Just moments ago we saw Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) [尾川 堅一] put in a career defining performance as he beat up slick South African fighter Azinga Fuzile (15-2, 9) to claim the IBF Super Featherweight title, and score the biggest win over his career. By far.
The match up was one that was slow to get going, with both men fighting very technically early on. Fuzile, fighting out of the southpaw stance, took to the ropes early on, fighting on the back foot and trying to lure Ogawa in. Ogawa came forward, but did so at a very controlled, intelligent tempo, as he looked to show that he two was a cerebral fighter. In the first round there wasn't much landed by either man and that was the same through the first 4 rounds if we're being honest. Despite there not being a lot of action, it was high level chess and it was Ogawa who was getting the better of it overall.
After the some what slow start that saw both have moments, not many of them, we saw the action really change in round 5, when an Ogawa right hand dropped Fuzile, hard. To his credit Fuzile got to his feet following the shot, which would have finished off most fighters, but he wasn't all there and he knew it as he got on the back foot and did what he could to survive the round.
The middle rounds were all Ogawa, as he pressured intelligently, backing up Fuzile and landing shots regularly, unlike the earlier rounds where his success was limited. The middle rounds really saw Fuzile struggle to get anything going and instead he ended up having his face bursted up around the right eye and his nose, which was bloodied in round 2, was leaking over the ring. Unfortunately for Fuzile his best shots never had much of an effect on Ogawa, whilst Ogawa's shots were having an effect on Fuzile, and Fuzile wasn't throwing enough whilst he was taking a lot.
In round 9 Fuzile's face got worse after a clash of heads left Fuzile with a bad cut over his left eye, which Ogawa jabbed repeatedly in the final rounds. To his credit however Fuzile had a very strong response to that cut, putting in fantastic efforts in rounds 10 and 11, as he appeared to throw caution to the wind and became the aggressor for the first time in the fight. It was nice to see him try something new, but it seemed like too little too late.
Thinking he was behind came out aggressively for round 12, but it appeared that Ogawa had lulled him in a little bit in the previous 2 rounds, and in round 12 the Japanese finished big, dropping Fuzile twice in the round to put any dounbt about the winner to bed. The first knockdown came with over a minute left and Fuzile got to his feet, but was down again in the final seconds of the bout, securing Ogawa a 10-7 final round.
After 12 rounds it seemed like Ogawa had clearly taken the win, but the judges, being judges, had the bout much closer than expected, scoring it 115-110, twice, and 114-111, a score that suggested Ogawa needed the big final round to win.
For Ogawa this win is, understandably, a hugely emotional one. He had fought in one previous world title bout, winning a decision against Tevin Farmer before being stripped due to a drug violation. This win will help but the ghost of that bout behind him. As for Fuzile, we wonder just what he will have left after this beating which was painful, tough, and punishing.
On Friday night fight fans saw IBF and WBA Super Bantamweight king Murodjon Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7) [Муроджон Ахмадалиев] retain his titles and score his second defense, as he defeated Chilean challenger Jose Velasquez (29-7-2, 19).
The bout, which was put together on about a week's notice after Ronnie Rios pulled out with Covid, lacked in terms of fan interest but managed to deliver pretty solid and entertaining action, with Velasquez massively exceeding expectations.
Akhmadaliev got off to a great started, landing hard shots through out the first two rounds almost at will. Velasquez stood up to them however, and showed his desire, landing some shots of his own in rounds 3, with a good right hand that got Akhmadaliev's respect. The challenger also had some notable success in round 7, as he got inside with more consistency and forced the Uzbekistani fighter to fight the challenger's fight.
Whilst under pressure the champion managed to show his dirty side, with some dark arts, and was flirting with a point deduction through out the final stages of the bout. He was however well in the lead, and could have afforded the point loss if he needed to, despite being forced to work for the win. He was landing the better quality shots and in many of the rounds he controlled the tempo, even if Velasquez was the one marching forward.
After 12 rounds there was no doubting the winner, with Akhmadaliev taking the win 119-109 across the board, taking just his second 12 round decision win, and proving he doesn't have stamina, though he did seem happy to fight for the decision rather than follow Joel Diaz's advice of going for a stoppage late on.
Earlier today in Thailand WBC Minimumweight champion Panya Pradabsri (37-1, 23) recorded his first defense of the title, as he over-came the gutsy and unheralded Danai Ngiabphukhiaw (9-3, 5) in Nakhon Sawan.
Panya, who famously upset Wanheng Menayothin a year ago, took the center of the ring very early on, whilst the challenger looked negative, worried and negative. Danai took a big body shot in the opening minute, and it was clear the champion had a gameplan in mind revolving around breaking down Danai with shots to the mid-section. To his credit Danai managed to show some fight as the round went on and had moments of offense, making the most of his speed, but his moments were few and far between.
As the rounds went on the challenger had a growing amount of success, not just with his offense but also in neutralising the pressure of Panya, who looked flat footed and slow at times. Sadly for Danai his shots didn't seem to do much to get Panya's attention, but he was landing some really nice looking work, even if he was typically getting out landed.
After 4 rounds it was clear the challenger was putting up a better effort than anyone would have expected, but he still seemed to be down, with his inexperience and lack of physical maturity being his major problems. It was like a boy fighting a man at times, and the champion simply wasn't phased by the challenger's shots. Surprisingly however Danai began to have growing success in the middle rounds, and the pressure of Panya, despite still being eye catching, wasn't having as much success as the champion would have wanted.
On the subject of the middle rounds, it's worth noting just how exciting round 7 was, with Danai rolling the dice more than he had in the earlier rounds, giving us a show case of his skills, his counter punching, and shot selection as he had, arguably, his best round of the fight and seemed to be turning the tide at one point. Sadly for him Panya responded late in the round, but it was a genuinely brilliant 3 minutes of back and forth action with both having sustained success.
Sadly in the later Danai's lack of experience over the longer distance showed, and whilst he continued to have moments he was regularly on the receiving end of the bigger, more meaningful shots. To his absolute credit however he continued to make a fight of things, whilst many, our selves included, expected him to have been stopped in the early rounds.
Sadly for Danai his great effort wasn't enough, and lost a clear decision, by scores of 118-110 and 117-111, twice, but he genuinely impressed. He stepped up in a big way, and showed he belonged in, and around this level. As for Panya this was an underwhelming performance by the champion in his first defense, and we expect to see better from him in the future.
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.