to varying degrees of success. Oddly, with less than 20 seconds to go, we got the first headclash of the fight with it opening a small cut on Pacquiao. With so little time left it hardly made sense for the doctor to look at it but they did before allowing the fight to continue to it's scheduled ending.
By the time we'd got to the final bell their was only going to be one winner, then again we all thought that last time. Thankfully the judges got it right this time scoring it 116-112, twice, and 118-110 to Pacquiao who picked up the victory many thought he had deserved 2 years ago.
After the fight the men got interviewed. Bradley mentioned that his leg was indeed injured during the fight whilst Pacquiao mentioned that his next fight would be left up to his promoter Bob Arum. The likely options for Pacquiao are either a rematch with Bradley, a rematch with nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez or the much touted superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
For note of interest, we had the bout 117-112 giving a 10-10 round in round 5 where we felt neither had done enough.
(Image courtesy of http://www.crownregency.com/)
The first of two world title fights this weekend saw the WBA Light Welterweight title change hands as the previously unbeaten Russian Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-1, 9) was narrowly out pointed by unbeaten American Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9) in a very tough and very evenly fought contest.
Early on it did look like the title was changing hands with out any questions. The first 2 or 3 rounds were all Vargas, he was too quick for the Russian and his shots were taking an effect almost from the off with Khabib's right eye beginning to swell from the second round. It seemed like a matter of time before Khabib's eye would shut and Vargas would get his first stoppage since 2011.
Strangely from Vargas he then began to slow down and Khabib started to time the American making things very competitive, especially at the end of round 3. The following round saw Khabib possibly winning his first round as he moved up a gear as if to suggest he knew he was trailing on the cards.
After the well fought action of rounds 3 and 4, which could easily have gone either way, it seemed that Khabib then became a little apprehensive. He continued to start though for the first minute of the round he was being out-manoeuvred and at the end of the round a flurry from Vargas stole him the round.
Having had round 5 stolen from him Khabib then kick started round 6 with an assault from the off. It was clear round 6 was one of Khabib's better rounds but it was tough and Vargas's persistent movement and jab was making life hard for the champion who was only managing to have success in spurts. Those spurts were rare in round 7 as he became overly apprehensive and struggled to connect with much of note.
If round 7 had been bad for Khabib then round 8 was a nightmare as a clash of heads left the Russian was a horrible cut over his left eye. This cut threatened to force an early conclusion to the bout though remarkably Khabib's corner managed to control it excellently. The cut, which could easily have ended the fight, seemed to fuel Khabib who tried to turn the fight in to a war and at the end of round 8 we had some of the most exciting of the fight.
Khabib began round 9 as he had ended round 8, cut and knowing the fight could be over at any point. Unfortunately the cut was a giant bullseye and Vargas targeted it with straight shots for the first 90 seconds of the round. This caused the doctor to take a look before allowing the fight to go on. The inspection seemed to fire up Khabib who tried to steal the round and turn it in to a fight but Vargas was equal to it.
Knowing he was behind Khabib really put his foot on the gas in the later rounds and he appeared to do all he could to try and over-turn the clear hole he was in. This saw Khabib out working Vargas in the championship rounds as Vargas appeared to cruise a little bit. It was a risky strategy from Vargas considering many of the rounds had been highly competitive but it was one he probably got away with as he was fighting at home.
Unfortunately for Khabib the judges seemed to agree with the view that Vargas had they awarded him the decision with cards of 115-113, twice and 117-111. It was a bout that had been competitive enough in a number of rounds to have gone 8-4 either way, with that in mind we can't complain about the winner as it seemed likely a close bout was going to go the local fighter. We do however have an issue with the 117-111 scorecard, a 9-3 card, from Jerry Roth. There had been competitive rounds but their had also been clear rounds each way, the final 3 for example were Khabib's with arguments out there for a further 5, to not Khabib a single one of those close rounds is harsh.
For Khabib this is probably the end of his run in the top 10. It's a loss that will cost him not just in future earnings but also in hospital fees as he'll need some major work on the cuts he suffered. As for Vargas he looks like a poor champion and although he's well schooled and fast he seems like the sort of fighter who could lose at any point.
(Photo, courtesy of the WBA, shows Khabib with the WBA title prior to his loss)
Sometimes in boxing it can be hard to live up to expectation. We've seen countless fighters over the years fail to fulfil their potential and in fact fall short very early on their careers. Today however Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) lived up to his promise as he scored an historic victory over experienced Mexican Adrian Hernandez (29-3-1, 18) and claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title in just 6th professional contest.
The Mexican fighter had been the longest reigning active champion at 108lbs going in to this bout but looked like a novice in their early on as Inoue got to work from the opening round. The Japanese used his stunning hand speed to to tag Hernandez with several hard shots, including some eye catching ones to the body. It seemed obvious that Inoue was going to tag the midsection of Hernandez after the Mexican had looked skeletal on the scales yesterday.
Although Inoue had clearly won the opening round it was widely accepted that Hernandez was a slow starter and in the second round the Mexican did come alive, at least momentarily, before Inoue re-assumed control and began to back up Hernandez. Midway through the second round Inoue went back to the body, digging in hard shots whilst backing up Hernandez. It was amazing to think that Inoue was the apparent "boy" in the "man against boy" analogy when it was Hernandez pushed backwards and looking like a relatively lost fighter.
The shocking thing, for Hernandez anyway, was that even when he connected with something big it had no effect on Inoue. It seemed the vaunted power of "Big Bang" had been taken in his battle with the scales and Inoue seemed to recognise it as he started to take a few more risks. A big shot from Hernandez landed about 2 minutes in to round 3 and all it seemed to do was make Inoue more determined to punish the Mexican who was beginning to be broken up physically as seen in a cut he suffered over his left eye at the end of the third stanza.
The cut of Hernandez's was nasty though it seemed to almost inspire him at the start of round 4 as he tried to derail Inoue. All he did however was give Inoue more chances to hurt him and the early assault of the Mexican was soon forgotten as Inoue proved he could go to war just as well as he could box. The fourth was easily the closest round up to that point but it was another that appeared to show Inoue was simply too strong for the Mexican who looked like a man who had tried his best and knew he simply couldn't hang with the Japanese fighter.
After the 4 rounds the open scoring was simple, 40-36 to Inoue across the board, it was hard to argue with those scores with it perhaps being possible to give round 4 as a 10-10 if you felt like being generous to the Mexican.
Inoue's control of the bout continued in round 5 as he continued to do as he wished. Although Hernandez did manage to the youngster against the ropes at one point there was never any danger for Inoue who really did look like he was fun in there as he got a chance to show off every facet of his game. When he wanted to box on the move he was doing so, when he wanted to counter he did so and when he wanted to go to war he did.
Hernandez tried valiantly to take the fight to Inoue in round 6 but by now Inoue was simply too comfortable and sat in the pocket willing to trade shots in the knowledge that Hernandez simply couldn't hurt him. He, however, could hurt Hernandez and a vicious assault with less than 30 seconds left sent Hernandez down. Although the Mexican got up he had had enough and the referee knew it waving it off rather than giving Hernandez the extra few seconds that he could have done.
An elated Inoue celebrated with the Ohashi team that are behind him and playfully asked the fans if the belt looked good on him as he wore it over his shoulder. He then thanked his father and trainer, Shingo, as well as Ohashi Chairman Hideyuki Ohashi. The celebrations did take an unexpectedly funny turn however when Shingo was almost dropped as someone paraded him on his shoulders.
As the TV camera cut away the Inoue family stood united with Naoya being flanked by younger brother Takuma, who himself had scored a great win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr earlier on the card, and Shingo who is surely on his way to an Eddie Townsend award.
(Image courtesy of Boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) made the 3rd successful defence of his world title as he over-came spirited Mexican challenger Odilon Zaleta (15-4, 8) and set up a Flyweight super fight with Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez.
It didn't always look like Yaegashi was actually going to get the job done here as the exciting Japanese fighter did seem to start slowly and certainly lost the opening round to Zaleta who looked surprisingly better than expected in the opening round and managed to huse his reach to land some smart straight shots.
Although Yaegashi did look to be in a tough fight in the opening round he did manage to find a home for his over-hand right in the second round. It seemed that he was the first to change tactics and the shot continued to land through round 3. In round 4 however it Zaleta who was making changes to his game trying to line up his powerful straight right hand.
The open scoring of the WBC seemed to struggle to spit the two men after 4 rounds with 2 of the judges having the bout even and the other judge having Zaleta up 39-37. Not just was it close on the ards but worryingly Yaegashi's eyes were beginning to swell up. As anyone who has seen Yaegashi before knows his eyes swell up quickly and badly and it's always a worry that they will cause him to be stopped one of these days.
Yaegashi acted positively to the scorecards and seemed to do what the open scoring expected of him as he put his foot on the gas and went on the offensive, cutting the distance and applying very educated pressure. It was obvious that Yaegashi had so much more in the locker than he had shown in the first 4 stanzas whilst Zaleta seemed to be struggling to hold off the Japanese fighter. Zaleta's struggles to keep Yaegashi away resulted in a fantastic 6th round that saw both men spending time trading shots in eye catching moments of action. It was the sort of action that makes us love watch Yaegashi.
Although the 6th was highlighted by the back and forth trading the key work was really Yaegashi's body shot which Zaleta had absolutely no answer for.
Round 7 again saw the champion bring the pressure and it seemed clear that the pressure of Yaegashi was really taking it's toll on the challenger who was quickly becoming gun shy and trying to avoid a fight. Yaegashi refused to let Zaleta though and kept coming forward, eventually getting a chance to make Zaleta pay for his negativity in the final 20 seconds or so of the round.
After again being forced on the back foot for the first half of round 8 Zaleta seems to regain his confidence. It was as if he clicked and realised he had to fight back or Yaegashi would simply grind him down. The bravery of Zaleta gave us the bouts most fun round to watch though it did appear that Zaleta was beginning to fight out of desperation and this was almost suiting Yaegashi who appeared happy for a tear with the naturally longer Zaleta.
The hard work of Yaegashi's in the middle section of the bout had seen the Japanese fighter rewarded on the open scoring with cards which read 77-75, 77-76 and 76-76. We had felt that Yaegashi, despite his early struggles, had clearly taken over the bout but the judges felt that is had been competitive. In round 9 however the bout was taken out of the hands of the judges as Yaegashi dropped Zaleta hard. The Mexican recovered to his feet but was viewed as being in no fit state to recover by referee Ian John Lewis. It was an easy call for the referee as Zaleta walked aimlessly away from the referee and left little option for the official.
After the fight Yaegashi and Gonzalez shared a little back and forth in the ring to help build up the anticipation of their fight which is expected in the summer. Although the two men are seemingly set to fight each other they amazingly respectful to each other. Hopefully that respect will be put on ice when they fight and, with the style of the two men, they will hopefully put on a thriller when they meet.
(Poster courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.