When it comes to Japanese fighters at the moment there is no one who has excited the boxing world quite like WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11) [井上 尚弥],who was in action earlier today, and successfully recorded his 5th defenses of his world title. And he did so whilst hardly breaking sweat against the #2 ranked WBO challenger, American based Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez (16-4, 5), who had never previously been stopped.
The bout started with both men looking to control the range, but it was Inoeu's razor sharp jab and incredible footwork that controlled the round. The Mexican had his moments, but they were few and far between whilst Inoue's jab looked a consistent threat and he landed a wonderfully flurry late in the round, as well as an incredible left hand, that seemed to make Rodriguez realise that he was in there with an incredible talent.
The second round saw Rodriguez become more adventurous but again it was Inoue's footwork and jab that controlled the action, with Rodriguez falling short with a number of shots, and hitting the guard on the few times he was close enough to connect. The Mexican was showing his fighting spirit but had no answer to Inoue, who landed a huge straight late in the round and a brutal body shot as he began to move through the gears.
Rodriguez knew the task was getting harder and harder with Inoue starting to look increasingly more offensive. That offense was too much in round 3 with a left hook dropping the challenger. Rodriguez, to his credit, got to his feet, but it was the start of the end and another left hook dropped him for the counter, giving Inoue his 5th defense of the title.
With the win under his belt Inoue is now set to make his US debut, with a September date pencilled in, with HBO likely to televise the bout. That will see Inoue build on his reputation as one of the best fighters in the sport. For Rodriguez the loss will damage his career, and it's unlikely he will be getting another title fight any time soon.
To begin today Japan had all 4 of the Light Flyweight world titles, though sadly for those hoping for a 4 man Japanese unification those dreams were shattered today as long term warrior, and 3-weight champion Akira Yaegashi (25-6, 13) [八重樫 東] lost the IBF title within a round to Filipino Milan Melindo (36-2, 13), who entered the bout as the "interim" champion and left as someone looking like a star.
The bout started with both men lookign to establish their jab, and it seemed liek Yaegashi was the quicker man as he began to move in and out, and he in fact landed the first blows of note. It was however short lived success for the popular warrior who was dropped when the two traded blows. It wasn't a hurtful knockdown, but it was a shock.
Yaegashi looked clear headed when he got back to his feet but was down moments later, and this time he looked hurt, and was clearly buzzed. The warrior spirit saw him get to his feet but Melindo could smell his prey and went on the hunt, dropping the Japanese fighter with a huge right hand, and this time the referee had seen enough, and Yaegashi looked like he was clearly in need of being saved.
It's a sad way for a warrior like Yaegashi to lose his title, in just 165 seconds, but it's fair to say that his history of wars have taken their toll on him and his punch resistence isn't what it once was. His wars with the likes of Pornsawan Porporamook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Pedro Guevara, Javier Mendoza and Jose Martin Tecuapetla have all taken a toll on him. At the age of 34, and with a lot of miles on the clock, this is probably the end for Yaegashi, though we've said that before only for him to bounce back.
As for Melindo it was third time lucky, finally winning a world title after coming up short against Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza, and it was the performance that puts him in the mix for some amazing fights down the line. He looked strong and powerful here and could well be offered some big money to come back to Japan for a unification bout.
At it's best the sport of boxing is one that entertains, excites and has us talking for all the right reasons, the action and the drama in the ring. Sadly however our great sport is one that often pushes away it's best fans and has decisions thats leave even the most ardent of fans confused and feeling like they should be doing something other than watching the sport. Sadly we had one such decision earlier today, and one that cost Japanese icon Ryota Murata (12-1, 9) [村田 諒太] a place in history, his unbeaten record and the WBA Middleweight title, whislt Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (36-2, 21) has ended the day feeling like the luckiest man in Japan,and one of the luckiest in the sport of boxing.
It was a decision that was so wrong that it has since seen the WBA head honcho Gilberto Mendoza apologise to Murata, the promoter Teiken, and fight fans whilst publically stating that he will be demanding a rematch. It was the type of result that no one could explain, and the sort of outcome that further harms boxing.
Despite the result, and post fight outrage, it was actually N'Dam who started the fight well. He seemed to clearly take the first 2 rounds as Murata started very slowly and did little other than apply ineffective pressure on the Frenchman, but by the end of round 3 Murata had began to find a home for his right hand, which would become one of the fights key punches.
In round 4 one of those Murata right hands deteonated on N'Dam who dropped hard to the canvas, in what was the bouts only, official, knockdown. It showed Murata's power was genuine, though of course it also showed N'Dam recuperative powers as he not only got back up, but went on to take the fight back to Murata as he looked to re-establish himself.
The Frenchman was shaken again in round 5, and it looked clear that Murata's right hand was a major concern and at one point it looked like the ropes had kept him up right as he was rokced backwards. It could well have been a second successive 10-8 round for Murata, had Luis Pabon seen the shot that sent N'Dam stumbling into the ropes. In round 6 Murata again hurt N'Dam who had began to do little more than run and through "stay away" jabs, rather than actually try to fight. The pressure of Murata wasn't the most intense, but it was effective with N'Dam hitting little more than gloves, and being forced onto the back foot through out.
Had N'Dam's jabs been landing, and had he controlled the tempo of the round, avoided the solid right hands of Murata and fought with conviction he could have had some claim to the round, but he didn't and it was clear that Murata's slow start was behind him and that he was now in the drivers seat.
Murata continued to apply his constant and educated pressure through the rest of the middle rounds with N'Dam doing incredible little in round 7, as he danced around the ring, and refused to engage with Murata, showing far too much respect to the Japanese fighter. N'Dam, to his credit, did let his hands go a little more in roudnd 8, but was again incredibly negative, putting on performance that really lacked any fire at all, with shots that hit the guard and did little to really impact the fight. Murata was kept quiet,due to the movement of N'Dam, but he was looking to make a fight, something N'Dam was trying to avoid.
After 8 rounds the bout seemed like one that Murata was leading comfortably, however the officials cards had the bout almost even after 8 rounds, with the judges having the bout 77-74 to Murata, 76-75 to Murata and 76-75 to N'Dam. Murata rocked N'Dam again in round 9, whilst N'Dam struggled to land anything meaningful. N'Dam seemed to come alive a bit in round 10, but was again made to look like a scared fighter, moving excessively and being tagged by both the jab and right hands by Murata.
In the final couple of rounds N'Dam did let his hands go more often than he had earlier on, but he was tagged just as often as he landed, with the Frenchman taking the bigger shots, and being negative throughout.
After 12 rounds they went to the score cards, and amazingly the bout was announced as a split decision, an instant shock to many including the fighters, fans, and everyone in the arena. It seemed that whilst N'Dam had his moments, he had been beaten in whatever way you want to score the bout. Unless you were scoring for landing on the guard and negative movement. Shockingly however the cards read 116-111 and 115-112 to N'Dam whilst the third was 117-110 to Murata.
The first card to N'Dam drew real shock from the crowd, and commentary, whilst the final decisoon drew loud boos, from a Japanese audience who are usually happy to respect a result against their fighter. Their disgust here was obvious, and it's the confusionm of those at Teiken, Murata himself and Fuji TV was clear.
The decision has been widely criticised, representatives from Teiken have said it was one of the worst they have seen in years, French TV critiised it and Murata himself has stated he feels it was wrong. The fact Mr Mendoza has criticised it as well syas it all. The decision was wrong, it was rotten and it made little sense. It wasn't a shut out, but it was a bout that looked like a clear win for the local fighter who will now be wondering whether their is any point in continuing in a sport that will, right now, feel corrupt to him.
Whilst a rematch is seemingly set to be ordered it is a shame that the judges got this so badly wrong. Interestingly however one of the judges scoring for N'Dam has turned out peculiar scorecards in Japan in the past. He had the December 31st 2014 bout between Takashi Uchiyama and Israel Hector Enrique Perez a draw at 85-85, prior to the stoppage, whilst one judge had that 90-78 amd another had it 88-82, he also had Noberto Jimenez beating Kohei Kono 115-112, with the other judges having it 114-114 and 116-111 for Kono, he was one of two judges to favour Anabel Ortiz against Etsuko Tada in their 2013 clash , though he did strangely have Koki Kameda beating Juan Jose Landaeta in their first meeting back in 2006.
A seriously look needs to be had of Gustavo Padilla's score card, and the refereeing of Luis Pabon who has consistently been poor in the big fights.
Although we suspect Murata Vs N'Dam II will be a huge fight later in the year, it doesn't help the sport in the slightest. The fans are agry, the media is angry and the sport will have some way to go to rebuild the trust in Japan. N'Dam might be the champion but it's clear that even his own countryman are unhappy at the result, with the media over their have suggested it was an "unfair result", with a "very surprising result, as Murata seemed to have dominated ". It's a shame that a fighter who could have created several slices of history has veen denied in this way and in many ways it's an issue with boxing that needs to be sorted before fans turn away all together.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Yesterday we saw the WBC Flyweight title being stripped from around the waist of Mexican veteran Juan Hernandez Navarrete (34-3, 25) after he failed to make weight for his first defense of the title. Sadly for Hernande his weekend went from bad to worse and on Saturday he was punished by the all-action Daigo Higa (13-0, 13) [比嘉 大吾], who took his opportunity to become a world champion, and battered Hernandez into submission.
The Mexican, who won the title just a few weeks ago in Thailand against the then unbeaten Nawaphon Por Chockhai, tried to use his boxing and movement in the early stages. It was as if he was trying to tell Higa that he knew more about the sport than the 21 yuear old Japanese fighter.
The movement of Hernandez was able to blunt Higa's pressure early, but the Mexican couldn't avoid Higa for long and was dropped in round 2 from a hook by Higa. It wasn't a painful knockdown, but it showed just how dangerous Higa could be and how legitimate his power was. Despite dropping his man Higa never rushed into and instead he showed maturity to stalk his man rather than attack a fighter who had his wits.
Hernandez recovered well and seemed to use his movement well in rounds 3 and 4 to avoid a fire fight with Higa, but it was clear that he had found a new respect for the youngster and wasn't wanting to go toe-to-toe with him.
The movement of Hernandez was thwarting Higa's pressure and had done enough to impress one judge, who had the Mexican up 38-37, but the other two had sided with Higa who was clearly pressing the fight.
In round 5 Higa's power told again as he dropped Hernandez for the second time, this time it was more serious with Hernandez being dropped hard from a solid left hook. The Mexican recovered to his feet and looked to fight back whilst Higa for the finish, and the veteran showed his survival instincts to see out the round, holding when he needed to and trying frustrate Higa, despite having blood coming from his nose.
Higa seemed to be fully aware that his man coming undone in front of him, despite Hernandez lasting through round 5. That saw Higa amp up the pressure in round 6 and quickly that pressure told, as he dropped Hernandez with body shots within the first 30 seconds. The Mexican got up and tried to fight back with body shots of his own, but was dropped again as Higa again cracked the body, with Hernandez going down in agony this time. The Mexican some how recovered to his feet but was down again from body shots, and then amazingly got up again, before finally being stopped, in what was the 4th knockdown of the round, with even the referee feeling sympathy for the brave former champion.
Coming into the contest Hernandez had done little to endear himself to the Japanese fans, who are good at accepting foreign fighters if they come to win, show heart and come in in good shape. He had messed them about at the public work out, and really annoyed Yoko Gushiken, he had missed weight and had taken some shine off the bout, but his guts and bravery to get up from 5 knockdowns and keep on fighting did go some way to redeeming his faults with the fans.
As for Higa however this performance really was brilliant, despite the fact he suffered a chipped tooth during the fight, which he pointed out to fans before his post-fight interview. The way he showed maturity early in the bout, but then jumped on Hernandez when he had him really hurt, showed a real understanding of the sport and something that not many 13 fight novices have. At the the age of 21 he's the second youngest active world champion, behind Kosei Tanaka who is a few weeks younger, and having been a professional for just 35 months his rise has been amazing.
Next for Higa could be unification, or it could be a bout against a highly regarded foe, with Andrew Selby potentially lying in wait further down the line for Higa. For now the key will be to celebrate, though it's clear with Yoko Gushiken behind him, and the now the weight of Fuji TV and a booming fan base, he's going to be a fighter who goes from strength to strength and could well be the next Japanese fighter to be a break out star internationally..
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Today was a huge day for Japanese boxing, and boxing at the Light Flyweight division with 4 world title fights taking place in Japan, and two of those being at 108lbs.
The first of those saw WBO champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] retain his title with a solid win over mandatory challenger Angel Acosta (16-1, 16). Not long after that attention turned to Tokyo where there was a WBC Light Flyweight title bout between defending champion Ganigan Lopez (28-7, 17) and Japanese hopeful Ken Shiro (10-0, 5) [拳 四朗].
Going in to their bout the WBC title was the only belt not residing in Japan, as Akira Yaegashi holds the IBF title and Ryoichi Taguchi holds the WBA belt. At the end of the day however Ken Shiro would complete the set for Japan and move us one step closer to all an Japanese total unification bout.
The bout started really competitively, with Lopez using his experience and Ken Shiro using his youth, speed and hunger. The competitive action left them almost even after 4 rounds, with Ken Shiro leading 39-37 on two cards and being 38-38 on the third card.
Knowing he was behind Lopez picked up the pace in round 5 that was however countered by the Japanese challenger who turned the tide back in his favour in round 6, before Lopez himself bounced back.
After 8 rounds Ken Shiro had established a lead on all 3 cards, with all 3 reading 77-75 in favour of the challenger. He continued to extend that lead as he took round 9 and essentially put himself 3 up with 3 to play, victory was well within in his graps. It was however also within Lopez's and the Mexican hasn't had the career he's had by just rolling over in the later rounds.
Instead Lopez went on to grit his teeth and fight fire with fire, taking round 10 on two cards and round 11 on two, before claiming the final round, the best round of the fight, on all 3 cards. Sadly for the Mexican veteran his effort wasn't enough, with Ken Shiro eeking out a majority decision with scores of 115-113, twice, against a 114-114 draw card.
Immediately after being given the title Ken Shiro strapped it around his father's waist, as he had stated before the fight, and the relief on his face was clear.
Now with all 4 titles in Japan it seems like talk will begin to have unifications, for the new champion however it's likely he'll have a well deserved rest, and admire his ever growing collection of titles which include the Japanese, OPBF, WBC Youth and now WBC world titles.
For Lopez the loss will be a hard one to accept, but hopefully won't be the end of his career.
(Image courtesy of boxmob and boxingnews.jp)
A bumper weekend of Japanese fights kicked off earlier today with WBO Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] making his first defense of the title as he over-came Puerto Rican challenger Angel Acosta (16-1, 16), in a genuinely exciting mandatory title bout.
The challenger started really well, using his aggression early and putting a slow starting Tanaka on the back foot frequently with his combinations. It seemed as if Acosta's reputation as a huge puncher had worried Tanaka, who tried to fight off his jab but was often swarmed by the Puerto Rican. It wasn't until round 3 that Tanaka began to find his feet in the bout and he certainly warmed to the task, specifically in the second half of the contest as he began to back up Acosta and land some nasty body blows.
Tanaka's improvement in round 3 continued through much of the bout, as he used his speed, strength and more accurate punching to pick away at the challenger and land some solid shots to head and body, including an uppercut in round 5 that helped drop the challenger, in what was the bouts only knockdown.
Acosta recovered really well from the knockdown, and reapplied his pressure as he began a valiant fight back, but was again damaged to the body by Tanaka, despite some solid flurries from the Puerto Rican. It was back and forth action, but it always seemed like Tanaka's shots were having more of an effect than Acosta's, which were wide and looping and seemed unable to hurt the champion. What also didn't help the challenger was that he began to look incredibly tired, and in rounds 8 and 9 he looked like a man who was seriously wilting.
Despite being clearly tired Acosta refused to back down from the fight, and ended strongly, arguable doing enough to deserve either of the final rounds, both of which were close with Acosta doing everything he could to try and change the bout around. Sadly for his effort he was unable to ever hurt Tanaka, never mind secure the stoppage that he was needing.
At the end of the bout there was no questions over who had won, with Tanaka winning clearly on the scorecards, with scores of 117-110, twice, and 116-111.
Following the bout Tanaka was joined in the ring by WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and it seems clear that a unification bout between the two is something that the camps will begin working on in the near future.
In Birmingham, England, earlier this evening fight fans world wide got the chance to see the warrior mentality of Japan's Suguru Muranaka (25-3-1, 8) [村中 優], who gave his all in a losing battle against WBA Super Flyweight champion Khalid Yafai (22-0, 14). It was an effort that saw Muranaka come up well short, but gain incredible credit in a performance that showed his desire, hunger, energy and toughness.
Early on it looked like the bout was going to be a total blow out with Yafai landing bombs whilst Muranaka walked in. Although Muranaka's game plan, like he said before the fight, was based on his pressure, that pressure seemed to be getting used against him as Yafai landed some thunderous shots to both head and body, and scored a very flash knockdown in round 2.
Despite being tagged hard early on Muranaka hardly looked bothered and he continued to press the action through the whole fight. He occasionally looked hurt, occasionally looked tired but always looked hungry and in rounds 4, 5 and 6, he had real success as Yafai seemed to run out of ideas a bit. The champion was still landing the better shots, but it was clear that he wasn't expecting Muranaka to still be there, and still be pressing the fight in the way he was.
Yafai managed to change things up a big in round 7 as he began to use his boxing skills and make the most of his more mobile legs whilst landing some solid shots, shaking Muranaka once or twice, and doing the same in round 8, a round that saw the champion being deducted a point for a low blow, his third or 4th clear low one.
Despite the point deduction Yafai was a mile ahead, and he further extended that lead in the following few rounds. It was however Muranaka who had some of the more eye catching success in round 11 as he went out looking for a stoppage. Although he went looking for it, it never looked likely to happen, though it did force some really big shots form Yafai as he looked to get Muranaka's respect again.
In the final round Muranaka again went looking for the stoppage and turn the bout around but was hurt late and never managed to land the blows he needed to shake up the champion.
The bout was a clear win for Yafai, with the judges scoring it close to a shut out, but Yafai was forced to work incredibly hard in every round and was given his stiffest test as a professional. As for Muranaka he's opened the door to some exciting international bouts, including a potential fan friendly bout against Jamie Conlan in the UK.
The loss sees Japan's hunt to win a world title in Europe continue, but the loss has really helped put Muranaka's name up there as a genuine continued, and helped restore some pride in the fighter following some real issues in the past with his weight. The loss was a clear one, but Muranaka's determination, heart and work rate won him a whole new fan base, and it's fair to say that he will be welcomed into the ring against almost any other Super Flyweight.
Interestingly Muranaka's countryman Sho Ishida is ranked #1 for Yafai's title, and that could be Yafai's next defense, later this year.
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.