Over in Liverpool late on Friday night we saw Englishman Paul Butler (34-2, 15) claim one of the most important wins of his career, as he out pointed Filipino Jonas Sultan (18-6, 11) and claimed the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which was put on on very short notice, was made when the BBBof C refused to allow Johnriel Cassimero to defend the WBO title against Butler, the mandatory challenger, after he was caught using a sauna. As a result Sultan replaced his countryman, and actually the bout as the betting favourite.
The opening round really so very, very, very little from either man as both looked to see what the other hand. In round 2 however the fight slowly started to come alive as Sultan began to come forward, pressing, and looking to make it into a fight whilst Butler boxed on the move, picked his shots well and really showed what he could do a boxer-mover. Rounds 2 and 3 were some of the best of the fight, with both men having moments, and both showing that their tactics could have success.
Sadly for Sultan after round 4 his limitations and gameplan began to look very predictable. He did little to cut the distance and set things up, instead looking to land single big shots, without creating the opportunities to land them. Instead Sultan was often finding himself being tagged by counters, missing and being made to look slow and clumsy, whilst Butler landed sharp, crisp shots that didn't have much on them, but were accurate.
Through much of the middle portion of the bout the action really was all Butler as he looked levels above Sultan, who sadly didn't change anything. It was the same tactic of trudge forward, chasing Butler, rather than cutting the ring off. He never looked capable of timing the Englishman, or putting together combinations with any regularity. It seemed that Sultan's best chance of winning was Butler tiring himself out with all the movement.
It seemed in round 9, that Butler starting to feel the tempo of the action, and it gave Sultan one of his best rounds, and there did, for a few moments, seem like their could be a sting in the tale. Sadly though Sultan couldn't replicate the success in rounds 10 or 11 as Butler created a lot of space, picked his moments and picked up the rounds, even standing and fighting Sultan at times in those rounds as he looked to prove a point.
Going into the final round Sultan needed a knockout, and it never came. It never looked likely to come. Instead Butler did what he needed to to play safe, and take the fight to the final bell, and the scorecards.
The scores were read out, rather hilariously, as 16-12, 18-110 and 117-111, with the ring announcer seemingly a bit clueless. Though all the scores made it clear that Butler had won a wide decision and the WBO interim Bantamweight title, which may be upgraded in the coming weeks, pending a WBO decision onthe status of John Riel Casimero.
Earlier today fights had the chance to see WBO Minimumweight title champion Masataka Taniguchi (16-3, 11) [谷口将隆] successfully retain his title, as he stopped hard hitting challenger Kai Ishizawa (10-2, 9) [石澤開] in 11 rounds at Korakuen Hall, and put on a career best performance, showing just how good the often under-rater champion is.
Prior to the men getting in the ring there had been drama with Ishizawa missing weight, significantly, yesterday, when he came in above not just the Minimumweight limit but also the Light Flyweight division. As a result he was forced to weigh in again today, just hours before the fight, and managed to make the agreed weight today. Whilst he did make the agreed limit today, there was question marks as to how much making that weight world take out of him, and whether he actually did it on purpose, just to avenge his first defeat.
When they were in the ring it was clear the men were on different levels to each other. From the off Taniguchi relied on his boxing skills, his movement, straight punches and control of distance. He looked sharp, and determined and really was putting together a great start whilst also thwarting Ishizawa's attacks, tying him up when he needed to and using his foot work to keep Ishizawa from setting himself.
In round 3 we saw some success for Ishizawa, in what was easily his best round of the fight as he upped his tempo, and pressed with more success. It was however a temporary moment in the bout and in round 4 Taniguchi resumed control, using his footwork, his upper body movement and his sharp crisp punches to control the action without taking many risks.
In round 6 we saw Taniguchi begin to press more, throwing more combinations and do more damage to Ishizawa, who was being forced to show his toughness against what was becoming a bit of a sustained and gradual beating. The beating for Ishizawa seemed to fire him up a bit in round 9, but it wasn't enough the turn the tide, and was more a last hurrah from Ishizawa who took sustained damage in round 10, and then 11 before the referee saved the younger man from any further punishment,
After the bout Taniguchi spoke about his performance, stating he wanted to "fight cool", added that he though Ishizawa missing weight wasn't deliberate, and seemed to tell the youngster that there was no need to apologise, and added that he wanted to partake in a world title double header with Watanabe Gym stablemate Hiroto Kyoguchi, in Kansai, in the future.
Taniguchi's promoter, Hitoshi Watanabe, stated "I'm glad that the match was established first. I'd like him to have a chance to play a match overseas as well as a defense match in Japan."
As for Ishizawa, he seemed fully aware he was the second best man here and admitted the referee had no choice but to stop it. Fully aware he was taking a beating and had no answer to Taniguchi's skills, movement, accuracy and ring craft.
Just moments ago we had a brutal treat from the Super Arena in Saitama as Gennady Golovkin (42-1-1, 37) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] unified the IBF Middleweight and WBA "Super" Middleweight titles, as he stopped Japanese tough guy Ryota Murata (16-3, 13) [村田 諒太] in a brilliant, brutal and hard hitting bout.
The first was nip and tuck as both men looked to get their distance punches into play, with both landing crisp and clean jabs. The round saw a lot of Murata pressing and pressuring behind his tight guard, and Golovkin showing off quicker handspeed and better footwork.
Muratra found his groove in round 2 and his pressure began to have real succes as he walked down the distance and get intosde to land left hooks to the body and some huge right hands up top, whilst walking though a lot of good work by Golovkin. Whilst Murata was having sustained success through the rounds, Golovkin was much more reserved and tended to throw eye catching combinations, rather than sustaining any work. It seemed clear that Golovkin, at the age of 40, knew he had to fight smartly, and not set a high tempo from the off.
By round 4 the bout was incredibly close, but that's where things began to change as Golovkin took over in round 5, setting a high work rate, and taking the fight to Murata more regularly. It was here that Murata began to slowly be worked down, chipped away at and forced to take more and more heavy shots. Golovkin's work rate, accuracy and power really began to tell in rounds 6 and 7, and although he was putting a lot in to the rounds, he was handing out a lot of punishment. Murata had moments in those rounds, but really struggled with consistency, and it seemed clear he was struggling to get Golovkin's respect. Whilst Golovkin clearly had his!
In round 8 it was clear Golovkin wanted to make a statemend and let his shots go regularly on Murata, who was forced to cover up, back up and head on to the ropes several times. It was now a real test not just of Murata's will to win, but his toughness and his chin. Some how he was holding up to the huge shots Golovkin was landing, but round by round they became ever more consistent, whilst his return fire became more and more limited. It was clear Golovkin was on his way to victory, but the real question was "How is Murata staying up?" as Golovkin began to land his much vaunted power shots almost at will.
In round 9, finally, Golovkin's powetr had the break through as he sagged Murata's legs early in the round and later on landed a brutal left hook, that rould have beheaded mere mortals. The shot turned damn near turned Murata around, before he sank to the canvas. Murata's team knew their man was done and threw in the towel whilst Murata must have wondered what had hit him.
Whilst this was a brilliant effort from Murata, who showed his toughness and grit, he really did come unstuck after round 4. And the punishment he took here, at the age of 36 probably spells the end of him as a top fighter. Maybe sending him into retirement, and more TV work, something that he's done quite a bit of and he has proven to be an excellent analyst.
As for Golovkin, he may have won the fight, but it's really hard to know what's next for him. He won, but he took punishment, and aged 40 this may well have been a last hurrah for a true legend of the sport. He clearly wants a third bout with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, but in reality we don't see that ending well for him, and it may well be time he sets off into the sunset on what was a great win, in a fantastic bout.
In the co-main event of the huge show at the Super Arena in Saitama, we saw WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (23-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] make his second defense, as he dominated fellow Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi (8-2, 7) [山内涼太], and scored an 8th round TKO win over his countryman.
From the opening round it was clear there was a gulf in class between the two men, and Nakatani came close to putting Yamauchi down in the first round, with a number of clean, hurtful, powerful left hands. He genuinely came close to dropping the challenger twice in the first round, as Yamauchi learned the difference between regional level and world class.
Things went from bad to worse for the challenger, who was left with a nose that looked broken and a badly damaged left eye in round 2, as Nakatani used Yamamuchi's face as target practice. It seemed obvious this wasn't going to go the distance, but remarkably Yamauchi was showing he was still there, still determined and still incredibly gritty, despite his head being tagged time and time again. Yamauchi showed no quit despite taking punishment round after round. Unfortunately for Yamauchi he wasn't just being tagged, but also being made to miss, time and time., and time again as Nakatani looked to prove his defense as well as his offensive skills. He also chose to trade on the inside, fighting Yamauchi's fight and beat him on the inside as well as landed everything at will. The right hooks, thje jabs, the left straights and the uppercuts were all flowing from Nakatani, whilst Yamauchi was lucky to land a shot here or there in a bout that was becoming a show case for Nakatani.
In round 8 the toughness of Yamauchi finally broke, as Nakatani put his shots together, poured on the pressure and forced referee, Katsuhiko Nakamura to step in and wave off the action, saving Yamauchi after 2 minutes 20 seconds of the round.
For Yamauchi this loss was horribly one sided. He never looked in the bout, and looked a lot worse than he really is. In all honesty he's a decent contender, but was made to look completely out classed. As for Nakatani it's going to be incredibly hard to find him a worth while challenger at 112lbs. We suspect Seigo Yuri Akui will be wanting to face Nakatani before he leaves the division, but the champion obviously has plans to chase career defining bouts, and not re-run a bout with a domestic foe he beat in 2017.
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.